Victorian Goldfields Railway

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Victorian Goldfields Railway
TypeTourist Railway
Connecting linesBendigo line
Former connectionsShelbourne Line, Maryborough–Castlemaine line
Line length17 km (10.6 mi)
Number of tracksSingle track
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Old gauge5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
Route map

Shelbourne extension (closed 1970, later dismantled)

The Victorian Goldfields Railway is a 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) broad gauge tourist railway in Victoria, Australia. It operates along a formerly disused branch line between the towns of Maldon and Castlemaine.


The original line was opened on 16 June 1884,[1] opening up rail access from the established station at Castlemaine to the towns of Muckleford and Maldon. The area was prosperous, as Castlemaine and Maldon had both experienced gold rushes in the preceding years, and local residents had been petitioning the state government for a railway since 1874. On 2 August 1884, a contract was let for an extension to Laanecoorie, however further construction was suspended after the line reached the small town of Shelbourne in 1891.[2]

The line was served by twice-daily trains for the first forty years of its life, which was increased to four-times-daily trains in 1924.[3] However, these were cut back at the end of the 1920s due to a decrease in the local population, and passenger services were eliminated altogether during World War II.[4] This meant that the line was used by only a weekly goods train which went through to Shelbourne. When bushfire damage caused the closure of the Shelbourne extension in 1970, the remainder of the line was rendered largely useless, and it was officially closed in December 1976.[5]

The response to the closure from the local community was swift, and the Castlemaine and Maldon Railway Preservation Society was founded in the same month, with the intention of reopening the line as a tourist railway. While Maldon station was intact, and was able to be used as a base for their operations, they were faced with numerous problems: a line that needed substantial repairs, a lack of rolling stock, and rebuilding the demolished station at Muckleford.


First train from Maldon approaches Castlemaine station, 19 December 2004

Over the next decade, volunteers obtained and renovated rolling stock and by 1986, trains were able to operate on a one kilometre section of track out of Maldon.[5] By 1996, the line from Muckleford to Maldon had been restored, with the platforms being reinstated and a small replacement building being constructed.[5] Services were able to operate along a regular timetable, and the society set about reopening the Muckleford-Castlemaine section of the line.

The project received the support of the local,[6] state[7] and federal[8] governments. The necessary physical work had largely been completed by 2003, but it took another year to secure the necessary approvals and sign an agreement with freight operator Pacific National over the use of its line into Castlemaine station, which is still in regular passenger use today.[9] The section of line finally opened on 19 December 2004, approximately a year behind schedule.[10] As of April 2006, the Society has shown no plans to restore the dismantled Shelbourne extension in the foreseeable future.

Current operations[edit]

The railway now operates two return trips to Castlemaine on Sundays, Wednesdays & public holidays. Steam locomotives operate most services, although the Society also operates diesels during days of total fire ban or when steam is not available. During December, January and February all services are hauled by diesel locomotives.[11]

The Railway also operates a number of special trains such as Ales on Rails and Murder on the Orient Express Trains. Additionally, the railway offers Driver Experiences, where customers can drive a locomotive and Footplate Experiences where you can ride in the cab for either the Maldon to Muckleford or Muckleford to Maldon leg of the trip.

For special local events such as "Mucklefest" the railway offers Rail Trolley (also referred to as the "Moon Buggy") shuttles for festival goers to ride on.

Rolling stock[edit]

VGR Locomotives & Railmotors[edit]

Number Image Year built Builder Status Notes
D3 619 1914 Newport Workshops Stored Obtained from SSR Bendigo in late 2011. Transferred to Maldon January 2012. Stored for future restoration.
D3 646 1905 Newport Workshops Stored Non-operational. Had been plinthed at Maryborough station until acquisition by the VGR for preservation in the 1990s. Stored at Maldon for future restoration.
E 371 Maldon loco.jpg 1892 David Munro & Co., South Melbourne Static display On static display at Maldon station.
F 212 F 212 - VGR.jpg 1953 Dick Kerr Works, Preston, England Operational Undergoing restoration, owned by the Victorian Goldfields Railway.
J 549 J549 Maldon Victoria.jpg 1954 Vulcan Foundry Operational Returned to service during November 2013 following a ​9 12-year overhaul.
K 157 1940 Newport Workshops Stored Non-operational. Stored at Maldon for future restoration.
K 160 K160 at Castlemaine.jpg 1940 Newport Workshops Overhaul Withdrawn from traffic mid 2012, transferred by road to Newport Workshops in January 2014 for overhaul by Steamrail Victoria
RM 61 1930 Newport Workshops Stored Railmotor owned by the Victorian Goldfields Railway. 15 June 2010 saw this unit transferred to The South Gippsland Railway on a long term loan. It returned in July 2015 to Maldon. Currently needs its wheels turned (re-profiled) before returning to service.
T 333 1956 Clyde Engineering, Sydney Stored On long term loan to Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, based at their Seymour depot. In March of 2019, T333 returned to VGR attached to the transfer of the Royal Train.
Y 133 Y133 SRHC.JPG 1965 Clyde Engineering, Sydney Operational Allocated to the VGR from the Register of Heritage and Tourist Railways. The Y was formerly allocated to Seymour Railway Heritage Centre. In 2016 it was sent to Melbourne for maintenance and returned to the VGR in August 2016. Returned to service in January 2019 after being repainted by the VGR Young Volunteers Group.

Leased Locomotives[edit]

Since October 2011, Steamrail Victoria have leased members of their fleet to the VGR in order to lighten the load on the railway's own limited fleet. This has seen use of K190, K153, D3 639 and Y164 on the Maldon branch.[12]

Number Image Year built Builder Status Notes
D3 639 1903 Newport Workshops Operational
J 515 J515atMaldon.jpg 1954 Vulcan Foundry Overhaul Returned to traffic in mid April 2012. Loaned from Seymour Railway Heritage Centre. Returned to Seymour 24 January 2015.
J 541 J541 VGR YVTR Castlemaine.JPG 1954 Vulcan Foundry Overhaul Privately owned by a group including the YVR and some of its members. Stored at a number of locations (including Healesville) until 2003, when it was moved to the Puffing Billy Railway for restoration. After restoration, it was loaned to the Victorian Goldfields Railway, where it entered traffic on 5 September 2007. Left VGR in late 2011 for Newport Workshops for an overhaul for preparation to return to Healesville.
K 153 K 153 at Castlemaine Station (28983130206).jpg 1940 Newport Workshops Operational Currently at the VGR
K 190 K190 Steamrail 2017.jpg 1946 Newport Workshops Operational Returned to Melbourne on 19 August 2018 after an 11-month stint at the VGR
Y 164 1968 Clyde Engineering, Sydney Operational On hire from Steamrail Victoria while Y133 was in Melbourne. Y164 returned to Steamrail in August 2016.


Number Image Year built Status Builder Notes
18 AE 1909 Transferred to SRHC Victorian Railways
15 BE 1908 Transferred to SRHC Victorian Railways
20 BE 1909 Transferred to SRHC Victorian Railways
2 BCE 1909 Transferred to SRHC Victorian Railways
80 BW 80 BW.jpg 1926 Operational Victorian Railways
25 ABU 25ABU at Maldon.jpg 1914 Stored Victorian Railways Used as volunteers sleeper car.
41 BU 41 BU at Maldon.jpg Operational Victorian Railways
42 BU Operational Victorian Railways
23 AW 1914 Operational Victorian Railways
39 AW 1925 Stored Victorian Railways
43 BPL 43BBPL at Maldon.jpg 1921 Operational Victorian Railways Modified to provide disabled access.
29 BCPL 1921 Stored Victorian Railways
30 BCPL 30 BCPL.jpg 1921 Under Restoration Victorian Railways
40 X 1861 Operational Victorian Railways Used on Colonial Express Trains
309 Y 1886 Operational Victorian Railways Used on Colonial Express Trains.
69 YZ 1886 Operational Victorian Railways Used on Colonial Express Trains.
Tambo Tambo at Maldon.jpg 1919 Operational Victorian Railways Owned by Pullman Operations. Leased to VGR for use on trains as a First Class Carriage.
Acheron 1923 Under Restoration Victorian Railways Being restored to operate as a First Class Carriage.
Macedon Macedon at Maldon.jpg 1928 Operational Pullman Company Privately owned. Leased to VGR for use on trains as a First Class Carriage.
Lowanna[13] 1942 Operational South Australian Railways

[14] [15]

Guards Vans[edit]

Number Image Year built Status Builder Notes
16 ZLP[16] 16 ZLP.jpg 1962 Operational Victorian Railways
611 ZD 1928 Operational Victorian Railways
333 Z[17] 333Z.jpg 1912 Operational Victorian Railways
18 C 18 C.jpg 1891 Stored Victorian Railways
31 CE 1923 Stored Victorian Railways

Goods Stock[edit]

Number Image Year built Status Builder Notes
B 256 256 B.jpg 1960 Stored Victorian Railways
G 142 1940 Stored Victorian Railways
G 362 Stored Victorian Railways
G 623 Stored Victorian Railways
G 828 Stored Victorian Railways
G 4014 Stored Metro Cammel C. & W. Co., England
G 4047 Stored Metro Cammel C. & W. Co., England
G 5169 Stored A.E Goodwin, N.S.W
G 6018 Stored Pressed Steel Co., England
G 16312 Stored Victorian Railways
GY 3451 Stored Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co., England
GY 3895 Stored Metro Cammel C. & W. Co., England
GY 15933 Stored Victorian Railways
GH 447 Stored TBA
GH 522 Stored Victorian Railways
H 11 Stored Victorian Railways
H 16 Stored Victorian Railways
HD 38 Stored Victorian Railways
HD 49 Stored Victorian Railways
HD 106 Stored Victorian Railways
HD 193 Stored Victorian Railways
HD 239 239 H.jpg Stored Victorian Railways
HZL 212 Stored Victorian Railways
HZL 251 Stored Victorian Railways
I-### (TBA) Stored
J 9 Stored Victorian Railways
L 1359 1953 Stored Victorian Railways
L 1365 1953 Stored Victorian Railways
L 1379 1953 Stored Victorian Railways
L 1400 1400 L.jpg 1953 Operational Victorian Railways
L 1408 1408 L.jpg 1953 Operational Victorian Railways
L 1423 1953 Stored Victorian Railways
M 196 1880 Stored Carlton & Ferguson
M 766 M 766.jpg 1936 Operational Victorian Railways
MF 1 Stored Victorian Railways
NN 40 Operational Victorian Railways
NN 68 Operational Victorian Railways Currently off VGR on Lease
NN 126 Operational Victorian Railways Currently off VGR on Lease
OT 19 19 OT.jpg 1925 Stored, Used as Oil Storage Victorian Railways Restored by Young Volunteers Group in 2018
OT 26 26 OT.jpg 1925 Stored, Used as Oil Storage Victorian Railways Restored by Young Volunteers Group in 2018
OT 76 76 OT.jpg Operational Victorian Railways
P 8 1954 Stored Victorian Railways
P 22 22P.jpg 1955 Stored Victorian Railways
P 43 1958 Stored Victorian Railways
QB 4 Operational Victorian Railways
QB 6 1913 Operational Victorian Railways
QN 22 1911 Operational Victorian Railways
QN 79 1913 Operational Victorian Railways
QR 196 1892 Stored, off VGR?? Railways Department
QR 272 1951 Operational Victorian Railways
UB 18 18 UB.jpg 1925 Stored Victorian Railways
VZMA 92 TBA Operational TBA Currently off VGR on Lease
WT 192 192 WT.jpg 1915 Stored Victorian Railways
WT 229 TBA Stored TBA
WT 531 TBA Stored TBA
ACTL 8490 TBA Stored TBA
TCA 8489 TBA Stored TBA


29 March 1986: First section of railway reopened between Maldon station and the Bendigo Road crossing (approx. 1 km). The reopening train consist being K160-2BCE-42BU-16BCPL.

1987: Diesel locomotives F212 and T333 acquired from VicRail. F212 was transferred from Melbourne to Maldon by road. T333 was railed from Bendigo to Maldon.

31 March 1991: Locomotive J549 makes its first move under steam and returned to service later that year.

9 October 1993: Railmotor 61RM officially handed over to the VGR. It had been held by a group of railmotor drivers at Spencer St prior to being railed to Bendigo and then trucked to Maldon.

25 September 1995: Locomotive D3 646 retrieved from a park outside Maryborough Railway Station.

8 June 1996: Line officially reopened to Muckleford. J549 was used on the official train.

11–12 July 1998: First heritage rail weekend, promoted as "Steamfreight '98". A variety of passenger, goods and mixed trains ran with K160, J549, T333, F212 and 61RM over the 2 days.

July 1999: "Steamfreight '99", the 2nd such event held. A similar program of operations to the previous one. Highlights included K160 being renumbered K157 on the Sunday. A triple headed goods also operated with "K157"-T333-F212.

May 2001: "Steamfreight 2001", the 3rd such event to be held. K160, J549, T333 and 61RM operated. 2 L type sheep wagons were transferred by road from the collection at Castlemaine and restored for this event.

19–20 June 2007: The VGR held a Steam on Show Event using J515, K160 & diesel Y133. A variety of passenger, goods and mixed trains operated from Maldon to Castlemaine on the 19th, while regular services ran as mixed trains headed by K160 and J515 on the 20th.

26 July 2008: The VGR ran the first double-headed J Class working in thirty years, using J515 and J541.

6 September 2008: The VGR held the first "Picnic at Muckleford" event, combined with Steam on Show. The major highlight of this event was the first triple headed steam on the VGR (and the Castlemaine-Maldon branchline) with K160-J515-J541. A variety of passenger and mixed trains ran throughout the day.

14 June 2009: The VGR celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Castlemaine-Maldon line with a special train from Castlemaine hauled by doubled headed J class. Steamrail Victoria operated double headed R class from Melbourne as part of the festivities.

19 December 2010: E cars 2BCE, 20BE, 15BE & 18AE, were sold to the SRHC & transferred from Maldon to Seymour for restoration.[18]

29 October 2011: Steamrail Victoria locomotive K190 transferred by rail from Melbourne to Maldon to provide back-up motive power. It left the railway on 9 March 2012. It returned for a second period of hire on 23 October 2012 and left on 23 June 2013.

26 November 2011: Another "Steam on Show" event was held. K190-K160 ran a special mixed train from Maldon to Muckleford with K190 leading tender-first and K160 trailing funnel-first. At Muckleford K160 ran around the train to form a tender-to-tender formation for the run to Castlemaine. The return from Castlemaine was run as a double-header with K190 leading K160.

12 May 2013: Diesel Electric Rail Motor Preservation Association Victoria ran a special from Melbourne to Maldon and return with 58RM. It was the first time a passenger train has operated such a trip since the last VR train on the Maldon line in November 1976. The railmotor crossed J515 operating the regular VGR service in both directions.

23 June 2013: D3 639 arrived at Maldon by rail from Melbourne on loan from Steamrail Victoria, making it the first time a D3 has traveled on the branch in forty years.[12]

20 October 2013: J549 undertakes its first test runs after completion of a 9-year overhaul. During the overhaul the loco received new tyres on the pony truck and coupled wheels, a new smokebox barrel, cylinders re-bored, motion gear re-metaled and the tender bogie wheels re-profiled. The test run included a light engine trial around Maldon yard, followed by a line test to Muckleford and return with Y133. The following week it undertook load tests to Muckleford and Castlemaine.

26 October 2013: Steamrail Victoria and the VGR operate a special tour from Melbourne to Maldon and return, dubbed the "Maldon Steam Spectacular". R761-K190 hauled the train from Melbourne to Castlemaine where it transferred to the VGR yards. R761 was removed from the train and locomotive J515 and carriage 42BU were added. K190-J515 then ran from Castlemaine to Muckleford with photostops en route. At Muckleford J515 was swapped with J549 which had operated a Wedding Charter from Maldon. K190-J549 then continued to Maldon where K190 was left for another hire stint on the railway. D3 639 was attached and the train returned to Castlemaine. Upon its return to Castlemaine J549 and 42BU were shunted off and the D3 turned. R761-D3 639 returned the train from Castlemaine to Melbourne later that evening.

20 January 2014: K160 transferred by road from Maldon to Newport Workshops. It was moved to Newport to conduct a major overhaul. A finish date for this overhaul is unknown at this stage.

15–17 August 2014: Steamrail Victoria operate a special weekend tour from Melbourne to Castlemaine with K153 and T356 on 15 August. K153 then joined K190 which was already at the VGR to operate the special to Maldon early on the morning of 16 August. A series of workings using both K-class locos operated in either double-headed, tender-to-tender and tender-first combinations on passenger or mixed trains for the remainder of the day. Both K153-K190 returned to Melbourne with the mainline train and T356 on 17 August.

19 October 2014: To commemorate the Centenary of the commencement of the First World War, a special re-enactment of the troop trains that conveyed Australian soldiers to Ports for transport to the Warfronts was operated on 19 October 2014 under the banner "Answering the Call". The train was hauled by D3 639 from Steamrail and J515 from the SRHC. The D3 was decked out with flags and a special headboard while the train itself featured replica banners that appeared on the original troop specials.

13 December 2014: Centenary of the first DD-class locomotive constructed at Thompson's Foundry Castlemaine. Locomotive DD 893 rolled out of the foundry on 12 December 1914. To commemorate the Centenary Steamrail locomotive D3 639 was used to re-enact the locomotive steaming from the foundry (instead using the new VGR carriage shed to represent the foundry shed). The D3 also bore replica DD 893 plates as well as replica Thompson's Foundry plates.

13 February 2016: Steamrail Victoria transferred 31CE behind Y164 and T356 to Castlemaine for restoration at the VGR for future use on the railway.[19] On the same day, Y133 was transferred to Melbourne for repairs.

Maldon Station fire[edit]

During the late hours of 20 October 2009 a fire ripped through Maldon station building causing major damage and loss of equipment. Not to be brought down by the situation, the VGR ran regular services as usual on the 21st hauled by K160. The major brickwork structure of the station was deemed safe to rebuild on. Contract work to completely rebuild the roof through VicTrack commenced on 4 February 2011.

On Thursday 30 June 2011 the VGR was handed the keys to the completed Maldon Station Rebuild Project.

J 515 heading for Maldon station, as seen from the fireman's side window of the cab

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "VR History". 2 February 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2007.
  2. ^ "VGR Timechart 1881-1890". 27 February 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  3. ^ "VGR Timechart 1921-1940". 27 February 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  4. ^ "VGR Timechart 1941-1960". 27 February 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  5. ^ a b c "History & Preservation". 16 September 2006. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  6. ^ "Mount Alexander Shire Annual Report 2004 Part 1" (PDF). p. 34. Archived from the original (pdf) on 3 November 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  7. ^ "PREMIER AND SCHOOL STUDENTS SEE THE SIGHTS OF MT ALEXANDER SHIRE VIA STEAM TRAIN" (pdf) (Press release). Victorian Government. 7 March 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  8. ^ "$20 Million For 13,000 New Work For The Dole Places". Commonwealth of Australia; Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. 18 December 1998. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  9. ^ Catharine Munro (20 December 2004). "Goldfields railway trundles into history". The Age. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  10. ^ "MUCKLEFORD - CASTLEMAINE RESTORATION". 20 October 2004. Archived from the original on 11 December 2004. Retrieved 20 January 2007.
  11. ^ "Victorian Goldfields Railway". Victorian Goldfields Railway. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Victorian Railways - Loco hauled Passenger Carriages". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  16. ^ "ZLP guards vans". Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  17. ^ "ZL guards vans". Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links[edit]

Maldon railway station

Coordinates: 37°1′8.29″S 144°8′44.34″E / 37.0189694°S 144.1456500°E / -37.0189694; 144.1456500