In our May edition

May Newsrail is a delight for rail fans, its 36 pages including stunning photography by noted photographers, and fascinating historic features by noted authors.

Our striking cover photograph commemorates 100 years since the opening of the final stage of the line from Wodonga to Cudgewa, which had some of the most spectacular scenery of any railway in Victoria. The accompanying article on the construction and opening of the line, written by our Features Editor Mark Cauchi, is one of three feature articles we present this month.

We also have another article by author Norman Houghton, who was recently awarded an Order of Australia for his tireless work in recording the industrial and railway history of Victoria’s south west. Winchelsea Station is today just a stop on the Warrnambool passenger rail service, but Norman shows us its past importance as a railhead for nearby stone and later coal mining operations.

Noted rail photographer and former Newsrail editor John Dare has also written a fascinating new article on the trial-use of Bluebird railcars to provide passenger services on the Gippsland Line following the cessation of electric services to Warragul in 1998. The centre pages of this edition feature remarkable photographs by John of these railcars in the red and blue V/Line livery of the era, as they ran a series of test runs between Traralgon and Melbourne.

Our News and Works columns cover a whole range of recent developments, from progress on the Metro project to calls for the Shepparton to Dookie Line to be reopened as a record grain season sees heavy road transport hammering the roads in the region. We also note the ending of an era as the Wallan Down Distant semaphore signal is decommissioned, the last semaphore on the North Eastern Line (and quite possibly the last distant semaphore anywhere on the Victorian main line network).

Our Operations and Sightings column is a treat for lovers of the EMD “bulldog” locomotives, with photos of A66, S313, and various SSR locomotives including the striking sight of CLF3, dubbed ‘Space Ghost’, in service in Victoria. We also capture an interesting training run that saw N475 run all the way to Dunolly.

Our Preservation section features some interesting developments from the Yarra Valley Railway, which is roaring ahead with its project to extend its operations through to Yarra Glen.

Taildisc once again runs over two pages this edition, with yet more interesting reader feedback and photographs, including the demolition of Kew Station, the mysterious refreshment rooms that were once in use at Underbool in the state’s Mallee region, and some interesting research on Lal Lal that may help explain why this station had a turntable for a few brief years of its existence.

In our April edition

Our April 2021 edition has a magnificent cover photograph, courtesy of Thomas Hobley, of S313 on its 60th anniversary run to Seymour and back, marking the return of heritage rail services to the main line.

Inside, our main feature article for this month is another wonderful photo essay from Andrew Blair, once again taking us on a journey that is has not been possible to make for decades.

Andrew takes us back to 1972 for a journey from Balranald in the NSW Riverina through to Echuca. Other than seasonal wheat and rice trains, this line saw very little traffic in its later years. On the day he travelled, Andrew was the only passenger on the Walker railcar as it called at various stations along the route, picking up and delivering parcels and other small items. Andrew was fortunate to have a driver who was happy to let him take photographs along the line, even stopping at the Wakool River to allow Andrew to get out and take photos of the railcar as it crossed the bridge. Just three years after Andrew’s journey, Victorian Railways withdrew the passenger service and the scenes that Andrew had captured with his camera lens and notes passed into history.

We also have a concise history of the Barnes to Balranald railway, which had the interesting distinction of being a Victorian Railways line that ran entirely outside of Victoria.

We also have a round-up of recent rail news, including details of a new railway station to be built at Pakenham East, and recent stats on public transport vs road usage following the recent relaxation of COVID restrictions.

Our Preservation section features the project by the Young Volunteers’ Group at Victorian Goldfields Railway to restore the last remaining Ice Van in trafficable condition, T222.

Taildisc runs over two pages this edition, with a number of interesting photographs and other details sent in by readers in response to articles in recent editions, such as our March 2021 Kew Line feature.

In our March edition

The Kew Railway Line continues to fascinate rail fans, despite its short length, and even more than sixty years after its closure. Our authors Mark Cauchi, Michael Guiney and Trevor Penn have written an authoritative piece on the decline, closure and dismantling of the line. It is extensively researched, busts one or two myths about the reasons for the railway’s demise. It is accompanied by an amazing collection of photographs of the final years of the line, including L class locomotives doing test runs along the line, the plant trains used in the dismantling of the line, and then the extraordinary sight of bridges still in place over the filled-in cuttings between Hawthorn and Barker Stations after the rails had been removed.

We also have a piece on the recent use of N Class locomotives for driver training, which saw a sudden proliferation of the class around Ballarat, where they were once a common sight but in more recent times have barely been seen.

We also have a very busy News section with stories on a new proposal for restoring Mildura Line passenger services, level crossing removals, recent mishaps, and calls for an upgrade of Caulfield Station ahead of the opening of the Metro Tunnel.

Our Preservation section features a fascinating update from Steamrail Victoria, which has just organised to get a new set of driving wheels and tyres made for veteran locomomtive Y112 to ensure it can continue to steam well into the future.

We’ve also got all our other regular sections, with a beautiful (and oh-so-Melbourne) photo for the Tramways column, a colour photograph of an A2 working a pick-up goods at Wallace Station back in 1957 for our Taildisc column, and details of the new PTV timetable in our Operations section.

Our cover photograph, from the Charles Craig collection and provided to Newsrail courtesy of Paul Kennelly, features a D3 locomotive pushing a plant train across the Barkers Road level crossing in 1958 as works to dismantle the railway got under way; note the catenary had already been removed.

In our February edition

Our February 2021 edition cover photo shows the last ever train to travel via the Bungaree Loop, a 13km track that has finally been replaced as part of the Ballarat Line Upgrade. The Bungaree Loop was once the main line to Ballarat and part of the main interstate freight and passenger network. But, as our concise history tells, this line’s long history began in 1879 as a sleepy branch line out of Ballarat that ran just two return trains per day!

Andrew Blair, who has produced some magnificent photo essays of adventures as a teenage railfan in the 1950s, has penned an article on a far more recent item of rail history: the short-lived use of Sprinter rail cars to run services to Albury-Wodonga. Andrew explains the background to these services, and how community action forced the Kennett government to reverse its decision to replace some Albury train services with buses. There are wonderful photos from the V/Line red and blue era.

On the very same day that the last trains ran via Bungaree, history was being made in Melbourne as the new High Capacity Metro Train carried its first passengers. We present photos and first impressions from some passengers, as well as discussing some of the advanced features that mark these new trains as a step change from previous suburban train designs in Melbourne.

We also have a beautiful centre page spread with photos by Darren Hodges who was on hand to capture the last trains to use the old 1888 Avon River bridge at Stratford in Gippsland, and the first trains to use its new $95 million dollar replacement.

And we have all your other favourite columns, including:
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • General Works
  • Preservation
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

In our January edition

The glorious cover photograph of Newport-built steam locomotive N431 chuffing out of Ararat is one of a magnificent collection presented by renowned rail photographer Bob Wilson who, in January 1964, took advantage of the Victorian Railways’ 14-day “All Lines” ticket offer which allowed the holder unlimited travel on then-extensive VR network. Bob used his ticket to tour the lines of western and south-western Victoria in what turned out to be of the last great summers of steam operation, travelling on some lines that are no longer open to rail passengers to experience. Bob recounts his journey in detail, and his photographs capture J, N, and R Class steam locomotives on freight duties along various lines radiating from Ararat

We have an extensive News section in this month’s edition to cover the significant new rail projects that have been announced in the recent State Budget, including the commencement of works on the first phase of the Suburban Rail Loop, and the funding of works to upgrade the Werribee Line to allow some V/Line Geelong services to run a significantly quicker journey by running via Werribee.

Our Operations and Sightings section is full of stunning photographs as the relaxation of COVID restrictions in recent weeks allowed our various contributors to get out and capture Victoria’s ever-changing rail scene.

Our Anniversaries page records a range of interesting events during January, and we have a two page feature to record the fortieth anniversary of two pivotal events of Victoria’s rail network that occurred in 1981: the opening of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop, and the withdrawal of the last of the Walker rail cars, a prologue to the closure of the once-great network of branch-line and wayside passenger rail services, and a precursor to the far-reaching changes to passenger rail operations that arrive later that same year with the “New Deal for Country Passengers” program.

And we have all your other favourite columns, including:
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • General Works
  • Preservation
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

In our December 2020 edition

In our December 2020 edition we have two feature articles from authors well-known to Newsrail readers:

  • John Anderson, who authored one of the main articles in our November 2019 North Melbourne Locomotive Depot edition, has written another nostalgic piece about his days as a schoolboy railfan. This time, he recounts his expedition out of suburban Melbourne (using the AEC railmotor that connected the then-Fawkner line to Somerton) to get a chance to see the Spirit out in the open countryside. John also shares some photos belonging to his friend Roger Parish, who as a schoolboy went on similar expeditions with his father, who, fortunately for us, brought his trusty Kodak Box Brownie.
  • Norman Houghton has another of his fascinating profiles of a long-gone station, this time it’s Emu, situated between Maryborough and St Arnaud on the Mildura line. Today it’s just a passing loop, but as Norman shows, it was once a relatively busy transport hub for local communities. More recently, it was also the site of a major derailment.

There’s also your favourite columns:

  • December anniversaries
  • News and announcements
  • Rolling stock (with recent news on C501, S311, and PN XR and X class)
  • PTV reliability
  • Tramways
  • Preservation (with an update on the ASG locomotive restoration)
  • Photo in focus (looking at a wonderful image of the Outer Circle Railway)
  • Taildisc

This month’s striking front cover photo was provided by Croft Structures, builders of the beautiful roof that forms the new Shed 21 at Bombardier’s Dandenong South facility.

 

In our November 2020 edition

The main feature article for our November 2020 edition concerns the construction of the direct, cross-country line between Horsham and Hamilton which opened 100 years ago, on 19 November 1920. Michael Guiney, who previously authored two of the feature articles in our May 2019 Centenary of Electrification edition, has put together an exceptionally well-researched article on the construction, operation and eventual demise of the line, including the legislative requirements that governed its construction.

For the third time this year, we’ve had so much content to fit in that we’ve had to go beyond the usual 32 pages. Features Editor Mark Cauchi assembled a beautiful collection of photographs for Michael’s article, including steam-era black and white photos by Don Frazer and Andrew Blair, and later diesel-era colour photos from the collections of Geoff Winkler, Weston Langford, and the Geelong & South Western Railway Heritage Society. The photos were so good we couldn’t decide which ones to leave in and leave out, so we instead put an extra four pages in to allow enough space for them all to be properly appreciated. We’re pretty confident our readers will be glad that we did!

Also in this edition, we also have another of Norman Houghton’s ‘Ghost Stations’ series of articles; this time Norman profiles Poorneet, a long-gone station just beyond Cressy on the windswept so-called “Pleurisy Plains”.

There’s also your favourite columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and announcements
  • PTV stats
  • Rail works
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings
  • Preservation news
  • Taildisc

Our cover photograph shows the famous heritage-listed steam locomotive H220 Heavy Harry finally getting a long-awaited roof to protect it from the elements; a roof that will also cover several other precious heritage rail exhibits at the Newport Railway Museum.

In our October 2020 edition

October Newsrail – a special 40-page edition – features a series of articles concerning the Bendigo Locomotive Depot, including stories from three former employees whose time there dated from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. These stories are beautifully illustrated as a result of the discovery of a photo collection by George Coop, who took many photographs of the depot in the early 1960s when its turntable was surrounded by Ks, Ns and Js, and Rs were stabled just outside, all awaiting their next assignment. These photos are supplemented by some beautiful images from Geoff Oliver, Brian Goodwin, and Weston Langford. Our cover image is from the collection of the Geelong and South West Railway Heritage Society.

As was our experience last year when preparing a special edition focussed on the North Melbourne Locomotive Depot, there is something of a scarcity of published information on the depot and for this reason, we have also compiled a concise history. We’ve also reproduced in high-resolution A3 format on our centre pages an aerial photograph, circa 1930,  by the famous photographer, Charles Daniel Pratt.

There’s also your favourite columns:

  • Calendar anniversaries
  • News and announcements (including V/Locity design awards and a new push to restore rail to Mt Gambier)
  • Rolling stock (including CLF/CLP reactivation news)
  • PTV stats
  • Rail works
  • Tramways
  • Operations and sightings (including details of the new Peaco and containerised log services)
  • Preservation news
  • Taildisc (with a little extra V/Line orange)

In our September 2020 edition

It’s been quite a long time since V/Line Orange graced the front cover of Newsrail, but this photograph by Alan Greenhill was an ideal choice for a feature article by Jim Foley, who tells of his long-running connection with the South Gippsland railway through its VR, V/Line, and SGR eras. The scenes that Jim’s recollections evoke are beautifully represented with photographs from Alan Greenhill, Peter Enlund, the late Weston Langford, Mark Cauchi, Geoff Oliver, and James Brook.

4 September 2020 marks 160 years since the Victorian Railways Department takeover of the Geelong & Melbourne Railway Company came into effect, an event that represented a pivotal change in the development of our state’s railways, as private operators began to falter and the government began to assume the role as builder and operator of this critical infrastructure. Michael Menzies provides some interesting details of the railway’s early history, such as the the development of the station complex at Geelong, and the three(!) different routes the line took at its Eastern end during its three short years of G&MR Co operation. He also provides some interesting details on the takeover, including some early bureaucratic bungles on the part of the new Victorian Railways.
  • Our Rolling stock column returns in this edition, with details of brand-new PN 93 Class locomotives that are entering service operating interstate freight out of Melbourne, as well as another “new” old locomotive being reactivated by SSR, this time L277.
  • Our General news and Rail works columns feature some magnificent images, courtesy of Level Crossing Removal Project, of major construction works on the Upfield line associated with level crossing removals.
  • And of course the regular columns for Calendar anniversaries, Operations and Sightings, PTV service quality, Tramways, Taildisc and the Where Is It photo are all there.

In our August 2020 edition

Our cover story for August 2020 Newsrail concerns the recently announced decision by Steamrail to conduct a condition assessment on K183, the locomotive involved in the Benalla level crossing tragedy of October 2002, with a view to potentially restoring the locomotive to operating condition. We speak to Steamrail’s Mechanical Manager, Warren Hall, who discusses why K183 is being considered for restoration, and why K class locos are such a good loco for heritage rail operations. Warren discusses what work will be involved in the condition assessment, and how the difficult task of a major steam locomotive overhaul is made easier by the growing level of cooperation and information-sharing between heritage rail groups both locally and internationally.

We have another of Andrew Blair’s wonderful photo essays of a journey along a VR branch line in the 1950s; this time we’re headed for Yarrawonga on a 153hp Walker Railcar. Andrew also retraces his steps 62 years later and finds that while passenger services to Yarrawonga are now a distant memory, silo art has transformed the Devenish and Goorambat station sites with murals of striking beauty and poignancy.

Mark Cauchi presents us with a something of a riddle as he sifts through documentation concerning the installation (and then removal only a few years later) of the  turntable at Lal Lal on the Geelong to Ballarat line. Mark discusses the various potential purposes it could have served, noting the various agricultural, industrial and recreational purposes the railway served in that district.

Greg Michael follows up his recent article on distance measurement on the VR with a visit to the former Ben Nevis to Navarre branch, part of which has now been turned into a roadway where VR concrete mileposts still mark the distance from Melbourne.

Our News section deals with exciting news of the extension of funding for the Overland to 2023, allowing the service to resume once COVID border restrictions allow.

And all your favourite columns are there

  • Rail works (with extensive detail on the infrastructure changes at Mentone/Cheltenham and West Footscray/Tottenham)
  • Tramways
  • PTV service quality
  • Operations and sightings
  • Preservation (as well as K183 news, there is an update on an 1874 carriage body restoration project underway at Ballarat)
  • Where is it?
  • Taildisc

Our cover photo was taken by Matt Oaten.