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A SHIRT and tie was exchanged for overalls yesterday afternoon as veteran engine driver Graeme Jennings guided an impressive restored R-class locomotive from Warrnambool to Melbourne.
Graeme Jenning and John Mitchell drive the R-class train from Warrnambool to Melbourne yesterdayThe V/Line passenger train driver, with 47 years' experience, was in his element as he checked the workings, stoked the 360 degree coal fire and blew the steam-powered whistle prior to departure.
"You get home physically tired after driving a steam train, whereas it's more mentally difficult driving a diesel," he said.
Based in Geelong, Mr Jennings, 66, said he regularly travelled the Warrnambool to Melbourne line but only drove steam trains about twice a year.
"I'm the only driver left in Geelong ... It's a shame to see these go out, but people want to get from point A to point B quicker," he said.
Yesterday though, 375 passengers climbed aboard Steamrail Victoria's recently restored R761 unconcerned by the longer journey time expected for their day trip.
With a background in stationary steam-powered engines, Mr Jennings checked the 187-tonne locomotive engine to ensure its reliability before leaving Warrnambool.
"There's 10 tonne of steel flying around each side so you have to make sure that everything is right," he said.
Along with fireman John Mitchell, who is also a V/Line passenger train driver, Mr Jennings then built up the fire to create pressure of 200 pounds per square inch.
"We need the build up before we go because it's hard going coming out of Warrnambool and we have to make sure everything is in our favour," he said.
With the boiler at full pressure by mid-afternoon, the 52-year-old British train let out a characteristic whistle to farewell onlookers standing beside the tracks.
"He's noisy," a young spectator was heard to exclaim.
The steam train passed through Camperdown and Terang yesterday afternoon before stopping in Colac about 5.30pm and arriving in Melbourne about 10.35pm.
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