All aboard to help keep the Mornington Railway on track
One of the biggest heritage tourist attractions on the Mornington Peninsula is moving full-steam ahead to ensure it is ready for business again when COVID-19 restrictions allow.
The Mornington Railway would usually carry more than 10,000 passengers a year on its heritage steam trains that clickety-clack between Mornington and Moorooduc - hosting birthday parties, excursions and day trippers enjoying a unique experience for young and old.
But sadly the furnaces have gone cold and the ticket sales are on hold as we all deal with the effects of Coronavirus and social distancing measures.
For the 250 members and some 100 active volunteers of the Mornington Railway Preservation Society however there’s still plenty to do to make sure they are ready to roll when it’s safe to do so.
“We may be in caretaker mode but we still have to keep the tracks sprayed and maintain the rail corridor. We want to have a railway not a jungle when this is all over!” said Rodney Reed, committee member from the Society.
Their biggest project however is the overhaul of their prized steam locomotive K163, which began just before Coronavirus hit.
The engine is on the blocks in Newport at the same workshop where it was originally built in 1941. After 34 years running the rails as a tourist train it was time to give it some well-earned maintenance to ensure it can continue to bring joy and excitement to many.
“She’s our major drawcard,” said Rodney. “We are still busy restoring it. The engine has been pulled down, we’re reprofiling the wheels and bearings and machining parts.
“There’s no-one around anymore who does this kind of work and you can’t just buy parts, so we are doing it all ourselves. We were past the point of no return when Coronavirus hit so we have to keep going and put her back together again.
“We’ve had to change the way we work to make sure we all stay safe, but the plan is to have an overhauled steam loco ready to go when we can.”
Income from this year’s tourist season was meant to fund the maintenance but with no trains running and no ticket sales, it’s left a big hole in the budget. The group has set up a GoFundMe page while volunteers are contributing their own time and money to keep the project going.
“Being part of the Mornington Railway is like being in a sports club,” said Rodney. “You don’t have to be a gunzel (a railway enthusiast) to enjoy it. We all pitch in, learn new skills and are part of an exciting journey.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Mornington Railway Preservation Society or helping out with their locomotive restoration project can visit morningtonrailway.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org.