Push Gathers Steam to Restore a Historic Loco
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Residents on the Victorian-NSW border flock to take a ride on the restored steam locomotive as it makes its return to Albury after 13 years.
About 3,000 people boarded the train in Albury across the Easter long weekend as part of a state-wide tour following the train's 12-year-long restoration.
Passengers were treated to hour-long round trips across three days, with large crowds turning out to see the train departing and arriving.
The 3801 was launched in 1943 and operated as an express passenger locomotive and later as a freight locomotive.
The 3801 in the yard at Clyde Engineering, ready to depart on its first trial run in 1943.(Supplied: NSW Railways
)It was formally withdrawn from service in 1962.
Known for its Art Deco streamlining and iconic style, it is the only steam locomotive to have travelled to all mainland Australian states and territories.
Driver Alex Claassens joined the railway more than 40 years ago but said the chance to drive it into Albury this weekend was a career highlight.
"It is amazing to be able to drive something that has been through a massive restoration effort," Mr Claassens said.
"It has taken about 10 years to get it back to the glory of what it is today. It's been going absolutely fantastic, better than it ever has."
And he should know.
"I was privileged enough to work on it during the many years of my career. I joined the railway in 1978, so I've had a few stints on this train and on this engine," Mr Claassens said.
"But it's going better now than it ever has, and it's really exciting to see the people out here enjoying it because that's why we all do this work."
He said the best part of the job was bringing smiles to the passengers' faces, especially at Easter time after what had been a tough year for many.
"There is something about the romance of steam, certainly from my point of view. I was lucky enough to learn on the Zig Zag Railway many years ago," he said.
"But there is just something about it.
"It just seems to excite everybody. It doesn't matter if you're a little toddler [or] if you're a 70 or 80-year-old person — everybody loves steam. It's good to be part of it."
Lovingly restoredAfter 12 years of painstaking restoration work, the steam train is finally back in service.
Transport Heritage NSW rail operations manager Daniel Page said the locomotive was fully stripped down and rebuilt.
"Every nut and bolt was removed. Every piece of it was laid out and restored, and reassembled. The boiler in the locomotive, the main pressure vessel had a rebuild," Mr Page said.
"Everything was pulled apart and put back together again with the love and care of our staff and volunteers, and it's got this gleaming new green and yellow paint job that has finished it off beautifully."
After recently being relaunched in Sydney, steam locomotive 3801 will now travel throughout NSW on a regional tour.
Mr Page said the decision to start in Albury was an easy one.
"One of its first big journeys we chose for it to do was to bring it to Albury and the Riverina," he said.
"It's a place where 3801 frequently operated in the 1940s and 1950s, hauling the crack express trains and moving people around NSW, so it's really special to be back here in its homeland, so to speak."
The 3801 steam locomotive returned to Albury for the first time in 13 years as part of a NSW regional tour of the iconic train.(ABC News: Ashlee Aldridge
)The train will now spend the next week at the Junee Rail Museum.
"In June, we are heading out to the Central West, and then in September we are heading to northern NSW, so we are really excited to be taking steam trains to country NSW where there is a huge affection for them," Mr Page said.
"It has knocked us over just how many people have a story or a connection to this train.
"So many times we've had residents come and greet us over the weekend and say, 'My grandfather used to drive this train. My parents used to travel on this train to Sydney for work or for holidays'."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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