Full Steam at Glenreagh

GLENREAGH is poised to become the economic centre of the Orara Valley and an important focus for the region's conference market.

Under $6 million plans announced in Glenreagh yesterday by Werner Balsiger, private investors will fund the restoration of the village's derelict railway station and build a new accommodation, hospitality and tourist transport enterprise.

Mr Balsiger said the economic spinoff for the North Coast from his $5-$6 million project would be more than $50 million and more than 50 permanent jobs.

Mr Balsiger's plan is to run a new diesel and steam tourist train service on the main North Coast rail line to link Coffs Harbour and Grafton ,with trains stopping at Coramba, Nana Glen and Glenreagh, linking with GMR steam train rides on a restored section of the Glenreagh-Dorrigo rail line.

Catering for the conference and tourism market in Coffs Harbour and Grafton, Mr Balsiger wants to build a 290-seat theme restaurant and unusual accommodation constructed using six converted railway carriages near the station at Glenreagh.

Swiss-born Mr Balsiger said he had five enthusiastic investors, two from NSW and three from overseas, one of them an executive chef, who were eager to fund the project.

Mr Balsiger, who said he had worked with international hotel chains overseas, but had been working in Australia as a helicopter pilot until six months ago, was promoting the project yesterday as the Coffs Harbour-Glenreagh Steam Railway (CGSR). The name is likely to cause confusion, given the proliferation of steam railway groups on the Coffs Coast.

Clarence Valley economic and community support officer Phil Rogers said the council had identified the Glenreagh Mountain Railway and its 'spinoffs' as a cornerstone of economic development for the Orara Valley.

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