On Top of the World

by Ellen Hill

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Mist swirls in the valley far below as one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet begins to glow. Flaming slivers of sunlight tickle the crown of each of the Three Sisters and slide down to reveal their rugged form.

Entranced by the spectacle, Scenic World managing director Anthea Hammon is alone atop the highest skyway in Australia watching the Jamison Valley waken.

“Not everyone gets to wake up and take three steps into a World Heritage-listed national park,” Anthea says. “That’s a pretty special place to live.”

She has done so her whole life.

“My best Mountain days are when it snows in Winter: those moments where you walk outside and it’s really peaceful and there’s snow falling on the gum leaves.”

Weekends as a child were usually spent bushwalking with her mother Peta and four siblings.

They would traipse up and down the Furber Stairs between the top and bottom of Scenic World or down the Golden Stairs and around the Jamison Valley before riding the Scenic Railway up the steep escarpment.

When not out walking, Sundays were spent with her father Phil at Scenic World, the colliery his father Harry bought in 1945 and transformed into a tourist playground.

“It’s where my love of all things engineering grew. He would be driving the train or fixing pinball machines. I’d help him count coins out of pinball machines and watch him driving the train or putting chemicals into the boilers they used to heat the restaurant.

“My daughter Hazel, who is seven, comes in and follows me around now. And my son Hamilton who is two, demands to see the accumulator, which is a component of the railway winch.”

As she grew older, Anthea worked in the milk bar and retail shop, eventually taking over from her great aunt selling one-way tickets.

“When I was 15, and Aunty Gwen was 85, she would come down and have lunch with me every Sunday after church, which was quite special. It kept her connected to Scenic World and she was a great influence on me.”

After five years away from the Blue Mountains while studying mechanical engineering and working in other engineering companies, in 2004 she returned to Scenic World to work with the maintenance team.

“At the time, Dad was in the middle of rebuilding the site, including the installation of the Cableway and building the 2.4km Scenic Walkway in the valley, replacing the Skyway and rebuilding all the buildings, so an additional pair of hands with some engineering skills was very useful.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay, but I loved working somewhere where my love of the Mountains, engineering skills and working with people all came together.”

Phil retired in 2011, leaving Anthea and brother David, who has an economics background, to run Scenic World as joint managing directors. The pair rebuilt the Scenic Railway (the world’s steepest passenger train at 52 degrees) in 2013, a $28 million project that saw the complete rebuild of the tracks, winching equipment and train carriages, with only a 10-week shutdown.

Anthea and David worked together for six years before David moved to look after the Hammons Holdings Group.

In that time, they grew the business to be visited by more than 1.1 million people a year from around the globe, making Scenic World Australia’s most visited privately owned tourist attraction.

Today, it continues to evolve, with the roarsome Dinosaur Valley experience across Summer, Light Up the Night around Easter and the world-first Beyond Skyway experience – where you are harnessed up and spend time on the roof of the Skyway sipping a mocktail and soaking in the amazing views.

“People want to make great memories with their family,” Anthea says. “What we do is make this the best place for that to happen. That’s why Scenic World exists – to connect families and friends and make memories.”

 

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