Old meets new: Rail Trail takes out top gong in National Trust Heritage Awards

16 May 2023

A commitment to preserving and celebrating the heritage of the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) has been acknowledged with an award at the prestigious National Trust Heritage Awards.

The Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail took out first place in the Conservation – Landscape category of the Awards at a ceremony in Sydney on Friday 12 May.

The award is the first win for the project and underscores the success of the Tweed section of the Rail Trail which has already attracted thousands of residents and visitors since its opening on 1 March 2023.

The Northern Rivers Rail Trail was one of 17 outstanding projects acknowledged at the National Trust Heritage Awards – an annual celebration of exceptional heritage conservation practices.

NRRT Project Director Iain Lonsdale said the Rail Trail’s win in the Conservation – Landscape category was testament to the commitment and dedication invested in preserving and showcasing the rail, natural and cultural heritage aspects of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

“This recognition highlights our unwavering commitment to preserving and celebrating the diverse cultural and rail heritage of the region. We have implemented numerous conservation initiatives and have a program of further ideas to continue this vital work,” Mr Lonsdale said.

The Rail Trail’s submission for the National Trust Heritage Awards outlined several key heritage components. Notably, it showcased a strong commitment to Aboriginal cultural heritage by integrating a range of Aboriginal stories along the trail as well as two captivating Welcome to Country statements, positioned at each end of the 24km Tweed section of the Rail Trail – all paying homage to and celebrating the Aboriginal heritage of the trail, villages and region.

Another notable heritage component is the rail heritage signage strategically placed along the trail, providing informative insights into the region’s rail history and its enduring significance.

The restoration of the Tweed section’s tunnels and bridges stands as one of the largest heritage components of the Rail Trail. Out of a total of 26 bridges, 16 were meticulously restored for Rail Trail users to traverse, while 10 were bypassed and retained for their inherent heritage value.

Furthermore, the Rail Trail features two tunnels—the Burringbar Range Tunnel, spanning an impressive 524 metres and showcasing the habitat of microbats and glowworms, and the Hulls Road Tunnel, measuring 50 metres in length.

The revitalisation of the State heritage-listed Murwillumbah Railway Station also played a crucial role in securing the award. The station, left vacant and abandoned since 2004, has been lovingly rejuvenated by the Rail Trail project team, restoring its captivating charm and historical features. Future heritage works at the Murwillumbah Railway Station include restoration of heritage items including the Barracks building, the water tank, water pump, turntable, crane and banana shed.

Mr Lonsdale said this National Trust Heritage Award solidifies the Rail Trail’s position as a model for responsible heritage preservation and sets a benchmark for future conservation projects.

“I extend my congratulations to all the winners and express our gratitude to the National Trust and Heritage NSW for organising these prestigious awards,” Mr Lonsdale said.

“I’d further like to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of our partners, including NSW Public Works and our construction contractor Hazell Bros who helped us deliver such an incredible new asset for the community.

“This recognition inspires us to persevere in preserving and celebrating the rich heritage of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail for generations to come.”

Mr Lonsdale further acknowledged additional support from heritage consultant Urbis, Burchills Engineering Solutions, Bridge Knowledge Engineering Consulting Services and the Tweed Regional Museum.

The 24km Tweed section is the first stage of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail which will eventually stretch 132 km from Murwillumbah to Casino in Northern NSW.

About the National Trust Heritage Awards:
The National Trust Heritage Awards, a signature event of the Australian Heritage Festival in New South Wales, celebrates excellence in heritage conservation. The awards highlight outstanding projects that have demonstrated dedication, imagination, and skill in preserving and interpreting heritage for the benefit of communities.


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