6 October 2023

Sold-out Griffith to Coolamon heritage train continues regional rail tourism revival

| Oliver Jacques
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Heritage train with John Robinson inset

Griffith train buff John Robinson is excited about the upcoming tourist train tour. Photo: Supplied.

A special heritage tourist train roundtrip between Griffith and Coolamon scheduled for Saturday (7 October) has been sold out, with organisers planning future rail journeys in regional NSW for later in the year.

Sydney-based company Cruise Express has chartered a 620-class motor railcar – a type of diesel regional branch line train no longer used in NSW – to operate a Sydney to Griffith heritage tour. While the train is stationed in the Riverina, the Rail Motor Society, a Hunter-based volunteer group, has taken the opportunity to run a special day trip to Coolamon for Griffith locals.

“We are pleased that all 88 tickets have been sold,” society treasurer Trish Short said. “Morning tea will be served on the way. We are licensed, so passengers can have a glass of beer or a wine too. We’ll be having lunch at Coolamon; half the people are going to The Little Rustic Pantry and the other half to the Coolamon Cheese Factory. Then everyone will do a tour of the cheese factory.”

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Griffith train buff John Robinson was pleased to have secured his ticket before they sold out.

“People seem to have a fascination about trains and I am one of them. You can get up, move about, order something to eat and go to the toilet. It’s a great way to travel.”

The retired high school teacher grew up in the Riverina rail’s glory days and says these one-off tourist trips bring back fond memories.

“I remember when people would take a train trip to go on their honeymoon, we’d gather at the station to farewell the newlyweds.

“We used to have three trains a day going to Sydney. One went through Temora and two went via Junee … then the Riverina Express started a service in the 1950s, leaving Griffith at 7 am and arriving in Sydney at 3 pm. It had a dining car and you could order a meal, it was also air-conditioned.

“Trains were also used to transport goods you bought from big cities. You’d order things and they’d come to the railway station, not to the post office.

“You’d be amazed at the coverage that trains had in the 1930s and 1940s. They were a vital part of our transport network.”

Staff on platform near train.

Steve Harper and Rodney Short of the Rail Motor Society. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Short and her society organised a tourist trip from Griffith to Hillston last year and said the success of that venture had seen them return.

“We always get a great response in the Riverina. I think a lot of people want more rail tourism. I’d like to see them open up some more branch lines. We always have people wanting to go to Lake Cargelligo.”

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She said her society, which collected, preserved and operated a small fleet of rail motors no longer in general use, had planned more tourist trips in regional NSW for later this year.

“We are going to Mudgee in November and we have another one going to Dubbo and to Orange … we have also purchased another 600-class rail motor that needs to be restored.

More information on future train schedules can be found on the Rail Motor Society Paterson Facebook page.

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