I was up at the Zig Zag railway on the weekend (explanation – 4 and 2 year old boys obsessed with trains) and realised what an impressive achievement it is, not so much building it originally, as the work involved in restoring it.
The Zig Zag railway was a tricky part of the railway built over the Blue Mountains. Tricky, because it was at a very steep point, and trains are notoriously bad at going up and down hills. It was built in the 1860s, and by 1910, engineering had moved on enough that it was easier to build a tunnel (with more than one track, as the single track had become a bottle-neck).
In 1972 a group of enthusiasts (the kind of people in anoraks who I would probably be amused by if I met them face to face) decided to rebuild it. By 1975 they had run their first train, and by 1988 (with the help of some Bicentennial Grants) they had rebuilt the whole 8 kilometres.
The impressive part is how much was done by a group of amateurs. A serious distance of track, that had not been used for more than 60 years was rebuilt by volunteers. And not just rebuilt. They’ve sourced quite a bit of rolling stock of which the main steam engine is merely the best looking. I might not laugh quite so much next time I see a bunch of train-spotters at a fete – they’re probably volunteering their time in more worthwhile ways than I am.