Thank you: Railway Arts and Tourist Centre committee wraps up after 30 years

For 30 years the volunteers of the Railway Arts and Tourist Centre have welcomed travellers to our town, helping them find local attractions and services, local produce and handicrafts or refreshments.

Now that era has come to an end.

Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller paid tribute to the group, and its long-serving volunteers, at a function hosted by Forbes Shire Council.

"I would like to thank all the amazing volunteers we have had at the Railway Station Arts and Tourist Information Centre over the last 30 years," Mayor Miller said.

"Such an amazing milestone to reach and we at Council appreciate your dedication and service to the community over those three decades.

"I would like to pay special tribute to our life members, Pearl Maguire, Merle Churchill and Anne Nixon. You all were at the inaugural meeting on 18th June 1990 at the Forbes Golf Club.

"Danie Doolan, the driving force and dedicated founding member, must also be acknowledged. Without her initial push the Forbes Railway Arts & Tourist Centre committee would not have come to fruition.

"We must also not forget Judith Taylor and Lyn Simmonds who also have been working at the centre for 30 years."

Mayor Miller said the successful arts and craft centre would not have become what it did without the forward thinking and tenacity of the women at the time.

"Your amazing knowledge of the local area has also helped Forbes Shire Council to aid tourists and the like to the attractions and facilities in our area. For this we are very grateful," she said.

The Forbes Railway Arts and Tourist Centre opened December 5, 1990 in the old railway building in Union Street.

The first person to sign the visitor's book was Garry West, then NSW Minister for Tourism, Lands and Forestry.

The group's final service, just before the Easter weekend, was to distribute its final proceeds to local community groups.

They were: Havannah House, Boys to the Bush, Forbes Town Band, Friends of Forbes Hospital, St Vincent de Paul, Sunshine Club (Royal Far West), Lachlan Valley Community Radio, Riverside Community Gardens, Forbes CanAssist, Ronald McDonald House Orange, and the Garvin Institute for Medical Research.

At a function to distribute the final funds, Shelley Nutley explained the decision to close the committee had been a very sad one.

There were more than 100 members when the Railway Arts and Tourist Centre opened in 1980, that was down to 23 members by 2020.

The Railway closed at the end of March last year due to Covid-19, and when the council was ready to re-open in September there weren't enough volunteers or executive for the committee.

With the closure, all monies and property was to be distributed to organisations in the Forbes community.

"It was agreed that the sitting members should pick their own charity or organisation benefiting Forbes people," Mrs Nutley explained at the presentation of cheques.

It's certainly the end of an era in Forbes: over the decades the group has welcomed thousands of visitors to our town.

Some came for information, some to chat and some to purchase some of the fantastic produce on sale there from souvenirs to jams, chutneys, woodwork, quilts, knit or crochet work, home baking or local olive oil.

They catered for many functions including coach tours, and in earlier years were able to have morning teas on the railway platform.

Mrs Nutley told the final meeting that one of the highlights of her time with organisation had been in January 2020 when the Elvis Express Trains - diverted from their traditional route due to bushfire damage in the Blue Mountains - stopped at the station.

"There was a real buzz in the air and it was fantastic to see the station being used for what it had been built for," she said.