2022 has been a busy year for the staff and volunteers of the Victorian Goldfields Railway.
In addition to operating trains every Wednesday and Sunday throughout the year, 2022 has seen a very popular program of special trains operated, including Murder on the Orient Express Driver Experiences and the ever-popular Ales on Rails trains.
According to Victorian Goldfields Railway president Steve Strangward, the railway is operating at close to maximum capacity.
“It’s thrilling to see how many visitors are keen to visit our part of central Victoria. We’re fortunate to have recruited over 30 new volunteers this year, and they’re certainly being kept busy working in passenger-facing roles as well as maintenance, restoration and administration roles”.
New volunteers have joined the Victorian Goldfields Railway workforce from all over the state, working in many different roles. “We’re fortunate to have some really dedicated volunteers joining us this year, and from a wide range of ages, genders and backgrounds. We’ve got some parents that have joined our workforce just so they can be with their kids who are very keen to join the Railway,” explained Mr Strangward.
Many people may not realise just how much work is required to keep the trains running, with the maintenance of the track between Castlemaine and Maldon, work on the historic locomotives and carriages and the marketing and administration of the Railway falling on the shoulders of four paid staff and a large number of volunteers.
“Our volunteers are our lifeblood, and we couldn’t run a train without them,” commented Mr Strangward. “In particular, we’re really proud of our Young Volunteers Group who are currently restoring a heritage diesel locomotive to its former glory.
Locomotive T333 hasn’t moved under its own power for almost a decade, and thanks to the young volunteers, she’ll be back on the rails next year.” The Young Volunteers Group have previously overhauled another diesel locomotive which is now used as a backup to the Railway’s steam engines.
At the other end of the age range, a number of senior volunteers work on the track three days a week. Using a mix of donated and purchased tools and machinery, the volunteers spend Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays working to maintain sleepers, rails, ballast, drains and bridges.
Looking ahead, the Railway is looking to further increase its number of volunteers and to shift its base to Castlemaine. “We know that our passengers love coming to Australia’s First Notable Town, and that’s why we’re moving our base to Castlemaine, so we can bring them to Maldon.”
If you’d be interested in volunteering at a community-based railway, the Victorian Goldfields Railway would love to hear from you via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 18 November 2022.