By Cam Lucadou-Wells
It’s the last stop for a much-loved miniature railway in Narre Warren North.
Campbelltown Passenger Railway, with its beautifully maintained locomotives, station, signal box, workshop and tracks, comes to a close on Sunday, 24 June.
Since 1984, an indomitable couple Colin and Nanc Campbell, both 89, have opened on Sundays and public holidays.
They’ve hosted thousands of families, picnickers and kids’ birthday parties – and never had a holiday for themselves since, they say.
“I’ll miss it,” says Mr Campbell.
“I still like running the trains. It’s doing all the work around the place which is the killer.”
The Campbells used to have up to eight helpers, including civil engineers. But with that support departed, it became impossible to go on.
It takes many days to mow the vast lawns, let alone picking up rubbish and branches and maintaining the property.
“As time passed on, our skilled helpers like us got older,” Mr Campbell says.
“We managed for as long as we could.”
Ms Campbell adds that “no one has any idea how much work it takes”.
“They think we just drive the train around on Sunday.”
The couple built the attraction from scratch on a bare 20-acre property in 1978.
It took six years of construction and earth-moving – not to mention the planting of 5800 trees – before it was opened to the public.
The paddocks have since blossomed into idyllic gardens and woods, rock cuttings and a lake.
A sign-writer by trade, Mr Campbell’s handiwork is seen in the neat, hand-painted signage throughout the grounds. He retired from sign-writing only last year.
On the track, he looks at home on one of his five mini-replica locomotives – whether it’s the diesel Spirit of Progress or a Hudson steam locomotive 464.
He is bemused by the young passengers lost in their phones along the journey.
“They don’t even look up. They might as well have gone to the park and looked at their phone – they would have saved (their fare of) $4.50.”
Lately, people who enjoyed the ride 20 years ago have returned to bid a final farewell. One of the privileges has been meeting and bringing joy to so many, the Campbells say.
Meanwhile, the Belgrave-Hallam Road property has already been sold off. The Campbells know nothing about what we happen to the site.
Some time soon though, they plan to get off for a well-earned holiday.