Written by Kerrie Alexander
When a passionate local train enthusiast has a mammoth amount of priceless train-related historic items just sitting around collecting cobwebs, what do you do?
You start a miniature railway and historical village, of course.
Hervey Bay’s Richard Horniblow and his family have always had a passion for trains, with his great great grandfather Henry having a hand in designing the first steam trains for the former Walkers Engineering in Maryborough.
Mr Horniblow collected hundreds of items from the bygone era over the years including many pieces from Walkers and the old Nikenbah Railway Station.
The station was built as part of the original branch line connecting Pialba and Maryborough in the heyday of coal exports from the Burrum River and sugar exports through to the Urangan Pier.
Nikenbah became the centre of the local pineapple industry, with reports of up to 10 wagons leaving the siding a day. The branch line was closed in 1993.
To ensure this history is not lost, Mr Horniblow floated the idea of a combined railway village and miniature railway.
That dream is now coming to fruition, with plans to build the Nikenbah Historical Railway Village & Miniature Railway now steaming along.
With a five-man committee at the helm including fellow enthusiasts Paul Hance and Allan Mullaly, the team is seeking to lease a 1,39ha site on the corner of Maryborough-Hervey Bay Road and Chapel Road from Fraser Coast Regional Council.
Mr Hance, a long-time local, said he was thrilled with the idea and was inspired to help protect this priceless history for generations to come.
“When we started looking at what Richard had we thought, blimey, this is interesting!” Mr Hance said.
“We knew we all had to work together and get this up and running for the community otherwise it would all just rot away, and all that history would be gone.”
The committee have since prepared a development plan to be approved by council, with a Hervey Bay RSL Community Grant of $1125 helping to cover the cost of professional fees.
The exciting master plan envisages a much-loved tourist attraction for the young and young at heart, with two miniature locomotives already acquired to run on the 1800-metre dual mini rail system.
The plan also includes getting a Queensland Rail Carriage to be converted into a kiosk, the old Nikenbah station will be moved to the site, as well as building a train station waiting area, train museum and craft building, equipment workshop, oil light shed, Urangan Station and a Walligan waiting room.
Equipment used back in the day at Walkers Engineering includes molten metal ladles, a 20-tonne compressor, mould plugs, and castings.
Hundreds of historic items will be on display including lanterns, signage, trolleys, clocks, scales, switchgear, telephones and much more.
Heavy rail equipment will also be on site including cranes, boilers, bogies, rail switching gear, signals and a drivers’ cab of a diesel/hydraulic locomotive.
A track will be built around the border of the land, with an impressive workers trolley – once used to repair the trains – installed for a visual effect.
Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders is working on securing a retired EMU Queensland Rail Carriage, to be used for promotion on the Maryborough-Hervey Bay Rd.
“It’s certainly a big project,” Mr Mullaly said.
“A lot of this stuff you wouldn’t know what it is so I think it will be a lot of interest to both adults and children, and very educational.
“Richard also has a mile of photographs … the list just goes on and on.”
Likened to the mini train rides in Queens Park in Maryborough and the famous Calliope run, Mr Hance said the village will be a first-class tourism asset for the region.
“In Calliope, the number of children and families lining up to go on those trains was unbelievable,” he said.
“We feel that the added value at the museum here is that while the kids are on the trains, mum or dad can go and have a look around.
“With the equipment we have on display, you’re going to get a lot of old engineers and people like that interested in coming as well.
“We’re also hoping to have community groups, like the woodcrafters or jewellery makers on site, and invite car clubs for rally days.”
Once formally approved by council, the first steps for the project will be to clear the land and install security fencing around the perimeter.
Being a not-for-profit organisation, Mr Hance said the committee will rely heavily on community donations and successful government grants.
The master plan may take years to come to fruition, but he is confident that, bit by bit, their dream will become a reality.
“Long term, how quickly we get things moving all depends on the funding.
“We can put the little train on site and have promotional days to get things rolling but we also really need community support.”
How can you help?
Businesses can come on board as a sponsor of the project.
Businesses can place a train donation box on their counter.
Individuals and businesses can find details of how to donate on the Nikenbah Historical Railway Village Facebook page.