BACK ON TRACK: SDSR volunteer Brad Gibson can't wait to see trips return in 2021.
BACK ON TRACK: SDSR volunteer Brad Gibson can't wait to see trips return in 2021.

ROLLING ON: Rail tourism teases new year reopening

AFTER its fair share of ups and downs in 2020, one beloved tourism venture is planning to return in the new year.

The Southern Downs Steam Railway has revealed its first trip in over eight months, set to kick off January 2.

SDSR president Peter Gregory said the good news came after a year of obstacles and setbacks.

“After the year we’ve had, we’re looking forward to it, well and truly,” he said.

“In March we were ready to go to Toowoomba with nearly 600 passengers but then (coronavirus closures) happened that week and straight away people backed out, everybody got scared.

“We struggled, it’s been a struggle these last eight months.”

Coronavirus hasn't stopped SDSR volunteers with Brad Gibson, Trevor Costin and Vice-president Dave Laker finding plenty of maintenance work around.
Coronavirus hasn't stopped SDSR volunteers with Brad Gibson, Trevor Costin and Vice-president Dave Laker finding plenty of maintenance work around.

The financial hardships had even caused the team to launch a GoFundMe in August.

While grants had helped supply tools, Mr Gregory was still hoped the reopening could hone in on a massive boom in Southern Downs tourism.

“Tourism is well and truly booming,” he said.

“Council said to me you can’t get a bed in Stanthorpe or Warwick on the weekend because of the people coming up for the weekend and things like that.

“Tourism is going well but we got to get them on the trains.”

Mr Gregory said the team would still adhere to social distancing requirements, which meant about 90 passengers could be seated on one trip.

The Spirit of the Southern DOwns in its full glory.
The Spirit of the Southern DOwns in its full glory.

In the meantime, there were more than enough eager hands looking to get everything rail ready.

“We have people coming in every day wanting to volunteer still,’ Mr Gregory said.

“We’ve still got plenty of work, cleaning and keeping grass down. We’re all looking forward to getting back to it.”

SDSR has a range of 2021 dates already planned.

For full details, head to www.downsexplorer.org.au


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