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It is easy to see why Jeff Wray fell in love with the sound of the steam train. The curator from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) spent 10 years on the tracks as a signal man with the state rail.
It was this interest in the train lines which helped kick-off a new documentary titled Steam on the Main North. The 15-minute film showcases the history of the Hunter region as a major transport network. It has been released just in time for Hunter Valley Steamfest, which celebrates Maitland’s rich steam and industrial heritage.
“Steam has always been a strong magnet for rail enthusiasts,” Mr Wray said.
“The film also explores the wide variety of passenger and goods steam trains that undertook the journey along the Main North line, which was particularly unique for this era.”
As steam trains were being decommissioned across the country, in the Hunter Region they endured for much longer. By 1968 regular use of steam engines had stopped in many parts of NSW, but not locally.
“Steam lingered on with force in the Hunter,” he said.
“They were closely linked with the coal mining industry, but were also being used in the late period of the steam era to transport passengers and also freight.
“There was a larger variety of engines in the Hunter at that time as well.”
The documentary features footage from the Hunter Region shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in 1968.
It features footage from three locations around Maitland, Fassifern, Hawkmount (between Awaba and Dora Creek) and Thornton.
“I think the film really lets the trains do the talking,” Mr Wray said.
You can watch Steam on the Main North at the top of this page. It is a sequel to Steam on the Harbour which was released in October 2016 (watch below).
The Burton Automotive Group Hunter Valley Steamfest is locked in for April 8 and 9 and organisers are hoping to match last year's 30th anniversary crowd of 80,000 over the two days.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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