Hilton station needs help to steam ahead

2011-09-26 00:00

PUTTING on a show for Heritage Day was the obvious intention at the Hilton Railway Museum on Saturday as two steam engines huffed and puffed into action. But a serious agenda was on the cards for these old locomotives.

The Hilton Steam Train Museum Project plans to declare the current railway station a heritage site before property developers take over.

The railway museum has been stagnating without the necessary cash for development.

Maintaining steam trains is not cheap, parts have to be milled and they guzzle coal like hungry dragons.

Grant Fryer, who is chairperson of the Hilton Steam Heritage Association, says they believe steam tourism is a viable tourism attraction for the area.

“Many people travel from around the world to come and travel on old steam locomotives and the Hilton station is in a very good setting,” Fryer said.

“We have eight engines in various stages of repair.

“We just need an injection of capital to get the project off the ground.”

The committee believes the first step is to get the railway station and the land declared a heritage site.

This will prevent developers from applying to use the land for commercial purposes.

Democratic Alliance Councillor Craig Millar is helping the committee prepare their application to the Heritage Council.

Transnet has no objection to steam trains using lines that are not commercially viable. It will, however, cost an estimated R300 000 just to repair the line to Cedara, where the association plans to run its steam engines.

Roy Raatz, a steam train lover, worked for Spoornet as a steam fitter from 1958 and has selflessly tried to maintain the locomotives at Hilton. He says the engines mainly need boilers to be replaced, which cost R1 million each.

The Hilton Steam Heritage Association has grand plans for the station. But it may all go up in smoke if they don’t get any support. If you would like to help or have any ideas, call Grant Fryer at 083 278 1490.

trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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