Plenty of steam ahead in  fight for railway

THE West Coast Wilderness Railway won't be closing without a fight.

In Queenstown last week, the community made it clear just how important the tourist attraction is.

Police estimate that 240 turned up to a public meeting on Thursday to discuss how to save the railway.

All were of the same mind - it wouldn't be a debate about whether or not the railway should be saved, but a crisis meeting to work out how it would be saved.

To those who live and work in the region it isn't just a railway.

Chris Hibble is one of the 48 people who stand to lose their jobs if the trains stop running.

But that is not what is upsetting him most. ``This is just too unique to let go,'' Mr Hibble said.

Everyone seems to feel an attachment to the railway.

Sandra Campbell, of Zeehan, only started working as a cleaner on the trains in December.

``But in the short time I've been here I've fallen in love with the place,'' Ms Campbell said.

As West Coast Tourism vice-chairwoman Carolyn Nissen summed up: ``It's more than a train, it's part of our story.''

The community's passion was evident at the public meeting and so many people have so much to lose.

Joy Chappell took on a three-year lease to run the Tracks Cafe in September.

She shudders to think of the time and money that she will lose if the trains stop pulling into Queenstown station, and 40 per cent of her customers disappear.

Then there are the eight people she employs. Plus, the bed and breakfast that Ms Chappell has invested another $1 million in.

``It's just unfathomable that they will let it go,'' Ms Chappell said.

West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity aptly described the railway as the region's umbilical cord.

The whistle can be heard loud and clear when a train chugs into the station.

People, businesses and towns along the rail corridor rely on it.

That's why passions are running high, and why the region won't be giving up on it without a fight.

Cr Gerrity has pointed out that a federal election is nigh. The state election will follow soon after.

As he put it: the West Coast is ``not something you muck about with''.

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