Back in May 2013 Steamranger ran it's annual SteamFest event at Mt Barker Station, in the Adelaide Hills. The highlight was the running of Steam Locomotive 621 from Mt Barker to Bugle Ranges!
Steamranger runs a number of heritage steam trains (and some heritage diesel locomotives) from it's base at Mt Barker Station, all the way down the old Victor Harbor railway line to Victor Harbor. They regularly run Cockle train services from Goolwa to/from Victor Harbor.
So why are they at Mt Barker instead of Adelaide? Well, at one stage they were based in Adelaide (Dry creek Station) running steam train services to Belair, Victor Harbor and stops in between. I never had the chance to do this from Adelaide unfortunately.
However back in 1995 the government of the day converted the dual broad gauge railway lines on the Belair line (which continues on to Melbourne) to a standard gauge line for freight traffic going to Melbourne (and the Overland passenger train to Melbourne) to use the same standard gauge line used elsewhere beyond Adelaide.
One of the two broad gauge lines was retained as broad gauge for the Belair Adelaide Metro line, which now finishes at Belair station. Originally though, the line continued to the Adelaide Hills town of Bridgewater (and Melbourne beyond that), and a branch line split off at Mt Barker Junction to Victor Harbor.
Unfortunately beyond Belair both lines were converted to Standard Gauge, so the split off point was on the line that was converted to standard gauge, which meant that when the conversion work was completed, the Victor Harbor broad gauge branch line was disconnected permanently and isolated from the rest of the broad gauge network in Adelaide.
This meant that Steamranger had to relocate all it's facilities and trains from Dry Creek to Mt Barker, which is where it is based now. You can read all about Steamrangers operations at their website at http://www.steamranger.org.au
So as part of Steamfest 2013, Steamranger open up their workshops (normally closed to the public), so the public can take a look at what they are working to restore. Naturally I took a peek, starting with the train carriages and locos pulled out for public display:
The restored carriages on display looking wonderful:
Inside the workshop you can see (in the distance) an ex Limestone Coast Railway train (used to run from Mount Gambier in South East South Australia for tourist runs) - unfortunately the Limestone Coast service stopped service before I got a chance to ride it. A Steam loco boiler is also being worked on:
Inside one of the restored carriages, used in Steamranger train services:
I then went back to the station to buy my Steamfest ticket to travel on the 621 Steam train ride to Bugle Ranges. Here is the ticket:
It is a short trip, but long enough to get the feeling of traveling in Steam trains of that era. I grabbed some photos of the train prior to departure:
As an aside I bought a number of the many souvenirs that were on sale at Mt Barker Station for Steamfest, including buying a new mug, train books, DVD's and a wonderful framed photo of the 621 locomotive in action near Victor Harbor!
My seat was a window seat in one of the restored carriages, looking great:
And then we set off. The scenery along the way from the train was great, so I include some photos of that too:
Working our way through Mt Barker:
Winding our way through to Philcox Hill:
Arrived at the site of the former Philcox Hill Station:
Continuing on towards Bugle Ranges. The feeling and sound of a steam train is wonderful, and fills me with excitement!
We arrive at the final destination, the former Bugle Ranges railway station (photo a bit blurry sorry). The railway line continues all the way to Goolwa and Victor Harbor on a trip called the Southern Encounter. I have been on this trip also and I will cover it in a future blog entry!
Because there is nowhere at Bugles Ranges to turn around, the train had a heritage diesel engine at the back, which now become the front as we headed back to Mt Barker. Some beautiful scenery could be seen from the train too:
On arrival back at Mt Barker station I quickly ran to the end of the platform to get a photo of the heritage diesel loco before heading home for the day:
Steamfest was a fun day out, and thanks to the Steamranger volunteers for making a great day for all to enjoy. It is recommended for anyone who can to go to Steamfest in 2014 - perhaps I will see you there!