New weatherproofing, air conditioning and renovations at Ellwood's Hall at Stockinbingal passed with flying colours in last Saturday morning's freezing conditions, after overnight snow in the district.
Thanks to the $60,000 renovations funded by the NSW government's Stronger Communities Fund, the hall was as warm as toast for around 160 people people who passed through during the morning, with a total of more than 300 visitors over the weekend.
The big attraction was the "Stockinbingal Layout", a large realistic model train layout made 30 years ago by model railway enthusiasts in Wagga and recently restored after several years in storage.
The layout was popular at the recent model railway convention at Rosehill in Sydney, and was much admired by the crowd at its home town, with many visitors waiting patiently for the freight trains to complete the 35-metre circuit - past the township, the station, the silos and the level crossing - and come back again for another viewing.
Also on display was a small circuit going through the fictional township of Marungul, built by Dale Richards, and a popular "U-drive" circuit which delighted kids because they could sit down and use the controls to make the models start, stop and go in reverse. A room at the front of the hall was a small heritage centre of Stockinbingal memorabilia.
For locals, the best thing was to be able to enjoy a function in the hall in the middle of winter, which until now has been uncomfortable if not impossible because the space between the top of the walls and the roof was open to the elements, with only chicken wire in place to prevent birds coming in.
Rosalie Hall, chair of Ellwood's Hall committee, said the hall couldn't be used for seven months of the year, but was now fully enclosed with fans and an air conditioner to make it pleasant all year round, as well as a ramp in the foyer for accessibility.
Mayor Abb McAllister cut the ribbon into the renovated supper room, alongside the main hall, and congratulated the Stockinbingal community on its enterprise in applying for the grant and pushing now for further improvements in the next round of Strong Communities, to upgrade the amenities block and kitchen.
"It's a great hall and a credit to the community that it's worked so hard to cherish and look after it," he said.
The Stockinbingal Layout was originally built by the Wagga Wagga Model Railroaders but was retired several years ago and bought by Billy Everett, who works at Junee abattoir and placed in storage in a shed.
Then last year a machinist at an aluminium shop in Wagga, Rod Smith, bought a half share and got together with Billy to resurrect it.