In our June 2022 edition

Did you know that the first section of today’s Hurstbridge Line was a track from Clifton Hill to Alphington, entirely isolated from the rest of the Victorian Railways network, which sat idle for over a year after completion in 1883? Or that the first services to run on the line were not operated by a VR steam locomotive, but a gas motor tram, powered by a very early design of four-stroke internal combustion engine, cutting-edge technology at the time?

Authors Mark Cauchi and Owen Ryan have pieced together an incredible story of the early days of this railway line. As is so often the case with railway construction in Victoria during the 1880s, it is a story of political intrigue, in which the larger-than-life figure of Sir Thomas Bent plays a part. After politically-connected local landowners in Richmond successfully thwarted efforts to built a railway through their district, the isolated Clifton Hill to Alphington railway sat idle for over a year, a source of embarrassment to the Victorian Government given the significant expenditure on the line with its substantial earthworks and 600 foot-long viaduct over Merri Creek. Enter Messrs Danks and Barnes with their proposal to operate the railway line with a private tram service, in what can be regarded as Australia’s first urban light rail operation. While no photographs are known to exist of the remarkable tram, it was a technical if not a financial success. It ran for over two years, before connection of the Clifton Hill line to Royal Park and the rest of the VR network enabled the operation of conventional trains. A fascinating and little-known episode in the story of Melbourne’s early railways.

Our News section is packed with stories of interest, including some key measures announced in the 2022 State Budget that will accelerate the replacement of the now-40-year-old V/Line N sets with VLocity railcars. We also include the exciting news of freight rail service returning to Bairnsdale, following the recent replacement of the Avon River Bridge and the construction of a new intermodal freight terminal at Bairnsdale.

All our regular columns are there:
  • Calendar anniversaries
  • General works
  • Operations and sightings
  • Photos in focus
  • Preservation
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

>And for possibly the first time in Newsrail history, we have a Sport column! We have a run-down of Melbourne’s strong debut performance at the European TramDriver Championship in Leipzig on 21 May.

Our cover photo, for our cover story noting the impending demise of the N sets across many regional lines, was taken by David O’Brien.

 

In our May 2022 edition

The cover of our May edition features a striking image never seen before: a VR blue and gold S Class diesel at Sydney’s Central Station, preparing to haul the Southern Aurora to Melbourne. The 60th anniversary commemorative run of this train was in peril after flood damage to the Thirlmere Line stranded the Trasnport Heritage NSW diesel fleet. Enter Seymour Rail Heritage Centre, which was not only able to provide S303 and T357, but in just two weeks was able to negotiate the necessary modifications or waivers required to enable vintage blue and gold VR locos to venture onto the Sydney Trains network. In our Preservation column, we interview SRHC President John Crofts about the frantic work that took place behind the scenes.

We have some wonderful historic feature articles:

  • Andrew Blair presents another of his photographic essays; this time he takes us back to 1972 and the former railcar service that linked Swan Hill and a series of small Rail Motor Stopping Places in the nearby vicinity to Piangil. In addition to Andrew’s beautiful black and white photos, we also have some colour slide photos from the era as an extra bonus.
  • Nick Anchen presents interviews with two more former Gippsland enginemen, both now sadly deceased. Ted Smith, a fireman from Moe in the 1940s, shares a few stories including the day that the loco crew had to chase a runaway N Class tender after it had rolled away after being split from the loco for turning on the small Thorpdale turntable. Driver Roy McDuff tells about a hair-rising ride when defective brakes due to an inept train examiner saw their train of four wheel wagons (limited to 45mph) hit 68 mph!

We also have some contemporary items of note, including photographs of the buffet for soon-to-be-commissioned long-distance VLocity set VS96, and news on the Federal Budget commitment of $920M to build the new Outer Metropolitan Ring Rail South line.

Our regular columns are there:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • General news
  • Rail works
  • Operations and sightings
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

 

 

In our April 2022 edition

The dramatic cover photo of this month’s Newsrail concerns the subject of our first feature article: locomotive H220 Heavy Harry. Phil Dunn presents official VR correspondence detailing the design parameters for the locomotive, and then the details of its 1941 performance tests, tests which established that the locomotive’s prodigious horsepower output exceeded expectations.

April 2022 sees the 100th anniversary of the first test run of the AEC Rail Motor Car, an interesting vehicle that has gone down in history as VR’s first successful railcar. We present a concise history and some wonderful photos.

We have two articles from Andrew Blair. He presents a short photo essay of an overlooked aspect of railway infrastructure: ground-level crossings between platforms. Andrew has also put together an update, with some striking photographs, on the amazing progress being made by Yarra Valley Railway in their laying of track at Yarra Glen Station.

Mark Cauchi, who last year authored our first book, Rails by the sea, has provided an addendum to his book with some photographs and other details that didn’t quite make the book by deadline.

Our regular columns are there:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News
  • Works
  • Photo in focus (and it’s a ripper this month!)
  • Operations and sightings
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

 

 

In our March 2022 edition

Buy an individual print copy of March 2022 Newsrail here

March 2022 Newsrail is one we’re incredibly proud of. We feature the second part of Nick Anchen’s feature article interviewing 94-year-old former Warragul engineman Ray Johns, but we’ve saved the best for last!

In this edition, Ray talks about his time driving and firing on the mountain railway to Noojee, a line of steep grades, sharp curves, and incredible scenery. Ray shares stories from a different time, when the world was a very different place, and these wonderful words are illustrated with a spectacular photographic selection, including several of the massive No. 2 and No. 4 bridges between Nayook and Noojee, both of which were sadly destroyed.

Further to our recent features on the Red Hill Line, we’re also publishing a piece sent in by the Balnarring & District Historical Society about the ‘Grimwade Bullet’, the local name given to the 5pm Stony Point passenger service.

Our News section covers a campaign for a standard gauge platform to be built at Sunshine to allow North East Line passengers to transfer to and from Melbourne Airport and Metro Tunnel services. We also look at the continuing decline of rail’s share of the freight task, the imminent commencement of track laying inside the Metro Tunnel, and significant timetable changes following duplication of the Cranbourne Line.

Our regular columns are there:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • Photos in focus (showing Beech Forest Line construction)
  • Rail works (with details on the removal of semaphore signals at Meredith)
  • Operations and sightings
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

 

 

In our February 2022 edition

Buy an individual print copy of February 2022 Newsrail here

Our cover photograph of The Overland crossing the Murray River heads up a report of the recent sale of the Journey Beyond Group, operator of the Indian Pacific, Ghan, Overland and Great Southern rail services, to the US-based Hornblower Group. We also detail a campaign to further upgrade the Echuca Line, news on the looming City Loop maintenance shutdown, Waurn Ponds Station upgrade and Williamstown Line reopening.

We have a rolling stock update with news on the new EV120 infrastructure evaluation vehicle, as well as new developments in loco fleets including the introduction of Qube’s QL Class to Victorian rails.

We are delighted to publish this month the first of a two-part feature article by noted author Nick Anchen, who compiled interviews with Warragul railwayman Ray Johns into a superb piece of writing. Ray gives a detailed overview of his experiences working on various classes of steam locomotives, the size and importance of Warragul as a railway town, and a whole series of surprising or amusing anecdotes along the way. The article is beautifully illustrated with photographs from the collection of the late Brian Goodwin, as well as Newport Railway Museum, SLV and PROV collections.

Noted photographer John Dare has put together a great photo essay on a day back in 1974 when a railfan tour to celebrate the centenary of rail services to Maryborough was held up at gunpoint by bushrangers who had placed hay bales across the line at Carisbrook. No doubt it certainly gave passengers something to talk about for the rest of the journey!

There’s also a very extensive Operations and Sightings update, Preservation news on the new homes for former Bacchus Marsh Station signal equipment being found in the heritage rail sector, and all the other regular columns, including:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • Rail works
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

 

 

In our January 2022 edition

Buy an individual print copy of January 2022 Newsrail here

January Newsrail, the first edition of our Volume 50, our 50th year of continuous publication, features a beautiful twilight photograph by David Johnson of B61, a locomotive that this year will celebrate its 70th anniversary.

There’s quite a few interesting items in our News section, including an ATSB report on a near miss near Southern Cross Station, some words of caution from Grattan Institute on the economic cost and benefit of the High Speed Rail and Melbourne Metro 2 proposals currently being touted, and latest developments in the construction of the Metro Tunnel and the introduction of High Capacity Signalling.

This month we have an interesting variety of features:

  • Ian Jenkin presents two short articles, each extensively illustrated with a fascinating collection of photographs, maps and plans, concerning Caulfield Station and its surrounds. One article looks at the development of the suburbs in the Caulfield and Malvern area in the interwar years, and the other looks at the infrastructure of Caulfield Station itself, including additional platforms for the loading and unloading of horses… and even pigs!
  • Andrew Blair, who is familiar to Newsrail readers for the many long-distance journeys across Victoria he undertook in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the railway history he captured through his camera lens, has written an article that details the many acts of kindness he experienced from railway staff on those travels. That kindness included in some cases the permission or assistance railway staff afforded him to capture a particular moment in a photograph. As is so often the case for Andrew’s articles, the scenes of once-everyday railway life captured in those photographs are not repeatable, and are unforgettable.
  • Ian Campbell presents a short article concerning his childhood visits to Moutajup in the state’s west, a rail journey that required special arrangements for the train to stop at the scarcely-used Moutajup Station, and sometimes the rain of oil droplets from an oil-burning J or N Class locomotive!

We have all the usual columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and Announcements
  • Rail works
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Preservation
  • Operations and sightings (including some interesting details on recent service disruptions on the Warrnambool Line)
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

 

In our December 2021 edition

Buy an individual print copy of December 2021 Newsrail here

December Newsrail has a striking cover photograph of diesel locomotive Y127, the first locomotive to be repainted in the once-ubiquitous V/Line Orange and Grey livery since the 1990s, emerging from Number 7 Road at Newport Workshops West Block, home of the heritage rail group 707 Operations.

Matt Gillespie, who managed the restoration and repainting project (and also snapped the superb cover photograph), provides a fascinating in-depth report on the restoration project.

2 December 2021 marks exactly 100 years since the opening of the short-lived Bittern to Red Hill railway. In our November edition, we provided an in-depth history of the line from proposals for its construction through to its closure and dismantling. This month, we present a previously-unpublished report by the legendary Victorian railway writer, Charles Gavan Duffy, who toured the line in 1939. Gavan Duffy’s report is beautifully illustrated with photos of the line from that era, kindly furnished by Newport Railway Museum, Balnarring & District Historical Society, and Rosebud & District Historical Society.

And our other main feature article is a beautiful essay by Wilson Lennard on the railfanning expeditions he undertook with his father, Ron Lennard, a railways employee who in his leisure time travelled to various vantage points to photograph the trains that were his passion. Wilson’s article is illustrated with several of Ron Lennard’s beautifully-framed photographs.

We also have some interesting photographic content, from a civil engineer’s view of works along the new Lilydale Station, through to a fitter’s view of VL357 undergoing conversion from standard to broad gauge.

Trevor Penn and Mark Cauchi also review the new book by Nick Anchen, Victorian Railways – The spirit of blue & gold.

We have all the usual columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and Announcements
  • Rail works
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

 

 

In our November 2021 edition

November Newsrail is another 40-page special, the first of two editions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the former Mornington Peninsula railway line from Bittern to Red Hill.

Our November edition has two feature articles to commemorate historic anniversaries:

  • A superb feature article on the history of the Red Hill Line by noted railway historian Michael Guiney, beautifully and comprehensively illustrated with dozens of photographs, track diagrams of stations, as well as traffic and revenue statistics. We believe this may be the first such comprehensive feature ever published on the line.
  • On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the opening of the former line from Lilydale to Warburton, we present a fascinating collection of photographs from the 1930s and 1940s of everyday traffic on the line and its adjoining timber tramways, courtesy of the Cleverdon family, who took holidays at Launching Place.

As well as historic features, we have contemporary content of interest:

  • Michael Menzies documents the operational disruptions to the network that arose from the COVID-19 outbreak at staff facilities at Southern Cross Station, and the shutdown of public transport into Melbourne to thwart anti-lockdown protests
  • We meet with Steamrail, 707 Operations, and Bellarine Railway for updates on restoration and overhaul efforts on locomotives K183, R707, and G33.

We have all the usual columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and Announcements
  • Rail works
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

Our superb cover photograph of A2 986 on a recent driver training run was taken by Ben Peters.

In our October 2021 edition

Buy an individual print copy of October 2021 Newsrail here

October Newsrail celebrates the former railway line through Kilcunda, one of the former VR’s most photographed locations, and one with a fascinating history.

We have two feature articles on the topic:

  • A series of excerpts from Mark Cauchi’s forthcoming new book on the building of the railway line through Kilcunda; the initial rail connection from Woolamai to the Powlett River coalfiends achieved through the use of a temporary line with steep grades and sharp curves which operated while the permanent line, with its substantial earthworks and magnificent trestle bridge, was constructed.
  • A personal recollection from Don Schroder, who grew up on a farm on the line between Anderson and Kilcunda, with trains running right past the front of the family home (and occasionally stopping right outside the front to save Don and his family the walk from the station!

Both articles are illustrated with some magnificent photographs; Don’s article with Kodachrome images from the last years of steam operation of the line, Mark’s article with fascinating photographs of its construction, including the temporary line being operated parallel to the permanent line then under construction.

We have two other feature articles in this edition:

  • Norman Houghton, who was awarded an OAM in this year’s Australia Day honours, has provided another in his fascinating “Ghost Station” series of articles. This time Norman is looking at Bet Bet and Havelock Stations, on the line between Maryborough and Dunolly, and their past importance as railheads for stone mining
  • And finallly, we farewell the old Lilydale Station with a short photographic feature capturing the last two trains to ever depart the old station.

We have all the usual columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and Announcements
  • Rail works
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

And our occasional Rolling Stock column makes a return this month to discuss some recent news on locomotives and carriages.

In our September 2021 edition

Buy an individual print copy of September 2021 Newsrail here

Our September edition has a dramatic cover photograph, courtesy of Max Thum, of the restored Tait set undergoing test runs around the Melbourne suburban network on 1 August. Inside, our Preservation column features an update on some of the work undertaken to ready the Tait set for operation on the Melbourne suburban network and some words from Elecrail Manager Kevin Clark on the success of the tests.

We have a wonderful collection of photographic features for our readers.

  • Mark Cauchi presents a further update to his Ballarat Racecourse Line article of 2020, with an additional series of photographs of the line, including some images from the 1940s, when A2 locomotives hauled race trains and horseboxes to the racecourse station.
  • Bruce McLean presents a report and an amazing collection of photos of a derailment involving D2.711 near Pinnaroo that occurred on 16 November 1937, which keen Victorian railfans will note as the day before the Spirit of Progress made its debut run. The humble D2 stuck in a sand drift seems a world away from the glamorous streamliner that was about to set an Australian rail speed record.
  • Our centre pages show a stunning photograph from Scott Gould of R761 ascending Ingliston Bank with the V/Line H Set cars on 31 July
  • And we have Part Two of Terry Norton’s article “Don’t leave it too late”, with Terry’s reminiscences of journeys on Victorian rail over the decades.

Our News column covers the delivery of the first of the standard gauge VLocity fleet for testing, and news on the Suburban Rail Loop and proposed Metro Two Tunnel.

And all our other columns are there:

  • Rail works
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc