Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published April 20th 2016
Anyone Can Be a Train Driver for a Day
Best Train Driver Experiences Imagine yourself as a train driver for a day, in the front seat of a charming old stream engine chugging and whistling along the line, or of a diesel train, its giant engines roaring. Don't dream about, you can do it. There's something about railways that capture people's imagination. Perhaps it's the strength of these great machines, or the charm of the steam train era. Across Australia and indeed the world, dedicated groups of enthusiasts, most of them volunteers, keep our rail history alive on tourist railways where you can relive the past and ride the rails in these majestic old girls. But it doesn't have to stop with the ride, many of these groups offer train driver experiences.
K163 in action. (Image from Mornington Railway Facebook Page)
Mornington Railway offers driver experiences in both steam and diesel locomotives. On days set aside exclusively for the driver experiences, a team of volunteer staff will come together to train and guide through your driver for a day experience. Drivers, firemen and guards, and platform and carriage staff will all be on hand to share their knowledge and help make your day perfect. A qualified crew will be with you throughout the day.
Your experience will go beyond driving and starts with safety briefings and checks and preparation of the locomotive. You will, under guidance, drive on an engine only return run from Mooroduc to Mornington and if you have chosen the gold or silver experiences, you will drive a run with a full train. Your guests, family or friends will receive a site tour while you enjoy your engine only run and will be your passengers on your full train run. You will also participate in shunting manoeuvres and at the end of the day there are photo opportunities and a certificate of achievement.
The Mornington Railway numbers amongst its rolling stock, four steam and four diesel locomotives, along with restored passenger carriages and freight cars. The railway is managed and run by volunteers.
Mornington Railway Diesel Train (Photo by ozzmosis CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
When: On non-running days. Runnings days are usually Sundays. Steam: Gold and Silver experiences are available on the Saturdays of steam-running weekends. Diesel: Gold, Silver and Bronze experiences are available on any Saturday or non-running Sunday. The day of your experience will be organised at the time of booking.
Where: 460 Moorooduc Highway, Moorooduc, via Two Bays Road. Directions can be found here.
Cost: (April 2016) Gold Experience: Steam $1,800, Diesel $1,200. Silver Experience: Steam $1,200, Diesel $800. Bronze Experience: Diesel only $400. Lunch for the driver is included and can be arranged for your guests at extra cost.
Victorian Goldfields Railway
The Victorian Goldfields Railway is a heritage railway running between Castlemaine and Maldon which is a National Trust notable town. The railway offers individual, 2 person and 4 person driver experience packages on both steam and diesel locomotives. Regardless of your choice you will be driving a locomotive pulling goods carriages.
Victorian Goldfields Railway J Class locomotive awaits departure at Maldon Station. (Photo by Zzrbiker CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
J Class and K Class locomotives are used for the steam driver experience. The K Class locomotives were first constructed in 1922. The Victorian Goldfields Railway has amongst its running stock, K157, K160 and K190, all of which originally entered service on the Victorian Railways in the 1940's. The J Class are post World War II locomotives. They incorporated much of the K Class design but were capable of conversion to standard gauge rails.
The diesel driver experience will take place in a Y Class Diesel Electric locomotive painted in Victorian Railways blue and gold. Y133 was built in the 1960's. The Victorian Goldfields Railway lease Y133 from the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre.
Y133 at Muckleford (Photo from Victorian Goldfields Railway Facebook Page)
The driver experiences include safety checks, preparing the locomotive and putting together a goods train. The run will take you from Castlemaine up and down steep hills and through picturesque bushland to Maldon where you will lunch with the crew before embarking upon the return journey. In all you will drive for 34 kilometres. At the end you will receive a certificate of achievement to commemorate this amazing day. If you have chosen the 2 or 4 person packages the driving experience is shared.
J Class locomotive at Castlemaine Station (Photo by Zzrbiker CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
When: Experiences can be organised for any day except Sundays, Wednesday, Special Event Weekends, School Holiday Saturdays. Bookings may be limited during the summer fire danger period which usually runs from 1st December to 30th March.
Cost: (As at April 2016) Drive a Steam Train Experience Individual - $1,750, 2 Person Package $1,000 each, 4 Person Package $550 each. Diesel Train Driver Experience: Individual $1,300, 2 Person Package $750 each, 4 Person Package $425 each.
The Puffing Billy Railway offers train driver experiences in a 120 year old steam engine, a Couliett locomotive built in 1886 for use in Paris. As if that isn't just a little bit special, this steam train is red. This locomotive was numbered 861 and consequently the driver experience is referred to as 'The 861 Footplate Experience Course'.
Locomotive 861 (Photo from Puffing Billy Railway Facebook Page)
You will have exclusive use of 861 for the day, with family and friends welcome along as passengers. The experience begins early at 7am when you will participate in lighting the fire and raising the steam. Following a brief safety and operation session a train will be made up at Emerald. You will steam off to Lakeside, take on water and then continue to Cockatoo. There will be photo opportunities at one of the railway's spectacular trestle bridges on the way to Cockatoo and at another on the way back. At Cockatoo you will have the opportunity to do some shunting.
Your train will return to Lakeside where you will have the opportunity to watch other steam trains at work at stop for some lunch before 861 embarks on a second run to Cockatoo, again with photo opportunities. Enjoy some afternoon tea before returning to Emerald where you will participate in some more shunting before the train is fired down and retired to its shed.
A Puffing Billy Train (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Bellarine Railway is a heritage steam and diesel railway running between Queenscliff and Drysdale. The railway has a fleet of eleven locomotives sourced from across the country. Their steam locomotives have build dates ranging from the early 1900's to the 1950's and their diesel locomotives from the 1940's to 1960's.
Driver experiences are offered in both steam and diesel locomotives. Learn how to safely operate a railway and learn about the trains themselves. The first engine run will be in the Queenscliff yards where the train will be made up with passenger carriages or goods trucks. On the main run you will drive the train on the 32 kilometre return trip with photo opportunity stops along the way. If you have chosen the full day experience you will learn more about the railway and trains in the morning and the main run will be after lunch followed by shunting in the yard, making up the carriages for the next day and putting the engine to bed.
There is also an option for a shared half day course, which involves two return trips between Queenscliff and Lakers Siding, giving each participant the opportunity to drive the train for 8 kilometres while the other acts a fireman, (if they want to).
Cost: (April 2016) Tender Locomotive Experience: Full Day $1,495, Half Day $995, Half Day Shared (2 People) $495. Diesel Locomotive Experience: Full Day $795, Half Day $495, Half Day Shared (2 People) $295. Tank Locomotive Experience: Full Day $995, Half Day $695.