|Railroad attraction to open at Rockdale horse park|
|Friday, 30 August 2013 10:08 | Written by Joshua Smith|
Rockdale County is preparing to welcome the Conyers & Hightower Trail Railroad, an attraction that officially opens on Nov. 2 near the Steeple Chase Grounds at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.
The North Georgia Live Steamers (NGLS), a group of train enthusiasts who have spent the last four years constructing the railroad for the miniature train rides, is hosting a golf fundraiser tournament on Sept. 25 to complete the work.
“We are so excited about showing off our railroad to the community,” said NGLS President Norm Wizner. “We are now looking at putting the finishing touches on construction and hope to begin to schedule regular public run days.”
The group is raising money to complete the installation of a three-track hydraulic lift, which will be used to load the heavy train cars onto the track. Each car weighs at least 750 pounds, volunteers say.
The railroad features 6,000 feet of aluminum track, which runs through scenic wooded and grassy areas, and includes more than 50 switches, a hydraulic loading rack and five steaming bays.
“We’ve been building the track as a club for four years, clearing the land, building a bridge and drainage system, carefully putting in every bolt and screw, laying tons of gravel and concrete, building sections of the track in 10-foot piece sections. This is a hand-built track with hand-built switches and hand-built turn tables,” said NGLS Board Member LaVay Sheldon. “We plan to add more track in the future.”
The railroad sits on 35 acres at 1632 Centennial Olympic Parkway in Conyers. The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners gave the nonprofit train organization permission to use the tract after it was forced to leave Duluth in 2008. The Southeast Rail and Transportation Museum moved to a new location, leaving the NGLS without a home for its track.
Winzer worked with Conyers City Manager Tony Lucas to bring the railroad to the horse park in Rockdale. Construction began in 2009 behind the Steeplechase area, across from Hawthorne Suites. Tons and tons of fill dirt was donated to the group and used to level the ground. The group of volunteers, who come from all over east Georgia, have been steadily building the track ever since.
“The City of Conyers and the Board of Commissioners have been really supportive through this whole process. I think they see the value of what the train will add to the horse park,” Winzer said.
Steamers President Norm Winzer expects the train to have a regular schedule of runs in the spring. He said NGLS will be able to offer rides at least once a month, probably on a Saturday.
To give the community somewhat of a taste for what is to come, NGLS has been offering a miniature version of the train ride at Conyers’ Big Haynes Wildlife Festival over the years, while they have been building the larger-scaled train system.
“The kids just love riding the train. Their eyes really light up and the parents love it because they get to reminisce on the old locomotive trains they used to see in the movies. It’s fun for the whole family,” said Sheldon. “We are really looking forward to the grand opening so we can share in the fun with the whole community and the entire Metro.”
The North Georgia Live Steamers, which formed in 1978, provides education about live steam trains and its members construct scale steam engines, diesel locomotives and railroad equipment.
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|Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 12:34|