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A new type of tourist trail

Saturday, 11th April, 2015

John Moore with a handful of spikes from the Silverton Tramway Company line that was pulled up in 1970. PICTURE: Craig Brealey John Moore with a handful of spikes from the Silverton Tramway Company line that was pulled up in 1970. PICTURE: Craig Brealey

By Craig Brealey

Broken Hill might soon be the next stop on the steam train bike riding trail after a committee was formed this week to put the plans in motion.

Riding a bicycle along a scenic trail without having to worry about motor vehicles had become popular throughout the world and had helped to revitalise many a country town, according to John Moore, the chairman of Rail Trails for NSW.

Mr Moore has already got things rolling for trails from Tumbarumba to Rosewood in southern NSW, and from Casino to Murwillumbah on the northern rivers and was busy working on others when he heard about the old Silverton Tramway line to Cockburn via Silverton.

So he came to the city this week and called a meeting to gauge interest.

On Tuesday night about 20 people turned up at the Council Chambers and all were “pretty keen” on the proposal, Mr Moore said.

The Mountain Bike Club had already stated its enthusiasm and it was represented along with others from the Chamber of Commerce, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Silver City Bush Treadlers, the Barrier Rangers Bushwalking Club and the proprietor of the Silverton Hotel, among other business people.

Mr Moore later visited the Sulphide Street Railway Museum to look at maps to find out just where the rail line started in Broken Hill.

Rail trails have been a great success, particularly in New Zealand, which Mr Moore described as a world leader.

But having followed the line to Silverton, he said that there would be nothing like it anywhere.

“On the others you ride past a farm here and a farm there, but out here it would be quite an adventure because you are out on your own; just you on your bike in the bush and the solitude,” Mr Moore said.

No trails had yet opened in NSW but they were growing in number in Victoria, he said.

“We have been to Victoria seven times to ride their rail trails in the last three years. It is safe riding and it’s good for the kids, not just the tourists, and it brings economic benefits to the towns along the way.”

The NSW Government last year decided it was time to get aboard and set aside $50 million for any town that could show it had the goods, Mr Moore said.

The local committee will hold its first meeting on April 28 to elect a chairman and start work on the details.

The trail would not necessarily cost the city anything, Mr Moore said; all the committee had to do was to show the government that it had the support of the community and City Council.

Other trails had already shown the economic benefits to their host towns, he said. Visitors need food and accommodation, and most will want to hire a bike and a perhaps car to bring them back to Broken Hill.

“Recent studies have shown that the typical rail trail tourist spends about $250 per day on accommodation and food,” Mr Moore said.

And Silverton has what is needed to be an overnight stop on the way to Cockburn.

Mr Moore said the rail trail could start at the Excelsior Hotel, which is very near the original line, and it would be simple and inexpensive to build shelter sheds at scenic points and lookouts along the 60-kilometre trail.

The Silverton Tramway line also had the considerable advantage of having no running stream or steep gullies to cross, which has added to the cost of building them elsewhere in Australia.

“Here you just ride down one side and up the other,” Mr Moore said.

The only problem Broken Hill might have was if it took too long getting its proposal in to the government, because there were 12 other towns in NSW which had already got theirs rolling, and another five, including Broken Hill, which had been listed as potentials, said Mr Moore.

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