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Steaming ahead with the Hastings Valley Miniature Railway Society Port Macquarie Hastings Council

Published on 08 August 2022

The Hastings Valley Miniature Railway Society (HVMRS) recently celebrated its 10th birthday – and it’s truly amazing to see the progress they have made in this time.

The group is made up of people with a passion for all things trains, engineering and engines.

These people donate their time (and often money) to maintain not just the track and facility, but also the Yippin Creek Reserve where it is based.

Families from across the region come once a month to enjoy the reserve and ride the trains.

Our Community Grants Program has helped them to extend their track, funding materials to add a second loop.

We sat down with Treasurer Charles Watkins, to chat about the impact the program has had on society – and the community.

Tell us about HVMRS – how did it come to be and what do you do?

Our 25 members get together once a month, to discuss the maintenance of the Yippin Creek Reserve which we are responsible for as part of our lease – as well as all things trains of course.

The group is full of people with incredible talents and expertise, so between our small group we manage to get a lot done!

We also hold monthly running days, where families come and enjoy a day on the Reserve, riding the trains and catching up with their friends.

These running days are a real highlight for us. Everyone has such a lovely time, they bring picnics and enjoy some down time, in between rides on the trains. It is a joy to see.

Why did you decide to apply for the Community Grant, to extend the track?

When the club was created a Master Plan was designed and a DA submitted through PMHC, we had always planned for a large track – but we couldn’t fund it all in one hit.

So, we’ve built it in stages – Members funded the first loop of the track. We were able to build the carriage house, station and electrical work through a joint NSW Government, PMHC grant and money left to the club from a deceased member. We are now working on the second loop of the track following another PMHC Grant.

We do everything in house – we buy the materials, we have engineers who do the specifications, a surveyor who helps lay the track, fitters and welders who construct the track. We follow a strict code of practice and guidelines.

What impact has the Grant had?

We have put in underground low voltage electrical work, lights around the track, trenching, conduits, inspection boxes – and of course the railway track itself! We bought the steel locally, from Bennetts Steel and we used recycled plastic for the sleepers, as it’s more sustainable. Timber tends to rot and deteriorate so this is easier for us from a maintenance perspective.

We are also able to fund projects ourselves, because each person who rides the train makes a donation of $3 – so we are able to support ourselves too. But the Grant is about getting over the main hurdle with those bigger costs.

Not only is the railway very popular, but the experiences we are creating out there are wonderful. I believe PMHC recognizes that and understands the value of having it available to the community.

How was the application process – what was the experience like?

It really is easier than you think!

The questions are generally fairly easy to answer, especially if you have a passion for what you’re doing.

The first time I did a grant application I did have some questions – but the staff at PMHC were incredible. I was able to call and speak with someone who guided me through.

Yes – there is of course some paperwork, but anything that’s worthwhile requires paperwork! You can do it online and save as you go, so you don’t need to get bogged down doing it in one sitting. A good tip is to answer the questions on a word document, cut and paste them when you are happy with your answer.

How did this grant impact the railway – and the community, now and into the future?

We always get such incredibly positive feedback from the community.

We recently had a family hold a first birthday party on the Reserve. They had decked out their area with Thomas the Tank Engine gear, they had their little picnic party and all the kids had rides on the trains.

Even just seeing the joy the facility brings one family makes it all worth it.

Pre COVID, our record was 633 individual rides in four hours on a running day. The pandemic really hit us hard, we came very close to folding. But we applied for our grant just in time, that allowed us to work away on the track when restrictions were in force.

We stayed in contact with our community using Facebook, showing them the progress and getting everyone excited for when we could finally open back up.

We’ve been back up and running for around 5 months and we’re getting numbers around the 360 ​​mark for rides.

On public running days sausage sizzles, steak sandwiches and drinks are provided by the local Lions Club and they have sold out on many occasions. The community benefits from our joint effort in the Yippin Creek Reserve.

What advice can you offer others who may be interested in applying for a Community Grant?

Whatever your not-for-profit does, a grant can enhance it so you can achieve your dreams. People are in these groups are generally here because of their passions!

Make sure to have all the essentials on hand before you start – all the business parts of your association, like ABN and TFN and of course a working plan that is ready to go.

And if you’re looking to buy goods and services as part of the grant, make sure you get quotes!

But really, just go for it. If you’re passionate about your community, you will be rewarded.

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