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Seymour Railway Heritage Centre has been heavily involved with potential arrangements for the celebration of 150 years of railway operation between Melbourne and Geelong since the formulation of the concept last year. Many possible activities have been explored and until a month or so ago it seemed that all was on target. The successful signalling commissioning activities between Broadmeadows and Craigieburn in May resulted in spare time in the weekend occupation schedule being taken by the project team to advance other works.
The schedule for the weekend of 23 and 24 June has been expanded to the point where the original plan of working the SRHC train through the occupation is no longer possible. Various representations to officials have not resulted in any allowances or consideration.
The possibility of moving trains to and from Melbourne late the previous week and early in the week after was examined but found to be impractical. Reasons include the almost total non availability of train crews, the additional costs of more crew hours and the considerable reduction of revenue that would have come from the loss of the Seymour to Melbourne leg of the journey. The nature of the events proposed and the funding arrangements are such that additional unfunded components are not viable.
The plans as originally configured included the use of the three “veteran” cars hauled by Y112 from Ballarat to Geelong and local working in Geelong on the Sunday. SRHC committed to preparing the cars and dealing with all engineering aspects of their availability including management of loading and unloading of the cars for road movement to and from Ballarat. SRHC offered this service at no charge. Rail movement of the cars from Seymour was not possible for many varied reasons. The involvement of the “veteran” cars relied upon Y112 being available and suitable arrangements for train operation between Ballarat and Geelong. It is our understanding that such arrangements between the Geelong 150 organisers and other participants including cost recovery matters have not been able to be resolved. In respect to this general activity we are only a provider to others and work under their instructions.
The general financial viability of heritage operators in the modern age is substantially different to what applied five or more years ago. Matters such as accreditation, operator services, insurance and suitable train pathing have significantly changed the circumstances. Fares have increased substantially with an associated fall off in patronage. To remain in business all players have realised that they must use the assets at their disposal in the most financially beneficial manner. SRHC is fortunate in having quite a number of assets that have appeal in the commercial sector and have therefore pursued contractual arrangements that both provide suitable returns and protect the longevity and heritage value of those locomotives and rolling stock. In these circumstances heritage groups can survive and have the funding essential to underwrite the costs of restoration and operation of old equipment that was retired because in many cases it was no longer economical to use.
The use of C501 in passenger service particularly for the benefit of those who contributed to its restoration has been aired in the SRHC Newsletter which was received by all who contributed. The problem relates exclusively to having an operator who is passenger train accredited who is prepared to take on the task. In Victoria that is V/Line, GSR, NSWRTM or ARHS ACT. All these organisations have been approached and either outright declined to be involved because it is not their core business or have indicated a scale of charges heading towards six figures or proposed arrangements that would not result in a blue and gold C class locomotive being launched into passenger traffic hauling a Victorian blue and gold train. The problem is still being worked on with some potential light at the end of the tunnel. Carriages to operate on standard gauge are available from SRHC’s fleet because of the availability of sufficient sg and bg bogies to enable swapping of all cars between gauges as required.
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