The Zig Zag railway near the Blue Mountains in NSW has been operating as a tourist destination for almost 50 years, and volunteer Mick Statham has been there for almost just as long.
Zig Zig railway is a historic railway line that joined Western New South Wales to Sydney and opened in 1869. It operated until 1910, when the current line was opened. It reopened as a tourist attraction in 1975.
Mr Statham is the longest serving volunteer of the team at Zig Zag, with his love for the railway beginning on a trip to work with his father.
"I've always been interested in railways,and it goes back to the first time I went to Zig Zag at about six years old," Mr Statham said.
"Before it became a tourist railway. My father was the signaller at the old signal box and I had the opportunity to go to work with him."
As Mr Statham reflected on the early days of his volunteer work, he recalled the physical labour and sense of mateship the role has always brought for him.
"We had to go out and find rail. We went to various places around the Central West and down the Southern Highlands to pull up rail from old sidings, and that was hard work," Mr Statham said.
"But, we had a lot of great people involved. We had to set up carriages, then repaired carriages and locomotives."
"It was great back in those days, but there was a lot of hard work in the beginning."
Mr Statham recalled a time before the shed was built at the bottom points for volunteers, meaning they would need to complete the work outside.
"Prior to that, we always worked out and out in the open," Mr Statham said.
"At least once we had the shed, we could do a lot of work inside out of the elements."
According to Mr Statham, Two of the most significant moments for Zig Zag were when the volunteers built from the bottom point to the top point; and then laying the tracks from the top point to Clarence.
The attraction was closed in 2012 after issues with accreditation. Further obstacles such as floods, vandalism, storm damage and fires caused a decade of setbacks.
The State Mine (2013) and Gospers Mountain (2019) bushfires severely impacted the Zig Zag railway, with signifcant losses of infrastructure and historical railway carriages.
Mr Statham said these losses were disheartening to himself and many of the other volunteers who had dedicated their time to the railway.
"It was devastating. It really put a downer on people's enthusiasm because all they had put in prior to 2012," Mr Statham said.
"We'd lost a lot of a lot of things we come to appreciate, those things were materials that were irreplaceable."
Despite the devastating losses and the heartbreak, Mr Statham and his team dedicated more of their time to ensuring the survival of the historical attraction.
"We looked around and said, we'll just start again," Mr Statham said.
"Even though we lost a lot of equipment and carriages, we've just bounced back."
"Since 2020, we've put in a lot of hard work to replace a lot of sleepers and repairing the shed down the bottom."
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The fire damage delayed the reopening process of Zig Zag, but fast forward three years and passengers are boarding the trains for the first time in a decade.
According to Mr Statham, his work is far from over and there is always plenty to be done.
"There's still things to do. I'm a driver, I also look after some of the infrastructure," Mr Statham said.
"There's carriages to repair, there's still major sleepers to be changed."
Mr Statham has no plans to stop in the immediate future, as the railway has always been a major part of his life.
"I've always been interested in railways you'll you'll find a lot of ex-railway blokes, even those that are retired; are they still interested in what's happening on the railways," Mr Statham said.
"A lot of us had the opportunity to be involved with the tourist side of the railway."
"I still get a lot of enjoyment now. It's part of the history of the area."