Over the last weekend, a delegation from CMR had the pleasure of attending the 2023 Australasian Tourist and Heritage Railway Conference in Victoria. Hosted in the stunning new Visitors Centre at Lakeside on the Puffing Billy Railway, we had the opportunity to hear from many of our colleagues from across the country, and discuss some of the challenges that we’re all facing in the industry at the moment.

We were also very proud to see our very own Safety Manager, Stuart Thyer, presenting a great piece on the lessons learnt from the development of our new Safety Management System. It is not often that an organisation like CMR has the opportunity or expertise to start from scratch, but Stuart has done an amazing job and we’re very lucky to have him on board.

The hospitality of Peter Abbott and his team at Puffy Billy was amazing, providing us with the opportunity to tour the workshops at Belgrave and more importantly, ride the iconic Puffing Billy train from Belgrave to the conference at Lakeside.

On the final day, we had to opportunity to visit the Yarra Valley Railway for short train ride on one of their Victorian Rail Motors and a behind the scenes look at the fantastic work they are doing to restore the railway between Healesville and Yarra Glen in the Yarra Valley wine region. Of particular interest to CMR, was the installation of a new level crossing at Healesville, the replacement of a number of timber trestle bridges with a new steel design that remains sympathetic to the original timber structures, and their method for the reconstruction of platform faces using concrete. These are all issues that we are currently working on and a huge shout out to the team at YVR for taking the time to share their experiences and knowledge with us. The efforts of YVR and the work they have completed so far is seriously impressive, so do yourself a favour and check them out.

On the way home, we took a detour to visit the Walhalla Goldfields Railway, a location that has been on our todo list for a long time. Such a beautiful town and an amazing railway. We’re looking forward to returning on a day when trains are operating so that we can take a journey through the Stringers Creek Gorge.

It was great to see the amazing work that is happening across the country, especially in Victoria. Fortunately for our southern friends, there is a lot of support from local government for the development of heritage railways and there are active programs to funnel resources and materials that are no longer needed on the Victorian railway network, back into the heritage railway sector. This is reflected in the quality of the work that is being completed in Victoria and the strength of the heritage railway sector. Something NSW needs to do a little better.

Thank you to ATHRA, Puffing Billy Railway, Yarra Valley Railway and all of our colleagues for a great few days. We look forward to the next edition!