Rail buff has line on Merriwa's heritage drawcard

TUCKED away in a little corner of the picturesque Upper Hunter an important piece of Australia's railway heritage is poised to receive a $10 million makeover and become one of the region's leading tourist destinations.

Merriwa Railway Station and yard have been sitting idle for almost 40 years but thanks to the keen eye of Sydney-based train and rail buff Phil Buckley, the site is about to receive a new lease of life.

Mr Buckley, who works voluntarily on restoration projects at Redfern Railway Yards, recently formed the Merriwa Rail Society and the town is right behind him.

"I'm trying to spread the message around the town that the station and yard should be restored back to a decent level to attract increased tourism to Merriwa and the station," he said.

He said to do this and to rebuild about six kilometres of railway line near the site, about $10 million was needed.

"It's an ambitious plan but one that I have seen get off the ground at other places like Oberon and it has all been done by voluntary labour and donations," Mr Buckley said.

"It might take 10 to 30 years to restore the railway line and in the long term it would hopefully rejoin the line from Ulan to Muswellbrook."

Mr Buckley said a lot of extensive planning was still being undertaken before the society reached that stage and said he was focusing on letting people know about the potential the station had as a tourist attraction.

"We are also concentrating on finding people who are willing to volunteer their time once a month, those who can help with sponsorship or donations or machinery, tools and money," he said.

Mr Buckley said Merriwa was a branch line built off the main line and its station was established between 1870 and 1880.

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