WAUCHOPE will become the heritage rail centre of NSW if an ambitious new plan goes ahead.
A new not-for-profit corporation, the Hastings Gateway Corporation, is being registered to oversee a major tourism project that will include a rail, timber and dairy museum and a carriage restoration facility for heritage trains from throughout NSW.
Several heritage diesel rail motors will also be based in Wauchope, offering trips for tourists showcasing local produce such as wine and cheese.
The museum and carriage train restoration centre are expected to provide a huge financial boost for Wauchope, attracting thousands of tourists every year and generating numerous jobs.
"Our objective is to have something there that will interest absolutely everyone," Don Neal, a member of the project steering committee, told the Gazette.
"Within five years we want every tourist who goes to Port Macquarie to spend at least one day at the complex."
The ambitious project is already receiving strong support from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and the federal and state governments, and TAFE is keen to offer a coachbuilding course to complement the restoration centre.
Mr Neal said the idea of the restoration facility came about when the committee was looking for a heritage rail motor car to use as a focal point of the new museum's cafe, and was overwhelmed with offers of trains and also queries from railway museum groups about the possibility of having some of their trains restored there.
"All museum operators are having more and more difficulty maintaining their rolling stock because their members are starting to get old and their skill-set is disappearing," he said.
"Wauchope will become a centre of excellence for coachbuilding, ensuring those skills are passed on to a new generation.
"We would effectively become the rail restoration facility for the whole of NSW."
The committee is negotiating with the Forestry Commission to obtain a parcel of land off Maher Street backing onto the railway as a home for the centre.
Mr Neal said plans were well advanced and it was more a question of when rather than if the centre would go ahead.
In tandem with the restoration centre, his committee is pushing ahead with plans for a major timber, dairy and rail museum, which will be built on a parcel of land owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation next to the railway station in Randall Street. Mr Neal described this as a unique building, but declined to go into detail at this time.
The project includes another two components which have already been detailed in the Gazette on the front page of the September 23, 2014 issue.
The first involves relocating the old Rawdon Island church from Timbertown to a vacant block next to the old station master's cottage in Randall Street. The second involves renovating and turning the station master's cottage into a tourist information centre and the Wauchope and District Historical Society's new headquarters. A memorial garden to complete the last section of the Wingham to Wauchope Memorial Drive will also be planted around the old church.
Mr Neal said the Australian Rail Track Corporation had already signed a temporary lease on the necessary land and his expectation was that work on the church relocation, garden and renovation of the station master's cottage would start before the end of the year.
Backers believe some components of the project will qualify for regional development funding because of their scope.
Another committee member, Ray Cooper, also the president of the Historical Society, stressed that the whole project was by the community, for the community.
"It will train our young people and help create employment," he said.
"Not only that but it will boost tourism and bring people here, which will help revitalise Wauchope."