Posted by David Fallick
At last Tuesday night’s club meeting we were fortunate to be addressed by John Crofts, President of the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre (SRHC).  John’s work history was not railways, but mining; he spent almost 24 years with BHP both before and during the BHP-Billiton merger, working in such diverse locations as Chile, Singapore, United Kingdom and, of course, Australia.
However, his topic on Tuesday night was, Victorian Railways and, more specifically, The history and future of the SRHC – the challenge of trying to create world class tourism products in Victoria’s tourist and heritage railway sector.  And this challenge was before COVID-19 restrictions added a whole new dimension.

SRHC is fortunate, during the current travel restrictions, to have more than one income stream. In addition to the normal heritage rail outings, it generates revenue from leasing out its diesel locos to various freight operators. And there is also the flexibility of being able to operate on both the Victorian broad gauge and the ever-expanding standard gauge.

John’s narration of the slide show helped to illustrate the SRHC’s impressive range of meticulously restored and preserved heritage rolling stock, with many carriages dating back a century, including the ‘Royal Train’ and numerous cars which transported not only a newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, in 1954, but many years later, in 1983, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

A more recent ‘prize’ is the many cars from the iconic Spirit of Progress.

But restoring and maintaining heritage locos and rolling stock is a costly business as graphically illustrated by eye-wateringly expensive examples, John quoted. Given the age of much of the SRHC inventory, it is sometimes necessary to procure the required parts from overseas.

And despite continuing COVID-19 constraints, there are ambitious new plans for the future once SRHC’s trains are again able to head out of the Seymour depot.

Working with existing partner, tour operator, Cruise Express and even more excitingly, Captain’s Choice, a diverse range of imaginative, extended tours over four to five days will be offered in 2021.

The level of interest in trains, especially those connected with Victoria's rich rail history was reflected in the many diverse questions from our members, answered in detail by John during the conclusion of his presentation.