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Preparations for Maitland's annual celebration of steam are on the boil.
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.
Steamfest stalwart Peter Garnham said plans are in full swing, accommodation is filling quickly and moves are afoot to bring two, possibly three steam trains into town for the event.
"It's going to be hard to come up with something different to match last year's 30th anniversary Steamfest but we are hopeful that we can match the crowd numbers and put on a top show," he said.
Steamfest celebrates Maitland’s steam and industrial heritage and allows visitors to explore an impressive collection of antique machinery and steam trains from across Australia.
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of Steamfest, which has cemented itself as Australia’s premier festival of steam, attracting tens of thousands of people each year.
Mr Garnham said as a prelude to this year's event, organisers will drive the 1926 Fowler traction engine Sooty from Wellington near Dubbo to Maitland. Sooty was built in Leeds, England.
"It will be a four to five day trip but we are hoping to drum up some publicity on the way across," Mr Garnham said.
He said the Steamfest rally ground will be back in action after organisers lost most of the site last year due to the construction of the Maitland Railway Station highway flyover.
"Tickets will go on sale in about three weeks all going to plan and they will be available on council's website or at the Visitors' Centre," Cr Garnham said.
"Accommodation is starting to fill up which is a good sign."
Mr Garnham said Walka Water Works will run its miniature steam train rides across the weekend and will run as a satellite site for the event.
The two days will also feature a diverse program including historic steam train trips, vintage machinery displays and demonstrations, live music, interactive heritage walks and displays, a vintage car display, market stalls, food stalls and kid’s activities.
Steamfest was established in 1986 following the closure of the last coal operated steam hauled freight service in Australia on the South Maitland Railway Line in 1983, Steamfest pays homage to the end of an industrial era and the men and women involved in its operation.
The heart and soul of the event is its impressive assembly of steam trains and the the annual Great Train Race.
Visitors can see how things were done in days gone by at the interactive rally ground display, featuring a vast array of antique machinery from all over Australia including traction and portable engines.
In Maitland Park the annual Show ‘n’ Shine will feature an impressive showcase of motoring history, which will be held on Sunday, April 9 with more than 400 classic cars, food stalls and live rock ‘n’ roll entertainment.
Tickets to Steamfest will be available to purchase online, or in person at the Maitland Visitor Information Centre from 1 March 2017
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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