THE winter weather was appropriately gloomy when the 4.10 to Clarence made its run on Sunday afternoon.
It might actually have been the 4.20 but what the heck; it was late anyway.
“They won’t be in any hurry,” a Zig Zag volunteer told the Mercury.
“It’s the last run so they’ll be wanting everyone to enjoy it as long as they can.”
Eventually the vintage stainless steel rail motor did roll into the terminus with an almost full load of passengers who had come from all over to be part of a sad day in local history.
There was even a Sydney TV crew on board to capture the moment.
There was nostalgia thick in the air while people lined up to have their photo taken on this significant occasion.
It really was the end of the line — for now.
Two weeks ago the NSW Transport Department’s Independent Transport Safety Authority issued an order on the Zig Zag to cease operations from June 17 until "safety issues" could be sorted out.
A few weeks earlier ITSA had issued an order to stop running the hallmark steam trains but allowed the old diesels to keep running until the appointed deadline.
The Zig Zag Railway claims that most of the issues raised by ITSA relate to "paperwork" — documentation relating to safe running procedures.
Whatever the case, the Zig Zag is now derailed until the issues are resolved, disrupting 35 years and thousands of kilometres of safe running.
NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said she has ordered the Transport Department to provide the necessary expertise to assist the ZZR in returning to operations as soon as possible.
Until that happens the Lithgow-Blue Mountains area has lost one of its most important tourist attractions.
People came from all over to show their support for the Zig Zag volunteers on the last day of operations.
One group had come from Western Australia.
Booking office-souvenir shop manager for the past six years, Fay Vandermeer, said it was a sad day for many, many people — and not just the volunteers and paid employees of Zig Zag.
“We’re all devastated,” she said.
She pointed out the swag of entries in the visitors book calling for the railway to be saved.
Particularly relevant was an entry by Graham and Nerita Jackson who had made a rush trip from Bruyn, in Britain.
“We always wanted to come [to Zig Zag] but when we heard it was closing we came right over to have a ride,” they wrote.
Similar support came from Tony Gaymer, from Kent, in Britain, in an email to the Mercury.
He was "dismayed at the thought of the Zig Zag closing" after visiting three times in past years and planning to come again.
But Fay was particularly touched by a visit by two very small children, no doubt fans of the Zig Zag’s Thomas days, who came to Clarence during the week and handed staff a note in Kindergarten script that read "please do not close the Zig Zag".
It was signed Louis, aged 5, and Ida, aged 2.
The contribution is on the notice board in the ticket office.
For now the staff are continuing on maintenance but with no trains running that means no income from ticket and souvenir sales.
Seems that everything now depends on just how much of the government’s promised support translates into effective action.