In 2016 four trains participated in the Great Train Race for the 30th anniversary of Steamfest: the trains are approaching Beresfield heading towards Maitland with 5917 (out of view) leading 6029, followed by 3016 and 3642, 10 April 2016.

3642 on the rear of special train 6L42, approaching East Maitland, heading towards Port Waratah, 10 April 2016.

Hunter Valley Steamfest

David Matheson

31 March 2019

Hunter Valley Steamfest is an annual event that attracts thousands of steam train enthusiasts and other people to the Hunter region in New South Wales. It is held over a weekend in April, with the town of Maitland as the base of activities. Steamfest has occurred every year since 1986, and has become a major event on the Hunter Valley region’s calendar. Maitland is located approximately 160 km by road north of Sydney.

 

The inaugural Hunter Valley Steamfest was on 19 and 20 April 1986. It was organised by the National Trust of Australia, the State Rail Authority of New South Wales and the New South Wales Heritage Office. Three steam-hauled trains took passengers from Sydney to Maitland on the Saturday. They were hauled by 3642, 3001T, and a double header with 5910 and 5917. Popular shuttle trains operated between Maitland and Paterson, and between Maitland and Newcastle. South Maitland Railways 10 Class locomotive No. 25 was on display in Maitland yard, along with a number of carriages. Other activities included a nostalgic dance in Maitland Town Hall, a model railway exhibition, craft displays, street stalls and entertainment. After the first Steamfest was completed a decision was made to make it an annual event.

 

Steam trains have operated from Sydney to Steamfest most years, bringing locomotives, rolling stock and steam train enthusiasts. These trips have usually departed Sydney on the Saturday morning of the Steamfest weekend. In recent years transfer trips have run from Thirlmere to Maitland on the Friday before Steamfest, with a return on the Monday following Steamfest. While their primary function has been the movement of locomotives and rolling stock, tickets have also been available for travel on the trains.

 

Steam-hauled shuttle trains are a popular attraction, providing passengers with the opportunity to travel on a steam train. Services commence from Maitland station and have travelled to various destinations, including Newcastle, Branxton, Singleton, Mindaribba, Paterson, Dungog, Stroud Road, Neath and Port Waratah.

 

A major feature of Steamfest since 1987 has been the Great Train Race. This involves steam-hauled trains racing along the parallel tracks between Waratah and Maitland. A Tiger Moth aeroplane is also a participant in the race, so it is effectively a great train and plane race. In 2010 the race featured three steam trains running parallel. They were hauled by 3265, 3526 and 3642. For the 30th anniversary of Steamfest in 2016 four steam-hauled trains participated in the Great Train Race. The trains were hauled by 3642, 3016, 6029 and 5917. There are four tracks between Waratah and Maitland: two main line tracks and two tracks usually reserved for coal trains, sometimes known as the ‘coal roads’. During the Great Train Race in 2010 the Down and Up main line tracks and the Down coal road track were used. In 2016 all four tracks between Waratah and Maitland were in use for the Great Train Race.

 

The Richmond Vale Railway Museum is usually open over the weekend of Steamfest and provides shuttle trips over part of the Richmond Vale Railway line. Exhibits include former South Maitland Railways 2-8-2T 10 Class locomotives 19, 22, 24, 25 and 30, and Marjorie, an 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotive built by Clyde Engineering in 1938.

 

CPH rail motors from the Rail Motor Society at Paterson are regular visitors to Steamfest. They offer shuttle rides as an alternative to steam-hauled trains.

 

Regular train services continue to operate through Maitland station and along the Hunter Valley railway lines Steamfest, including long-distance passenger services on the North Coast and North-west lines, and regular coal trains. Additional trains are scheduled on the Hunter line to provide transport for the large crowds. Thus, the Maitland area is a busy location for railway traffic during Steamfest.

 

The following table lists the steam engines that have participated in Hunter Valley Steamfest since its inception. Most were formerly in the service of the New South Wales railways. The South Maitland Railways (SMR) locomotives listed did not operate train services in all years, but were in steam or on static display. Steam engines that were operational at the Richmond Vale Railway are not shown in this table.

                                                                                                Number of

Year               Steam locomotives                                     steam locomotives

1986              3001T, 3642, 5910, 5917, SMR 25                     5

1987              3642, 3801, 5910, SMR 27                                 4

1988              3001T, 3112, 5910                                              3

1989              3112, 3801, 4472 (Flying Scotsman)                  3

1990              3642, 3801, SMR 10                                           3

1991              3642, 3801, SMR 10, SMR 17, SMR 18             5

1992              3112, 3642, 3801                                                3

1993              3801, SMR 10, SMR 18                                      3

1994              3112, 3801, SMR 18                                           3

1995              3112, 3801, SMR 18                                           3

1996              3112, 3801                                                          2

1997              3801                                                                    1

1998              3801, 3830                                                          2

1999              3830                                                                    1

2000              3801, 3830                                                          2

2001              3801, 3830                                                          2

2002              3112, 3801, 3830                                                3

2003              3112, 3801, 3830                                                3

2004              3112, 3801, 3830                                                3

2005              3112, 3801, 3830                                                3

2006              3112, 3801, 3830, SMR 10                                 4

2007              3112, 3526, 3801, 3830, SMR 10, SMR 18        6

2008              3526, 3642, 3830                                                3

2009              3237, 3526, 3642, 3830, 5917                            5

2010              3265, 3526, 3642                                                3

2011              3265, 3526, 3642                                                3

2012              3265, 3526, 3642                                                3

2013              3016, 3265, 3642                                                3

2014              3265, 3642, 5917                                                3

2015              3237, 3642                                                          2

2016              3016, 3642, 5917, 6029                                      4

2017              3016, 3642                                                          2

2018              3642, 6029                                                          2

                                                                                                                 Number of

Steam locomotive                 Years at Steamfest                                appearances

3001T                                       1986, 1988                                                     2

3016                                         2013, 2016–17                                               3

3112                                         1988–9, 1992, 1994–6, 2002–7                   12

3237                                         2009, 2015                                                     2

3265                                         2010–14                                                         5

3526                                         2007–12                                                         6

3642                                         1986–7, 1990–2, 2008–18                           16

3801                                         1987, 1989–2007                                         20

3830                                         1998–2009                                                   12

4472 (Flying Scotsman)           1989                                                               1

5910                                         1986–8                                                           3

5917                                         1986, 2009, 2014, 2016                                 4

6029                                         2016, 2018                                                     2

SMR 10                                     1990–1, 1993, 2006–7                                  5

SMR 17                                     1991                                                              1

SMR 18                                     1991, 1993–5, 2007                                      5

SMR 25                                     1986                                                              1

SMR 27                                     1987                                                              1

The following table lists the years that individual steam engines have been at Hunter Valley Steamfest and the number of appearances.

                                                                                                                 

Tickets for train rides are available online and at Maitland station. Other popular features of Steamfest are displays of steam traction engines at the rally ground near Maitland station, mini train rides, vintage car displays, model railway displays, market stalls, musical performers, historical walking tours and talks on topics of railway interest.

 

The 2019 Hunter Valley Steamfest will be held on the weekend of 13 and 14 April. Locomotives 3265 and 3526 will operate steam train services.

 

References

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest 2010’, Railway Digest, vol. 48, no. 6, June 2010, pp. 44–5.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest 2011’, Railway Digest, vol. 49, no. 5, May 2011, pp. 54–5.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest 2014’, Railway Digest, vol. 52, no. 6, June 2014, pp. 52–3.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest 2017’, Railway Digest, vol. 55, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 54–5.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest’, Railway Digest, vol. 51, no. 6, June 2013, pp. 50–3.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest’, Railway Digest, vol. 53, no. 6, June 2015, p. 52.

‘Hunter Valley Steamfest’, Railway Digest, vol. 54, no. 5, May 2016, p. 56.

Hunter Valley Steamfest <www.steamfest.com.au>.

Railway Digest, vol. 50, no. 6, June 2012, p. 53.

Skelding, T & R Driver, Hunter Valley Steamfest: the first 25 years 1986 – 2010, Hunter Valley Steamfest, Maitland, 2010.

‘Steamfest 2018’, Railway Digest, vol. 56, no. 6, June 2018, pp. 50–3.

30T Class locomotive 3016 with a shuttle heading towards Branxton during Hunter Valley Steamfest, Lochinvar, 8 April 2017.

36 Class locomotive 3642 with a trip to Paterson as part of the Hunter Valley Steamfest, Bolwarra Heights, between Telarah and Mindaribba, 8 April 2017.