2 November 2023

Historic 154-year-old Zig Zag Railway back on track after workshop restoration

| Travis Radford
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train on hillside track

The Zig Zag Railway first opened in 1869 as part of the Western Railway line that linked Sydney with western New South Wales. Photo: Zig Zag Railway.

The Blue Mountains’ historic Zig Zag Railway will continue its 154-year-old legacy following the completion of a $3.6 million restoration of its locomotive workshop.

The workshop restoration was key to the heritage-listed railway’s continued operation as a tourist attraction, and the maintenance of its locomotives and carriages.

Zig Zag Railway CEO Daniel Zolfel paid tribute to the restoration team, which worked through logistical and access issues given the workshop’s location alongside the main Sydney train line.

“Rebuilding of the workshop has been a special project not only for Zig Zag Railway but the people who delivered the work,” he explained. “Having the workshop back to its former glory will allow Zig Zag to maintain its rolling stock, including steam locomotives, diesel locomotives and carriages, and give it the ability to recommission additional locomotives and carriages in its fleet.”

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The NSW Government provided more than $5.9m through Crown Lands and the Department of Regional NSW for the restoration, which included the replacement of major structural components, new cladding for walls and the roof, installation of stormwater drainage and fire safety upgrades. It also funded a new carpark, pedestrian crossing and amenities block.

“It’s great to see the Zig Zag Railway’s workshop back on track, keeping its trains and carriages running,” NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Heritage Trish Doyle said.

“This tourism icon attracts up to 80,000 visitors each year, so having it back in full operation will boost tourism, business and jobs in the Blue Mountains and Lithgow regions.”

The Zig Zag Railway reopened to visitors in 1975 after ending its four decades serving as part of the Main Western rail line’s mountain runs in 1910, when a track deviation was installed.

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However, severe bushfires, floods and storms during the past decade have stalled the railway and caused extensive damage to the locomotive workshop, trains, passenger and accommodation carriages, rail lines, about 3500 sleepers, electrical equipment and the railway’s office, which housed decades of records.

Zig Zag Railway and its volunteers restored the railway and rebuilt its safety management system, network rules, procedures and rail policies to gain accreditation from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to resume passenger services this year.

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison, who attended the reopening in May, said it was great to see it welcome back families and rail enthusiasts.

“The restoration and opening of its locomotive workshops … will ensure this much-loved historic railway will be able to showcase Australia’s steam train era to a new generation of young trainspotters,” she said.

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