27 November 2023

Capital country to be showcased as rail museum on track to honour the past

| Claire Sams
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Older-style train.

While these trains were common on tracks in the Newcastle area, one of the survivors is coming to Canberra. Photo: Canberra Railway Museum.

Many of us travel in cars or buses (maybe electric, maybe not) – but there’s an alternative method that has served us for almost 200 years.

Ewout Rohling said the hard work behind giving people a chance to travel in a heritage train was once again about to pay off.

“It’s been quite a few months in planning and it’s really exciting that we are now less than two weeks away,” he said.

“Obviously, we’ve also had to fit these around the usual trains so we’re not causing any delays.

“But this excursion is a particularly exciting venture for us because it’s the first of its kind that we’ve had a major hand in planning, coordinating, staffing and running since we re-opened to the public.”

A director of Capital Region Heritage Rail which manages Canberra Railway Museum along with ACT Heritage Rail Holdings, Mr Rohling is excited about what’s coming up.

In one of the events, the public will be able to travel in the Molonglo Valley Explorer across the ACT/NSW border from Canberra to Bungendore and Queanbeyan.

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“We’re very lucky to have been collaborating with Lachlan Valley Railway, as well as the owner of railmotor 631/731, to bring this all together,” he said.

“This railmotor is a diesel engine built in the 1960s, mainly for use on suburban passenger services around the Newcastle area and occasionally on the Canberra railway line.”

After time as an inspection vehicle and in Cooma, the railmotor fell into private hands – to somewhere nearby.

“It was moved to Canberra, and restored on the museum premises over the course of 2019 and 2020, so it already has a bit of a connection to us.”

Mr Rohling expected many residents in Canberra and the surrounding regions would look forward to travelling through lush fields.

“I think there is very much something to be said for the journey itself.

“One of the great things you can do with heritage trains is show people a different level of comfort.

“I think older trains have that level of intrinsic luxury, even to the smallest things.”

But he said that luxury and comfort wouldn’t take away from the beauty outside the train windows.

“We’re privileged we have a very scenic railway we can run them on.

“The ride through to Bungendore is absolutely spectacular.

“People will absolutely love looking through the windows and enjoying the spectacular views from a heritage train.”

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Mr Rohling hoped the two-day event would bring more public awareness to the Canberra Railway Museum, which opened its doors again in 2019.

“I’d honestly go so far as to say this has been one of our best years since re-opening,” he said.

“This gives people a taste of what the museum is aspiring towards once we’ve attained our own accreditation in the hopefully not too distant future.”

This year also saw the The Picnic Train tours pass through Canberra, restoration projects for several historic trains progress – including 3016, a steam locomotive built in October 1903 – and the finished restoration of Carriage FS 2023.

“We’ve had enormous success and are looking forward to cooking up some more ideas for next year.”

Tickets for the Molonglo Valley Explorer on 2 and 3 December cost from $10 to $40 and are available via 123tix.

The trains will depart from Canberra Railway Station in Kingston; travellers are asked to arrive at least 20 minutes before their departure time.

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These trips are always fun! Really hope they sell out every trip!

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