Looking back at 100 years of rail
AS PREPARATIONS for the Smoke on the Water Festival go full steam ahead to celebrate the centenary of rail, Coffs Harbour's Peter Leonard is reminded of his time working at the local station.
Peter worked at Coffs Harbour Railway for 39 years and said the station played a significant role in the city's economy before the 1990s.
"The biggest industry we had at the railway we had was the loading of bananas, because there were lots of plantations," he said.
"Sometimes they'd load up to 60 trucks of bananas to transport out of Coffs Harbour in a week."
Accompanying the industry at the railway was its thriving Railway Refreshment Rooms, known as the RRR, which provided meals and beverages for travellers.
From the 1930s-60s, the RRRs were dotted along the NSW mid-north coast in towns such as Grafton, Byron Bay, Lismore and Kempsey.
Peter said Coffs Harbour station was special because it allowed time to take a quick swim between stops.
"The train stopped here for 40 minutes. That allowed those who wanted (a dip) to go and have a swim in the Jetty Beach," he said.
The memories of the old railway will be revived and relived at the Smoke on the Water Festival next week.
Festival-goers will have the opportunity to take a ride on the old vintage steam trains and check out the model railway display at Coffs Harbour High School.
There will also be a treasure hunt for the young ones and plenty more fun for the whole family.