Local Landmark: Wascoe Siding
Residing on 15 Grahame Street in the suburb of Blaxland is a lower Blue Mountains treasure. For over 50 years, families and children have visited the Wascoe Siding Miniature Railway for events, birthday parties or even on the weekends for a guaranteed fun experience. For those who grew up in the Mountains, it has an aura of nostalgia. It’s a site that has always been there and one you often look at every time you drive past.
But how did Wascoe Siding come about? Let’s go back 50 years.
A group of railway enthusiasts formed the Blue Mountains Railway Society in September 1964. The initial meeting resolved to form a society to cater for all aspects of railways, and a constitution was drawn up to reflect the ambition. Fundraising was conducted by holding model railway exhibitions including working displays of 5” gauge locomotives. Other fundraising activities included main-line railway steam train tours to Orange and Goulburn. These trips were expensive to run, so minimal funds were left after operating costs were paid. The decision was made not to operate further main-line tours, although they were exhilarating.
A decision was eventually made to create a miniature steam railway. The BMRS spent many weekends searching for suitable sites between Emu Plains and Lawson. Several rejected applications were made before the Blue Mountains City Council offered the society a place in Blaxland that they no longer had any use for. At 15 Grahame Street, Blaxland, the site was sold to the society and became known as “Wascoe Siding”, referring to Blaxland railway station’s original name being Wascoe. After a massive clean-up of the area, a loop of 5” gauge track was completed with the first paying passengers taking a ride around late 1967/early 1968. The first Sunday of each month was deemed the train running day, which carries on to the present time.
Coincidentally, Wascoe Siding is located on the part of the original railway formation that ran between Lapstone and Blaxland that operated until the present-day railway alignment through Glenbrook was completed in 1910.
There are around 50 members of the Blue Mountains Railway Society (BMRS) that operate and maintain Wascoe Siding – Robert Parnell being one of them. Mr Parnell joined the BMRS in 2010 with great enthusiasm for railways and trains. At the same time, he inherited a gauge steam locomotive from his father-in-law.
“Members supply their own locomotives to haul the society-owned carriages each month. Many members have built their own steam or electric locomotives and encourage younger members to join and learn and participate in the hobby,” Mr Parnell said.
“Members spend many hours building and maintaining their locos. It is rewarding to share the joy by hauling trains of happy people around on something that you have personally put lots of energy and effort into,” Mr Parnell said.
Wascoe Siding provides a relaxing atmosphere for families to enjoy a day out in pleasant and inviting surroundings. Picnics and birthday parties are popular with young families to hold their special day at Wascoe Siding. While it is a fun experience, it can be a very educational visit for kids and even adults. The members of the BMRS are always happy to share knowledge on all things trains, railways and even the site itself.
“People are often surprised to see that real coal is used to fuel the miniature steam locos that operate just the same as the big ones! Sharing the knowledge to keen visitors who can appreciate the effort that goes into the building and maintaining of the locos, track, signalling and the general site keep the members coming back to do it all over again!”
After COVID-19 restrictions forced Wascoe Siding into a 6-month closure, the miniature railway attraction is now back up and running. During the pandemic, there are temporary restrictions on the picnic grounds. Financially, the society has taken a hit but with many returning train riders and numerous donations, the BMRS and Wascoe Siding can see the light at the end of the tunnel. “The first train running since the COVID restrictions were met with a very eager group of train riders,” Mr Parnell said.
“Unfortunately, the restrictions have caused the full experience of the site to be limited. We can’t wait to return to a state resembling the normality of the past!”
Wascoe Siding is open to the public on the first Sunday of every month from 10am to 4pm. Time to mark your calendars and plan your next visit! You can keep up-to-date on the Wascoe Siding Facebook page.