Rail history turned into eyesore

EYESORE: National Trust South Australia Mount Gambier branch chair Nathan Woodruff sits and views what remains of old Mount Gambier roundhouse and hopes maintenance of the area starts soon. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

A LACK of routine maintenance at the old Mount Gambier roundhouse site has left the city’s National Trust South Australia branch frustrated as towering grass and overgrown weeds suffocate what remains of the historic site.

The building was demolished in November 2018 by order of former Transport Planning and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll with little but a concrete slab remaining.

The land remains in State Government’s hands, with Mount Gambier City Council engaged in discussions over a potential transfer of disused surplus rail land in the township for community purposes.

A Department for Infrastructure and Transport spokesperson said the land continued to be maintained by the state, consistent with its disused railway corridor status.

Mount Gambier National Trust SA branch chair Nathan Woodruff said the untamed block was disappointing given it was adjacent to the high-profile rail trail.

“We are frustrated as we had big plans for the old roundhouse site and we had everything in place to revamp, rebuild and restore and really make it an iconic site at the rail trail,” Mr Woodruff said.

“We would have loved to have had that opportunity and unfortunately the roundhouse has been knocked down. The excuse was it was unsightly and needed to be tidied up.

“But, you come down here now and it is just a stack of weeds.”

Mr Woodruff said the trail was used by children, families and visitors and it would look a lot neater if it was maintained at a better standard.

“You have the centre of the rail trail where it looks nice and neat, but then it tapers off once you move from there,” he said.

“We have been pretty fortunate this year with the summer that it hasn’t really dried off too much, but it wouldn’t take much now for it to be a massive fire hazard right next to houses and Mount Gambier High School.

“It just looks untidy. It would be quite easy to knock all the weeds down and put a focus on the turntable.”

Mr Woodruff said if National Trust SA gained ownership or leased the land, it planned to transform the area into a community asset.

“We are hoping to start a conversation and we don’t want to annoy them with problems, we are just prepared to be part of the solution and put in work to make it happen,” he said.

“They did promise us it would be restored and have signage and it be a great display, but nothing has happened.

“There is a lot of potential to do something which is part of the rail trail, there’s some interesting history of Mount Gambier’s railways which has a great potential for tourists.”

Mr Woodruff said hoped a solution could be found soon.

“It hurts me to see it like this when we had everything in place to manage the whole site with the roundhouse remaining,” he said.

“There was such a massive footprint with huge potential there and now it’s just a slab of concrete.

“A weekend with whipper snippers would make it look a lot better.”

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