Is it time to bring back the Southern Aurora?

 
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Therefore I suggest the operators of the cars that once formed that service to get their collective heads and their volunteers, preferably the retired ones together...and advertise for more volunteers to enable enough cars to be assembled to form enough for two sets of trains that could potentially re-create the nightly service which would utilise full celebrity chef Dining car and bar service in the former Lounge car...the potential to grow this service is only limited by the imagination of the operator.

By utilising volunteers, now retired ex-railway people and others with a passion for providing great customer service in hospitality would enable the running costs to be reduced to track access charges, the actual operating crew, drivers and assistants, Guard and head conductor. The fares would be a premium, say from $350.00 each way to start off, however there are already enough expense account execs that would happily pay for a First class service that $350.00 upwards is a tiny price to pay for not enduring the early morning alarm clock.

Opinions and suggestions Question

Mike.
The Vinelander

Firstly, I look forward to you (not others) putting your fully costed proposal (including the wages of a full time volunteer coordinator) to "the operators of the cars" and see if they are willing to pick up the inevitable financial losses to their respective societies. Alternatively I will allow you to fund (out of your own pocket) the consultancy to come up with the same.

Once you've done that then maybe a serious discussion can be had - that's just a suggestion Razz

Daftest post on RP for a long time - but that's just my opinion Razz

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  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Sorry, should have mentioned I did not check the 1960s timetables to see if there was time to refill the car water tanks at somewhere like Albury during loco swaps. The give away was some places had the water pipes and long hoses along side the track opposite side to platforms.
petan
There wasn't any water refill en route for the Aurora. It made three stops when I used it; Albury 2350 to 0013 (change locos, and transfer the Motorail from front to back of the train); Junee 0202 to 0209; and Goulburn 0555 to 0602.

(This detail is from the Working Time Table with Amendments to W.N. 14/79; Passenger amendments to W.T.T. 11/79 and Goods Amendments to W.T.T 1012/79;  replacing W.T.T 2nd May 1976.)

I'd love it to be still going as it did, but it's just an old man's pipe dream.
  Duncs Chief Commissioner

yawn
trainbrain
That's rude!
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Therefore I suggest the operators of the cars that once formed that service to get their collective heads and their volunteers, preferably the retired ones together...and advertise for more volunteers to enable enough cars to be assembled to form enough for two sets of trains that could potentially re-create the nightly service which would utilise full celebrity chef Dining car and bar service in the former Lounge car...the potential to grow this service is only limited by the imagination of the operator.

By utilising volunteers, now retired ex-railway people and others with a passion for providing great customer service in hospitality would enable the running costs to be reduced to track access charges, the actual operating crew, drivers and assistants, Guard and head conductor. The fares would be a premium, say from $350.00 each way to start off, however there are already enough expense account execs that would happily pay for a First class service that $350.00 upwards is a tiny price to pay for not enduring the early morning alarm clock.

Opinions and suggestions Question

Mike.

Firstly, I look forward to you (not others) putting your fully costed proposal (including the wages of a full time volunteer coordinator) to "the operators of the cars" and see if they are willing to pick up the inevitable financial losses to their respective societies. Alternatively I will allow you to fund (out of your own pocket) the consultancy to come up with the same.

Once you've done that then maybe a serious discussion can be had - that's just a suggestion Razz

Daftest post on RP for a long time - but that's just my opinion Razz
bingley hall


Your daft post is welcome Bingley Hall and as a heads-up, I have NO experience whatsoever in operating tourist trains...nor would I have a clue regards compiling a fully costed proposal to get my suggestion on the rails...

However, I regularly see tourist trains operating all around Victoria on a regular basis:

https://www.steamrail.com.au/?page=tours

Moreover, when I occasionally travel on these tours with the many other pax I see an army of volunteers of all ages and particularly retired volunteers on-board who are ambassadors for the operator. These tours MUST be profitable, or at least cover their expenses as they operate so frequently.

Assuming to a much lesser degree the former cars of the Southern Aurora are occasionally in operation for the very occasional tour north of the Murray:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6d2ce9_b52cb2cd86404733a3db1770bcf9ae88.pdf

It would appear these cars are readily available to commence a regular, perhaps nightly sleeping car service in the mould of the former Southern Aurora and I'm NOT talking 17 carriage trains from the get-go.

Sadly, it would appear the custodians of these cars are sitting on an asset that could return a much higher dividend if their investment were to be pressed into service on a regular basis.

I believe that at the outset and in co-operation with the relevant union, enthusiastic, preferably retired volunteers could offer their time, say one return journey a week to act in an hospitality role on-board the trains. One volunteer per car would be an extravagance and completely unnecessary, however one volunteer per TWO sleeping cars would be appropriate in a time of mobile phones and pax not needing to be 'spoon-fed' their way around their cabin.

I believe the appropriate union would be supportive at the outset of such an initiative utilising volunteers because, assuming the patronage of the train would be encouraging, the operator would inevitably after a settling-in period move toward paid staff...all of whom would inevitably join the union. As I suggested earlier, there would also be a percentage of qualified paid staff on-board as well.

In the unlikely...but possible event of a rare train disruption, the operator could offer compensation of a flight the next morning to those pax who would be impacted by the disruption.

As you are convinced my suggestion is daft, I welcome your further criticism.

Mike
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

Therefore I suggest the operators of the cars that once formed that service to get their collective heads and their volunteers, preferably the retired ones together...and advertise for more volunteers to enable enough cars to be assembled to form enough for two sets of trains that could potentially re-create the nightly service which would utilise full celebrity chef Dining car and bar service in the former Lounge car...the potential to grow this service is only limited by the imagination of the operator.

By utilising volunteers, now retired ex-railway people and others with a passion for providing great customer service in hospitality would enable the running costs to be reduced to track access charges, the actual operating crew, drivers and assistants, Guard and head conductor. The fares would be a premium, say from $350.00 each way to start off, however there are already enough expense account execs that would happily pay for a First class service that $350.00 upwards is a tiny price to pay for not enduring the early morning alarm clock.

Opinions and suggestions Question

Mike.

Firstly, I look forward to you (not others) putting your fully costed proposal (including the wages of a full time volunteer coordinator) to "the operators of the cars" and see if they are willing to pick up the inevitable financial losses to their respective societies. Alternatively I will allow you to fund (out of your own pocket) the consultancy to come up with the same.

Once you've done that then maybe a serious discussion can be had - that's just a suggestion Razz

Daftest post on RP for a long time - but that's just my opinion Razz


Your daft post is welcome Bingley Hall and as a heads-up, I have NO experience whatsoever in operating tourist trains...nor would I have a clue regards compiling a fully costed proposal to get my suggestion on the rails...

However, I regularly see tourist trains operating all around Victoria on a regular basis:

https://www.steamrail.com.au/?page=tours

Moreover, when I occasionally travel on these tours with the many other pax I see an army of volunteers of all ages and particularly retired volunteers on-board who are ambassadors for the operator. These tours MUST be profitable, or at least cover their expenses as they operate so frequently.

Assuming to a much lesser degree the former cars of the Southern Aurora are occasionally in operation for the very occasional tour north of the Murray:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6d2ce9_b52cb2cd86404733a3db1770bcf9ae88.pdf

It would appear these cars are readily available to commence a regular, perhaps nightly sleeping car service in the mould of the former Southern Aurora and I'm NOT talking 17 carriage trains from the get-go.

Sadly, it would appear the custodians of these cars are sitting on an asset that could return a much higher dividend if their investment were to be pressed into service on a regular basis.

I believe that at the outset and in co-operation with the relevant union, enthusiastic, preferably retired volunteers could offer their time, say one return journey a week to act in an hospitality role on-board the trains. One volunteer per car would be an extravagance and completely unnecessary, however one volunteer per TWO sleeping cars would be appropriate in a time of mobile phones and pax not needing to be 'spoon-fed' their way around their cabin.

I believe the appropriate union would be supportive at the outset of such an initiative utilising volunteers because, assuming the patronage of the train would be encouraging, the operator would inevitably after a settling-in period move toward paid staff...all of whom would inevitably join the union. As I suggested earlier, there would also be a percentage of qualified paid staff on-board as well.

In the unlikely...but possible event of a rare train disruption, the operator could offer compensation of a flight the next morning to those pax who would be impacted by the disruption.

As you are convinced my suggestion is daft, I welcome your further criticism.

Mike
The Vinelander
Rail Transport Museum NSW regularly run the Southern Aurora with volunteer staff. I am sure they would not be too happy lending their train to whoever for a speculative venture. I agree it's a daft idea.
  trainbrain Deputy Commissioner

yawn
That's rude!
Duncs
more yawn, the article is making me sleepy YAWN...……………………………...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……………………….
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Therefore I suggest the operators of the cars that once formed that service to get their collective heads and their volunteers, preferably the retired ones together...and advertise for more volunteers to enable enough cars to be assembled to form enough for two sets of trains that could potentially re-create the nightly service which would utilise full celebrity chef Dining car and bar service in the former Lounge car...the potential to grow this service is only limited by the imagination of the operator.

By utilising volunteers, now retired ex-railway people and others with a passion for providing great customer service in hospitality would enable the running costs to be reduced to track access charges, the actual operating crew, drivers and assistants, Guard and head conductor. The fares would be a premium, say from $350.00 each way to start off, however there are already enough expense account execs that would happily pay for a First class service that $350.00 upwards is a tiny price to pay for not enduring the early morning alarm clock.

Opinions and suggestions Question

Mike.

Firstly, I look forward to you (not others) putting your fully costed proposal (including the wages of a full time volunteer coordinator) to "the operators of the cars" and see if they are willing to pick up the inevitable financial losses to their respective societies. Alternatively I will allow you to fund (out of your own pocket) the consultancy to come up with the same.

Once you've done that then maybe a serious discussion can be had - that's just a suggestion Razz

Daftest post on RP for a long time - but that's just my opinion Razz


Your daft post is welcome Bingley Hall and as a heads-up, I have NO experience whatsoever in operating tourist trains...nor would I have a clue regards compiling a fully costed proposal to get my suggestion on the rails...

However, I regularly see tourist trains operating all around Victoria on a regular basis:

https://www.steamrail.com.au/?page=tours

Moreover, when I occasionally travel on these tours with the many other pax I see an army of volunteers of all ages and particularly retired volunteers on-board who are ambassadors for the operator. These tours MUST be profitable, or at least cover their expenses as they operate so frequently.

Assuming to a much lesser degree the former cars of the Southern Aurora are occasionally in operation for the very occasional tour north of the Murray:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6d2ce9_b52cb2cd86404733a3db1770bcf9ae88.pdf

It would appear these cars are readily available to commence a regular, perhaps nightly sleeping car service in the mould of the former Southern Aurora and I'm NOT talking 17 carriage trains from the get-go.

Sadly, it would appear the custodians of these cars are sitting on an asset that could return a much higher dividend if their investment were to be pressed into service on a regular basis.

I believe that at the outset and in co-operation with the relevant union, enthusiastic, preferably retired volunteers could offer their time, say one return journey a week to act in an hospitality role on-board the trains. One volunteer per car would be an extravagance and completely unnecessary, however one volunteer per TWO sleeping cars would be appropriate in a time of mobile phones and pax not needing to be 'spoon-fed' their way around their cabin.

I believe the appropriate union would be supportive at the outset of such an initiative utilising volunteers because, assuming the patronage of the train would be encouraging, the operator would inevitably after a settling-in period move toward paid staff...all of whom would inevitably join the union. As I suggested earlier, there would also be a percentage of qualified paid staff on-board as well.

In the unlikely...but possible event of a rare train disruption, the operator could offer compensation of a flight the next morning to those pax who would be impacted by the disruption.

As you are convinced my suggestion is daft, I welcome your further criticism.

Mike
Rail Transport Museum NSW regularly run the Southern Aurora with volunteer staff. I am sure they would not be too happy lending their train to whoever for a speculative venture. I agree it's a daft idea.
nswtrains

Again, as there is only one tour coming up over the next few months that utilises some of the cars that made up the 'Aurora, I'm uncertain why such negativity from north of the Murray.

Moreover as there were around 40 sleeping cars in service when the 'Aurora, The Brisbane Limited and Gold Coast MotoRail expresses were in operation...I wonder how many of these sleepers were actually scrapped and how many are in a reasonable shape for a makeover before my proposal could be implemented Question

I know one has found a home at Violet Town.

https://www.southernauroraviolettown.com.au/

Mike.
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
Sorry, should have mentioned I did not check the 1960s timetables to see if there was time to refill the car water tanks at somewhere like Albury during loco swaps. The give away was some places had the water pipes and long hoses along side the track opposite side to platforms.
There wasn't any water refill en route for the Aurora. It made three stops when I used it; Albury 2350 to 0013 (change locos, and transfer the Motorail from front to back of the train); Junee 0202 to 0209; and Goulburn 0555 to 0602.

(This detail is from the Working Time Table with Amendments to W.N. 14/79; Passenger amendments to W.T.T. 11/79 and Goods Amendments to W.T.T 1012/79;  replacing W.T.T 2nd May 1976.)
Valvegear
Was that WN 14/79 and WTT the VR version as no mention of that topic or similar in NSWGR WN 14 of 1979, as I just checked my copy. Regardless, now I know the carriage water tanks had the capacity for the through trip and thanks for checking. I wonder if the multiple hoses I used to see alongside the tracks, about carriage length apart, at some major stations, were for terminating trains?

Also curious, on a different matter, if that WTT change you quoted was around the time they altered the loco crewing and memory says that concerned how far the Goulburn crews worked, but that is a different matter.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Was that WN 14/79 and WTT the VR version as no mention of that topic or similar in NSWGR WN 14 of 1979, as I just checked my copy. Regardless, now I know the carriage water tanks had the capacity for the through trip and thanks for checking. I wonder if the multiple hoses I used to see alongside the tracks, about carriage length apart, at some major stations, were for terminating trains?
"petan"
Yes; it was the VR version of the WTT. I don't remember seeing any carriage watering facilities back in those days. I think this is a comparatively recent phenomenon possibly inspired by the IP and Ghan.


Also curious, on a different matter, if that WTT change you quoted was around the time they altered the loco crewing and memory says that concerned how far the Goulburn crews worked, but that is a different matter.
"petan"
I remember this question cropping up in another thread a few years ago. If I remember correctly, the original WTT had stops at Albury and Goulburn only, and Junee was added later.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
more yawn, the article is making me sleepy YAWN...…………………………...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………
"trainbrain"

I'm sure all of our readers are delighted to see that the article is having a beneficial effect on you. Sleep well.
  Travelling Hooker Locomotive Fireman

Location: Follows the weather up and down the coast
I did the Melbourne -Sydney sleeper on Tuesday and the entire train was packed. I was the only one with a sleeper cabin to myself. I only got that because I waited til the last minute to walk up to Trainlink @ Southern Cross and asked if there were any empty cabins. Snagged last one. I'd rather fly up than share.

But if you can get a cabin to yourself it is a good way to go. The coffee is a disgrace but that's another matter. I slept from Seymour to Bowral, bounced off the train at 6.59am at Central, showered, raisin toasted, fresh clothes on, and nicely connected to the 7.08am XPT up the coast.

I'm happy to pay if I have a cabin to myself but I won't pony up $270 to share with some random stranger.

Single cabins, user friendly arrival and departure times, sensible pricing, hot showers and probably better mattresses and I reckon you'd have a decent product to sell. Of course, that would require a nimbleness, creativity and flexibility beyond a government's capabilities - you'd need a private individual or organisation to do it. Does Twiggy like trains ?

And all those random unused carriages sitting around in the GSR yards in Adelaide.

And it's like not HSR is going to ever happen anytime soon.

EDIT : Reread this thread. Regarding difficulties of onboard food. The F&B offering at Central is vastly improved now with Eternity open. So so much better. You could in theory give passengers a voucher to eat in there before / after travelling. And, there's always Network at Southern Cross (I don't mind it but I'd understand if other people hated it). Would be kind of like eating in the QP before / after a flight and foregoing most of the in-flight catering bar a bar with some light snacks maybe. Just a thought bubble.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Just having a look at some fares, Melbourne-Sydney in peak hour on the two mainline airlines is about $250 for standard economy, $500 for Flexi economy (the most popular with business) and $1000 for business class.

So I rounded up Mike’s proposed fare to $400, assumed 75% load factor, 6 runs a week e/w and got annual operating revenue of $36 million.

What can you do for that money? It’s never going to be enough to pay back a loan on new stock, so that would have to be a grant.

Fiddling around with some numbers gives me about $3-4 million p/a for track access charges to the three relevant infrastructure managers.

Staffing costs: I have no idea what a hook and pull contract would look like. But say 2x2 person train crews per trip, so you might need to pay the equivalent of 10 full-time crew. Then passenger staff: maybe 10 per train? What does the Cal Sleeper use? In any case I’d conservatively guess a wage bill of $$8 million, just to run the train itself.

Fuel, maintenance, supplies, insurance, accreditation, administration...

As kuldalai said, the costs involved in this start to make things look pretty bloody marginal even on my back-of-the envelope calculations. I do think a smart person with a business brain and actual rail industry knowledge could make a go of a business plan, but it will always come back to the capital and startup costs involved, and, ultimately, the multi-million dollar question of how many people will use the damn thing, to be answered using very little evidence.
potatoinmymouth

I had a bit of a think today regards crewing of this hypothetical service.

The on-board crews used to change at Junee if I recall, however these days there is the option of a staff car which didn't exist in the 1960's and the conductor per carriage has a scaled down version of a roomette berth to sit in and also polish his pax leather shoes if the pax had put them in the shoe box which was accessible from the corridor.

The conductor also had access to a urn to provide an early morning 'wake-up' cuppa to his pax. However 50+ years later, that service may not be in demand by today's generation.

The catering opportunity is just that...an excellent opportunity for the trains operator to engage a celebrity...or wannabe celebrity chef to market their wares in a unique environment and IMO it will be the restaurant catering that will help to sell the whole train idea. The airlines cannot possibly compare to the formal Dining car if it gets a good name in the wider community for its quality fare.

Moreover...A dinner menu in the 21st Century consisting of Fillet Steak and Mushrooms, or Fried Fillets of Whiting, with Tartare Sauce may not be the attention grabber it was many years ago.

http://www.oocities.org/southern_aurora1962/dina.jpg

Same with the drinks service. Artisan beers, local wines and best of all...not that the pax will over-indulge, is that the pax won't be driving when they reach their destination and will be walking or catching a local spark, so .05 is almost an irrelevancy.

This brings our standard on-board crew to Driver and assistant, train manager and a few paid conductors to guide the volunteers, possibly as little as 6 paid crew.

Over to you PIMM for your thoughts.

Mike.
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
It will be a frosty day in Hell before the RBTU allow any commercial operator to run a passenger service staffed primarily with volunteers.

Many of the 60 year old former Aurora carriages are in good condition, but they wouldn't stay like that for long if they were forced to endure the rigours of daily interstate use, as opposed to the half a dozen trips per year they run now. Also any carriages used would need to have all of the modern conveniences todays business travellers expect, in cabin phone charging points & Wifi for a start.

Oh, and none of this sharing a birth with some random nuffy for me thank you. I want my own room please, otherwise I will just make my way out to Tullamarine like everybody else.

I mean, I do love the idea of overnight sleeper trains. As a way of getting from one capital to another overnight they make a lot of sense, and if they can provide proper comfort and convenience at a price point that is competitive with the cost of airfares and accommodation they can be a fantastic option.


Essentially, I don't think running a train comprised of ancient rollingstock and staffed with volunteers is realistic.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
It will be a frosty day in Hell before the RBTU allow any commercial operator to run a passenger service staffed primarily with volunteers.

Many of the 60 year old former Aurora carriages are in good condition, but they wouldn't stay like that for long if they were forced to endure the rigours of daily interstate use, as opposed to the half a dozen trips per year they run now. Also any carriages used would need to have all of the modern conveniences todays business travellers expect, in cabin phone charging points & Wifi for a start.

Oh, and none of this sharing a birth with some random nuffy for me thank you. I want my own room please, otherwise I will just make my way out to Tullamarine like everybody else.

I mean, I do love the idea of overnight sleeper trains. As a way of getting from one capital to another overnight they make a lot of sense, and if they can provide proper comfort and convenience at a price point that is competitive with the cost of airfares and accommodation they can be a fantastic option.


Essentially, I don't think running a train comprised of ancient rollingstock and staffed with volunteers is realistic.
Gman_86

Some of these comments would appear to cancel themselves out:

The RBTU clearly supports the tourism train industry in Victoria. Why would it not support a fledgling business train until it becomes established

My suggested crewing of the train would have the majority in fully paid positions, backed up by retired voluntary staff because there are so many volunteers already on the books and their assistance with operating the trains and their customer relations would be a huge bonus to the operation.

All cabins already have power points and always have.

Wi-Fi is not rocket science to set up.

The train would be made up of Roomette and Twinette berths...not everybody travels alone.

Some of QR's Sunlander cars were operating well over 60 years of age and the tracks in Qld are not exactly mirror smooth, they were retired due to corrosion and economies of scale of operating DMU's.

Remember the Aurora's cars have had a holiday of scant use for the past 25 years Exclamation


However keep these constructive comments coming along...

Mike.
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
Business types like a flexible schedule rather than one fixed avenue of transport....... Trip should be trimmed down to 9 hours max too for a sleeper train these days at worst.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Trapped in a meeting with Rhonda and Karsten
The RBTU clearly supports the tourism train industry in Victoria. Why would it not support a fledgling business train until it becomes established
The Vinelander
The RTBU supports the railway preservation movement, who happen to run tourist trains. If you are using modern motive power and are going to refurbish the Southern Aurora cars in a modern style then you're going to have a hard time. Likewise, if you are suggesting that there will be drivers that would volunteer to run a regularly timetabled commercial operation then you're very mistaken. One-off or seasonal trains? Perhaps, but that's up to the RTBU. I wouldn't want to base the profitability of such a venture off such assumptions.


My suggested crewing of the train would have the majority in fully paid positions, backed up by retired voluntary staff because there are so many volunteers already on the books and their assistance with operating the trains and their customer relations would be a huge bonus to the operation.
The Vinelander
Where are these volunteers on the books already? I'm sure the Victorian and NSW mainline preservation groups would like to know.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
The RBTU clearly supports the tourism train industry in Victoria. Why would it not support a fledgling business train until it becomes established
"The Vinelander"
You're comparing apples with pumpkins. As LancedDendrite has already said, the RBTU is supporting rail preservation. Further, with the possible exception of PBR, none of the other groups could seriously be called industries.
Supporting a fledgling business is entirely different. Imagine Clive Palmer starting up a travelling Goldfish Shampoo and Massage service, and expecting cab or semi drivers to diverge from their normal work just to get it started.
  Lockspike Assistant Commissioner

The on-board crews used to change at Junee if I recall, ......
The Vinelander
The VIC catering crew (Dining and Lounge car) worked Spencer St - Albury, caught a few zzz, then worked the Sth bound service the next morning.
NSW crew worked Sydney - Goulburn and vice versa, so those cars were unattended for the middle part of the journey.

Loco crew changes were originally Albury and Goulburn, Junee was added mid - late 70s, (IIRC).
Also, I think NSW guards worked Sydney - Albury, but I stand to be corrected on that one.

SOP and ICD catering crew changed at Junee.

All NSW major junction stations had car watering taps and hoses in the six foot through the platform(s), and were used for scheduled refilling, and top ups when some hiccup caused cars to run low/out.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
The RBTU clearly supports the tourism train industry in Victoria. Why would it not support a fledgling business train until it becomes established
The RTBU supports the railway preservation movement, who happen to run tourist trains. If you are using modern motive power and are going to refurbish the Southern Aurora cars in a modern style then you're going to have a hard time. Likewise, if you are suggesting that there will be drivers that would volunteer to run a regularly timetabled commercial operation then you're very mistaken. One-off or seasonal trains? Perhaps, but that's up to the RTBU. I wouldn't want to base the profitability of such a venture off such assumptions.


My suggested crewing of the train would have the majority in fully paid positions, backed up by retired voluntary staff because there are so many volunteers already on the books and their assistance with operating the trains and their customer relations would be a huge bonus to the operation.
Where are these volunteers on the books already? I'm sure the Victorian and NSW mainline preservation groups would like to know.
LancedDendrite

May I suggest you re-read what I wrote before offering your comments....

ta.

Mike.
  Lockspike Assistant Commissioner

The on-board crews used to change at Junee if I recall, ......
The VIC catering crew (Dining and Lounge car) worked Spencer St - Albury, caught a few zzz, then worked the Sth bound service the next morning.
NSW crew worked Sydney - Goulburn and vice versa, so those cars were unattended for the middle part of the journey.

Loco crew changes were originally Albury and Goulburn, Junee was added mid - late 70s, (IIRC).
Also, I think NSW guards worked Sydney - Albury, but I stand to be corrected on that one.

SOP and ICD catering crew changed at Junee.

All NSW major junction stations had car watering taps and hoses in the six foot through the platform(s), and were used for scheduled refilling, and top ups when some hiccup caused cars to run low/out.
Lockspike
Further to the above;
Sleeping car Conductors worked right through.
The often forgotten member of the crew was the Train Equipment Officer (NSW version). Not sure if the 'Quippy' worked right through or if VIC supplied their own.
SA catering were all male whereas SOP and ICD were all female, (as were all other catered trains in both(?) states until toward the end).
SOP and ICD had a Hostess on board whose duty was to look after the infirm, nursing mothers and children travelling unattended (and to bring the post back on topic), which would be superfluous for Vinelander's revived SA.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
All NSW major junction stations had car watering taps and hoses in the six foot through the platform(s), and were used for scheduled refilling, and top ups when some hiccup caused cars to run low/out.
"Lockspike"
Thanks for an interesting bit of info. Do you know when these were introduced?
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Trapped in a meeting with Rhonda and Karsten
Mike, may I suggest that you do some more research into the Victorian & NSW railway preservation movements before you post?

You are proposing to run an overnight sleeper train at a weekly or greater frequency, an operational tempo that is conservatively twice as busy as the entire Victorian heritage tour schedule across all 4 mainline tour operators. You will not find enough volunteers in either state to help out with customer service at that sort of operational tempo. Perhaps a volunteer mentoring scheme could work, but ultimately within 6 months if your proposition is a success you will be paying your entire train-side staff: drivers, conductors/train managers, carriage attendants and so on.

Running privately-funded, commuter-oriented train services is a dicey proposition almost everywhere. Overnight services in the EU are run by state-owned railways. The UK Caledonian Sleeper is a franchised (i.e government-supported) venture that is marketed towards tourists. Only a handful of open-access train services have worked in the UK (Grand Central & Hull Trains), neither of which is an overnight train (with its associated higher running costs). In both cases they succeeded because there was a gap in the existing government-run franchise system. I'm not exactly seeing a service gap between Melbourne & Sydney, just a poor XPT service and a very competitive airline market.

As an ultimate service level perhaps a business class oriented overnight SYD-MEL sleeper train could work. But you would need something much more tourism oriented as a starting proposition. A tourism oriented service is much less price sensitive (particularly if exceptional onboard service is provided) and can run at a much less frequent schedule (and less reliably) than what you are proposing.
  Lockspike Assistant Commissioner

All NSW major junction stations had car watering taps and hoses in the six foot through the platform(s), and were used for scheduled refilling, and top ups when some hiccup caused cars to run low/out.
Thanks for an interesting bit of info. Do you know when these were introduced?
Valvegear
VG,
No, I don't. I'd never thought about it, they were just part of the environment I grew up in, but judging by the style of the infrastructure, certainly well before the era of the SA. Thinking about it, there was no need before carriages were fitted with water closet lavatories, so some time after that.
Also, in the early days there wasn't reticulated water available, but at loco depots significant quantities of water were needed, and may have been reticulated about the depot and also possibly the station.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Mike, may I suggest that you do some more research into the Victorian & NSW railway preservation movements before you post?

You are proposing to run an overnight sleeper train at a weekly or greater frequency, an operational tempo that is conservatively twice as busy as the entire Victorian heritage tour schedule across all 4 mainline tour operators. You will not find enough volunteers in either state to help out with customer service at that sort of operational tempo. Perhaps a volunteer mentoring scheme could work, but ultimately within 6 months if your proposition is a success you will be paying your entire train-side staff: drivers, conductors/train managers, carriage attendants and so on.

Running privately-funded, commuter-oriented train services is a dicey proposition almost everywhere. Overnight services in the EU are run by state-owned railways. The UK Caledonian Sleeper is a franchised (i.e government-supported) venture that is marketed towards tourists. Only a handful of open-access train services have worked in the UK (Grand Central & Hull Trains), neither of which is an overnight train (with its associated higher running costs). In both cases they succeeded because there was a gap in the existing government-run franchise system. I'm not exactly seeing a service gap between Melbourne & Sydney, just a poor XPT service and a very competitive airline market.

As an ultimate service level perhaps a business class oriented overnight SYD-MEL sleeper train could work. But you would need something much more tourism oriented as a starting proposition. A tourism oriented service is much less price sensitive (particularly if exceptional onboard service is provided) and can run at a much less frequent schedule (and less reliably) than what you are proposing.
LancedDendrite

I agreed with your post...then disagreed in the second par.

The Caledonian and English Riviera sleeper trains are marketed to business people who see the sense in spending a night on the train instead of flying into London early like the hapless airline pax do here in Aus. Tourism in the sleepers is a bonus but not the mainstay.

My proposal is a high-end market proposal which would ultimately take probably 1 or 2% of the regular airline pax at best.

However to get the fledgling operation going, it needs a leg-up to either succeed or fail...depending on the market. However IMO there is a market amongst the thousands who fly and tourism and a foodie experience would be a by-product.

Again, for those who could not comprehend, I did not suggest drivers volunteering their time at any time, nor any of the key train staff.

Furthermore, I'm not a train operator...however there are train operators, operatives and professionals in our industry who read Railpage religiously to keep abreast of the thinking in our fraternity...anyone remember when Jim Betts was regularly posting in these pages around 10 years ago Question

Therefore I hope there is some head scratching and back of the envelope calculations such as PIMM provided to see if the proposal makes economic sense....I think it can...but I could be wrong as well, however risk-takers are the entrepreneurs of our country.

http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/about-us/our-board/

Mike.
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
Some of these comments would appear to cancel themselves out:

The RBTU clearly supports the tourism train industry in Victoria. Why would it not support a fledgling business train until it becomes established
The Vinelander
There is a major difference between a not for profit organisation using volunteers to run a few heritage trains per year and a commercial operation aiming to turn a profit by providing regular revenue services using unpaid staff. The RTBU would have a fit. Any union would.

My suggested crewing of the train would have the majority in fully paid positions, backed up by retired voluntary staff because there are so many volunteers already on the books and their assistance with operating the trains and their customer relations would be a huge bonus to the operation.
The Vinelander
This suggests that you think there are enough willing people to volunteer on these services you are proposing without depleting the current rosters of volunteers among the existing Tourism and Heritage sector.

I don't think this is true. In fact, I think it would destroy the entire rail tourism and heritage movement.



That said, I do love the idea of a proper full service overnight rail option between our two largest cities. I think they are perfectly positioned for it, but I just don't think your idea of utilising old rollingstock and volunteers is realistic and fully paid staff working with new carriage stock would destroy the economics.

I love the thought of it, I just don't believe it is realistically viable.

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