It all started with a photo we saw on facebook of the old Howick Station (now home of Pub’s End). The sepia photo shows the first ever train arriving at the station in 1911. The building itself was put up around the same time.
The photo was posted on social media by local train boffin Grant Fryer. When we contacted him to discover its origins, we discovered he was part of a group resuscitating the badly neglected Hilton Station – at long last!
So we met him and fellow train enthusiast Linton Hall at the station, along with Mia Baker – the latter being chairperson of the Hilton Steam Heritage Association, to which they all belong.
To our delight, there was much activity at the landmark train station: electric fencing has been erected around the property (compliments of sponsors Hilton Fencing and Stafix Electric Fencing), painters were hard at work scraping and stripping the old peeling paint off the neglected corrugated iron building (compliments of Build-It Hilton and Hilcote Paints), and Knight Security Solutions was due to install a complimentary burglar alarm system.
“The support from the community has been amazing,” said Fryer, who has been steamrolling (pardon the pun) efforts to clean up and restore the station for a number of years. “Skip n Go has been a huge help in donating skips for all the rubbish we’ve cleared, and other local stakeholders have just pitched in and sponsored all sorts of things for us.”
He said an existing lease agreement was in place with property owners Transnet, and a more concrete, long term one was being thrashed out to replace this when the current one expired in October.
“Ideally,” said Baker, whose interest in trains stems from her childhood when she and her father were both avid trainspotters at their country village in the UK, “it would be nice to rehabilitate the station and restore the museum on the premises. A tea garden would also be nice.”
And even more long term, added Dryer, is a plan to get a steam train running between Hilton and Cedara stations. And ultimately, link this up to the Capture Site at Lion’s River.
Hilton Station has long been an eyesore, a home for vagrants and criminals, and a bone of contention for the community. While occasional clean-ups have been carried out, this is the first sign of something concrete being done to the buildings themselves and to fence off and properly secure the property. The station was built in 1888, to service the railway line which was laid in 1884. It has been registered with Amafa and is a listed building, added Fryer.