Save our station, says Hilton

2012-07-02 00:00

TWO engines will be fired up at Hilton station on Saturday to mark the launch of the Hilton Steam Heritage Association.

The station was formerly the home of the Natal Railway Museum, which closed down two years ago. Last year local residents expressed concern about the site via the Hilton Community Policing Forum.

“They were worried about the station becoming derelict and a home for vagrants,” said Grant Fryer, chairperson of the association.

“In response, over 200 e-mails were received saying the site must be saved.”

A meeting was held at the Hilton Hotel in April 2011 to plot a way forward. “We put our cards on the table and said this is what needs to be done,” said Fryer. “The message we got back from the public was clear: ‘We have to save the station’.”

As a result of the meeting a committee was formed and the Hilton Steam Heritage Association was born.

“The majority of members are not steam enthusiasts but local business- people,” says Fryer. “It’s probably the first railway club in the country that’s not just made up of enthusiasts.”

Fryer sees the commitment of local businesspeople as key to getting the station’s museum up and running again.

“We need R3 million to resuscitate the museum and repair the track,” says Fryer. “The plan is to open seven days a week as a museum and a tourist attraction.”

The station will be open from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday and the North British Tank engine (dating from 1950) and the 1937 Cowan Sheldon Steam Crane will be fired up. “The steam crane is thought to be the only operational steam crane in the country,” said Fryer.

Unfortunately train rides will not be possible as a permit for these still has be obtained from Transnet, but the museum and the model train layout shed will be open and refreshments will be available.

There is no admission charge but a donation will be requested. Inquiries should go to Fryer at 083 278 1490 or g.fryer@telkomsa.net.

• feature1@witness.co.za

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