Step back in time aboard a steam train along the Victorian Goldfields Railway.
The Victorian Goldfields Railway winds through forest and open land between Maldon and Muckleford on the broad-gauge branch line each Sunday and Wednesday. It also operates on public and school holidays.
The line served rural Victoria between 1880 and the 1970s and was more extensive that it is today. Branch lines radiated from the main line, reaching sparsely-populated regions providing transport for farm produce, tapping natural resources and promoting the settlement of new areas.
At one stage there were two trains carrying goods and passengers operating three return trips a day, but declining population from the late 1920s eventually reduced demand and the Maldon line officially closed in December 1976.
But even before its closure, preservation moves were underway and the Castlemaine and Maldon Railway Preservation Society was formed. The society, made up of rail enthusiasts and local residents, secured ownership of the line, obtained rolling stock and gained legislative changes allowing operation of a tourist railway.
Track restoration started at Maldon and it took 10 years to reach Muckleford with the route opening in 1996.
A good collection of rolling stock from the branch line era was secured and an unequalled array of four-wheeled goods trucks, as well as goods and passenger brake vans and a selection of wooden-bodied passenger carriages, are now resident on the line. Volunteers still maintain and operate the railway and three part-time employees complement their efforts.
The society runs experience courses teaching tourists how to drive an old steam train and allowing them to take the controls. The overnight accommodation and some meals are included and no previous railway knowledge or experience is required. Fees go towards ongoing track and stock restoration. You are shown the basics of driving the train and then head off with a driver, fireman and guard. You just need to be over 21 and of reasonable health and fitness to do the course.
Courses are run around times when passenger services aren't being operated and may be limited between December and March if bushfires are a possibility.
Participants learn to light and oil a steam engine, a procedure which takes two to three hours. There is a driver instruction talk where you learn about hand signals, then shunt the carriages to connect them to the locomotive. Then you drive the train to Muckleford station and back. Afterwards you can tuck into a well-deserved lunch at Maldon station.
Two hours north-west of Melbourne
Victorian Goldfields Railway driving courses, including overnight accommodation and some meals, cost $955 a person. They run by appointment.
Round trips cost $14 for adults and $8 for children.
They operate on Wednesdays, Sundays, public and school holidays.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Victorian Goldfields Railway
Maldon Train Station
Hornsby Street, Maldon 3463
Ph: (03) 5475 email@example.com
Ultimate Gift Experience Company
Ph: (03) 9606 0660www.ultimateexperience.com.au
To book a flight, visit qantas.com or call 13 13 13.