The Victorian Goldfields Railway evokes a sense of bygone years with a steam train journey from Castlemaine to Maldon.

Story & photos by Garry Aithchison

A distant puff of smoke and a distinctive, haunting whistle blast once alerted people that a train would soon be pulling into their local station. While the powerful locomotive stood at the platform gently hissing, still boiling hot and being readied for the next stage of the journey, the daily ritual of railway activity would begin. Passengers boarding or alighting from wooden carriages; friends and family greeting or farewelling; parcels and goods of various sizes and weights being loaded and unloaded, delivered or collected; steel-wheeled trolleys trundling along the platform; and flags and signals operated by busy station staff.
Before long, the station master’s clanging bell and loud call of “All aboard” would have tardy passengers scurrying to the carriage doors. The guard’s shrill whistle and a raise of the green flag would be followed by a couple of short blasts of the loco’s whistle before the driver released the steam regulator to propel the train on the next section of its journey, slowly chugging out of the station, gradually gathering momentum along the line as the steam valves were opened and the fireman vigorously threw more coal into the firebox. Youngsters would run down to the farm gate and wave to the loco crew, and the driver would give them an extra toot. People in their gardens or sitting on their verandahs would wave and farmers in the paddocks would stop and watch as the column of smoke from the loco trailed away with the wind.

This story excerpt is from Issue #51

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2007