Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke joined the Ariah Park Community Projects group today and helped them celebrate the town’s rail history.

The group had been working on projects to help promote the town’s rail heritage, including the renovation of the town station, but had been derailed in their ambitions.

But strong community support and some intervention by Ms Cooke has enabled the group to go full steam ahead with their ideas.

“The group had contacted me to let me know they had been having difficulty obtaining the necessary permits to carry out maintenance work on the station,” Ms Cooke said.

“While my team and I were looking into that, we also found that a rail maintenance contractor had announced plans to remove some rails from Ariah Park for another project.

“This would’ve been a blow for the town, and so the community rallied round to make sure their feelings on the issue were heard loud and clear.

“I was delighted when they let us know that the contractor had changed its mind based on the strong feedback coming from Ariah Park.

“Losing the rails would’ve changed the historic appeal of this wonderful town and I’m so pleased that the wishes of this small community have been listened to and acted on.”

Nigel Judd, a member of Ariah Park Community Projects, explained the significance of rail to the town.

“We have been promoting Ariah Park as the birthplace of Australian bulk grain – in 1916 we were the first place in Australia to have experimental bulk loading of wheat onto rail,” Mr Judd said.

“We’ve been promoting ourselves as somewhere for enthusiasts to visit, and the potential for that was demonstrated a few years ago when the Canberra Rail Museum brought the Southern Aurora over.

“They came over for an air show at Temora, then they came to Ariah Park for tea. We had about 90 people from the train come into town and all the shops had their windows decorated and lit up.

“It just showed the tourist potential of the town, which would’ve been lost along with the rails.

“With the station, work had already been done by a maintenance contracted carpenter, but when we went to get it ready for painting, an inspector came along and told us not to do anything unless we had the proper licensing.

“Now I’m delighted to say that the contractor has offered to paint the exterior and arrangements are being made to enable us to carry out maintenance on the interior.”