Could steam trains by a way of the future for tourism in Echuca-Moama?

 
Topic moved from News by bevans on 26 Jul 2021 11:21
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Bring this on. 

Uk has a big industry around railway heritage and this brings a lot of people to the railway and the area.

Could steam trains by a way of the future for tourism in Echuca-Moama?

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  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
A number of questions and/or comments could be made here.

1. Do you mean a locally-based steam organisation? If so, based where and crewed by whom?

2. Steamrail already goes to Echuca, sometimes in company with VGR and sometimes on its own account. In fact, there is a
Bendigo Steam run in late August, and one optional extra is a steam-hauled Bendigo - Echuca train with optional extras of paddle steamer visits etc. Following is the copy from Steamrail:-

Bendigo to Echuca Day Trip - Join us on Saturday 21st August for a relaxing return steam hauled journey towards the Murray River from Bendigo to Echuca. Departing Bendigo Station at 09:30am, view the historic workshops of Bendigo Tramways and the former Victorian Railways North Bendigo Workshops, known for the construction and maintenance of historic trams and steam locomotives for over 100 years. After passing through the expanding areas of Epsom and Huntly, we will venture out onto the Campaspe Plains and through the townships of Elmore and Rochester, waving to the locals as steam locomotive R711's whistle makes our presence known. After a journey of 1.5 hours onboard our heritage train, step off at Echuca, the historic river port town on the banks of the Murray. As our volunteers turn & service the steam locomotive, choose to add on a voyage onboard one of the famous Murray River paddlesteamers or simply take the time to explore the town at your own leisure.
PS CANBERRA Enjoy a 1 hour river cruise onboard the historic paddle steamer, built in 1912 as a fishing vessel. Included in your river voyage will be a packaged lunch & complimentary tea and coffee.
The train will depart Echuca at 4:35pm, arriving back into Bendigo at 6:10pm after a memorable day out.

Echuca Steam Train Shuttles - Join us as we visit Echuca on Saturday 21st August 2021 for a 55 minute return steam train ride from Echuca Railway Station towards Rochester, returning to Echuca. Our shuttle trips run 21km south along the Campaspe Plains towards Rochester to the 229 kilometre post from Melbourne.


3. Did you have any ideas about frequency of steam train visits?

4. Have you any ideas of Echuca local involvement?

5. I am not trying to be negative in any way, and my preceding comments are for consideration - they are not criticism. Having said that, I should preempt any idea of returning the railway to the Echuca wharf. This was done to death some time ago on these pages, and it is just not practicable. Any such railway would have to have a level crossing smack through the middle of the roundabout on the main entry/exit road to/from the NSW border, and that is just not going to happen.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Interesting.

Time to consider moving a part of Steamrail to Bendigo or Echuca?
  Carnot Minister for Railways

Interesting.

Time to consider moving a part of Steamrail to Bendigo or Echuca?
bevans
Noooo.

Newport has one of the best equipped heritage workshops in the world.  VGR already have a joint agreement with SRV and have jointly run mainline tours to Echuca and Swan Hill since 2015.
  trainbrain Chief Commissioner

Interesting idea, the old loco shed would be an ideal home....................plenty of room and right next to a turntable and a 4 way junction.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Interesting idea, the old loco shed would be an ideal home....................plenty of room and right next to a turntable and a 4 way junction.
trainbrain
Totally impractical in my view for any number of reasons.
But then I have been wrong before.
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
Interesting idea, the old loco shed would be an ideal home....................plenty of room and right next to a turntable and a 4 way junction.
Totally impractical in my view for any number of reasons.
But then I have been wrong before.
YM-Mundrabilla
Pretty sure the old loco shed was converted to a function centre. Echuca is too far from any major population centre to be viable for that sort of thing.
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
I have a few issues here.

1. Steamrail, VGR, SRHC, etc are all predominantly volunteer run organisations. They run a very lean business utilising a large volunteer workforce. You can't just create that out of thin air and expect it to replicate the same results other groups have worked for decades to achieve.

2. The Councillor referred to in the above linked article (Cr Weyrich) doesn't offer any information regards to the condition of the locomotive in question, from what I know it is A2 996 which is owned by the Port of Echuca, which I can only assume is a body under the control of the Shire of Campaspe. As far as I can tell, he has just chosen that one because he knows the council has some control over its fate and he wants to see it running again, but he shows know respect for just how much work it would take to get it operational again. Just look at how long it took Steamrail to get the similar A2 986 in running order again, and they actually know what they are doing.

Sure, sourcing another locomotive could be done, but the fact that he specifically mentioned that locomotive makes me question his motives and his intelligence. Does he actually know what he is talking about? Or is he just a foamer that wants to see that sad old steam engine in the local park running again?

3. As others have stated, Steamrail and 707 Operations already run a few trips a year to Echuca. Is there really enough of a market for this to be a regularly (weekly or monthly) scheduled occurance? If I recall correctly, WCR used to run a monthly excursion to Echuca using their R class, how successful was this after it had been running for some time? Did the novelty where off or did it remain popular for the long term?

4. Comparing Victoria to the United Kingdom is a bit rich. Remember, for a similar sized piece of land, they have 10x the population. That makes working the economy of these things much easier.
  historian Deputy Commissioner

Pretty sure the old loco shed was converted to a function centre.
Dangersdan707

No.

Appears weathertight but completely unused. Surrounded by the usual decripit chainlink fence, long grass, and gravel.

Has absolutely none of the signs of ever having been converted to anything (advertising signs, civilised entrance, road or pedestrian approaches, landscaping...)
  historian Deputy Commissioner

Echuca is too far from any major population centre to be viable for that sort of thing.
Dangersdan707

There's enough tourists to make the operation of three steam paddlesteamers viable (usually the Pevensey, Emmy Lou, and Canberra). Each does multiple trips each day and my experience has been they are usually pretty full, even this last holidays in between Covid lockdowns. I doubt that local passengers for short distance/time trips would be a problem. Note that the Emmy Lou and the Canberra are operated on a commercial basis, and even the Pevensey would be expected to cover costs.

Operation of the steam paddle steamers suggests there's a fair amount of local skill in steam engineering.

I'm sure the main issue would be bodies to do the work and track access.
  route14 Chief Commissioner

I think having the local tourism authority funding Steamrail to operate one pair of the scheduled Echuca services once a month so that it can be offered at V/Line fare is the most workable solution.
  Lockspike Chief Commissioner

Echuca is too far from any major population centre to be viable for that sort of thing.

There's enough tourists to make the operation of three steam paddlesteamers viable (usually the Pevensey, Emmy Lou, and Canberra). Each does multiple trips each day and my experience has been they are usually pretty full, even this last holidays in between Covid lockdowns. I doubt that local passengers for short distance/time trips would be a problem. Note that the Emmy Lou and the Canberra are operated on a commercial basis, and even the Pevensey would be expected to cover costs.

Operation of the steam paddle steamers suggests there's a fair amount of local skill in steam engineering.

I'm sure the main issue would be bodies to do the work and track access.
historian
Bums on seats for a daily short trip during the warmer months would not be a problem. Two problems I see are the hesitancy to run steam during the fire danger period, and, can costs be contained sufficiently for affordable ticket prices? If it's not just a brain fart, and council with community support have the tenacity to see it through, it could happen.
  BrentonGolding Chief Commissioner

Location: Maldon Junction
Echuca is too far from any major population centre to be viable for that sort of thing.

There's enough tourists to make the operation of three steam paddlesteamers viable (usually the Pevensey, Emmy Lou, and Canberra). Each does multiple trips each day and my experience has been they are usually pretty full, even this last holidays in between Covid lockdowns. I doubt that local passengers for short distance/time trips would be a problem. Note that the Emmy Lou and the Canberra are operated on a commercial basis, and even the Pevensey would be expected to cover costs.

Operation of the steam paddle steamers suggests there's a fair amount of local skill in steam engineering.

I'm sure the main issue would be bodies to do the work and track access.
historian
I guess the question is would people go to Echuca to ride a heritage train. They go to ride a paddlesteamer because that is what Echuca is known for along with the great history of the Port of Echuca that ties in with it. Rail was also part of that history of course.

I would have thought getting people TO Echuca on a train would be a better bet than running trains out of Echuca but stranger things have happened. And of course day or overnight trains to the town don't offer the sort of multiple night stays that the town would be looking for
  route14 Chief Commissioner

707 Operations do regularly run overnight tours, but for the distance of SCS to Echuca, guests are usually made sleeping in the compartments when the train is stationary, which isn't quite what sleeper trains are designed for.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

Just to fill people in there's a paywalled article in the Bendigo Addy today on it.  VGR are in talks with the Govt/VLine about it - basically more regular running of the Castlemaine - Echuca mainline trips (and beyond) with easier access for VGR trains to transfer to the mainline at Castlemaine (i.e. turnout and signals on the down end of Platform 2).  This has already been in the planning.

I think it could be a success if it's run well and has the opportunity to do so.
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
Pretty sure the old loco shed was converted to a function centre.

No.

Appears weathertight but completely unused. Surrounded by the usual decripit chainlink fence, long grass, and gravel.

Has absolutely none of the signs of ever having been converted to anything (advertising signs, civilised entrance, road or pedestrian approaches, landscaping...)
historian
I stand corrected, however from what I understand that seems to be the plan as it's now owned by the local council. At least it's going to be used for something!

https://www.campaspe.vic.gov.au/Our-council/News-media/Latest-news/Exciting-times-ahead-for-the-loco-shed
  historian Deputy Commissioner

I guess the question is would people go to Echuca to ride a heritage train. They go to ride a paddlesteamer because that is what Echuca is known for along with the great history of the Port of Echuca that ties in with it. Rail was also part of that history of course.

I would have thought getting people TO Echuca on a train would be a better bet than running trains out of Echuca but stranger things have happened. And of course day or overnight trains to the town don't offer the sort of multiple night stays that the town would be looking for
BrentonGolding

I would suggest that almost nobody goes to Echuca to ride a paddlesteamer (*).

People go to Echuca to have a holiday, or they pass through Echuca on the way to have a holiday somewhere else. While in Echuca they look around for things to do. Riding a paddlesteamer is one of those things. Visiting the Discovery centre is another. The science centre is a third. There's a farm experience, and the Holden museum. An art gallery. Plenty of restaurants. The neighbours across the road go to play golf in Moama. This is exactly the same as any other tourist destination.

So, to answer your question, no, they certainly wouldn't go to Echuca to ride a heritage train. They might, however, ride on it given they are already there, provided it was well integrated into the other attractions, the right cost, and the right duration.

Note that this is a *very* different thing to the Goldfield Rly proposal which involves a lengthy (and expensive) ride to Echuca which would take up an entire day. In that case, the train trip has to attract riders entirely on its own merits.

(*) My son and I do, of course. Last holidays we were very excited to ride on the Adelaide which was deputising for the Pevensey which was up on the slip having its survey. But neither of us are typical tourists. Nor are most of the readers of Railpage; as a tourist operator you'd go broke very quickly catering only for us.

(Edited to correct spulling.)

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