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     A Look Back at Enthusiast News from our website in 2009

                   To look at other years click on the dates above

[IMAGE] Ron Williams parts company with SteamRanger

On our Latest News page we announced that longserving mechanical services fitter Ron Williams had retired afer 23 years service to SteamRanger, Throughout that period Ron had worked very closely with previous Loco Manager Ian Johnston and here are some insights into Ron and his career that Ian has compiled, to which we have added a few photos taken over the years.

In May 1981, Victorian steam locomotive K190 hauled a special enthusiasts' train from Melbourne to Adelaide, which in itself was truly a remarkable feat at a time when most steam facilities had disappeared. A lot of credit was due to the Victorians who along with SteamRanger's Dean Harvey, undertook a lot of intricate organising and planning to make the trip the great success that it was. K190 and its consist were based at SteamRanger's recently opened depot at Dry Creek and it was here that it was noted one of the younger Victorians was always busy servicing and literally "mothering" the K. This was my first encounter with this busy chap - Ron Williams, and we soon found we had many common threads in all things to do with steam locomotives. One interesting facet I found out was that Ron was the last steam apprentice trained in Victoria which meant he was a pretty rare breed. We had an instant rapport and I was intrigued by his application of their "red oil" to just about everything that moved on the K - it seemed to be given the status of an elixir from the Gods. History tells us that the visit of the K to Adelaide and subsequent visits by Steamrail R class locomotives were extraordinarily successful, in particular the many trips the Victorian locomotives hauled to various parts of SA. To say I was impressed by the work ethics of Ron and his attention to detail would be spot on.

In 1985 it was becoming very apparent that to maintain Dean's busy Tours Program, SteamRanger could no longer rely on volunteers working part time, mostly on weekends, to keep up with the servicing and maintenance required on locomotives and carriages. I suggested to Dean that we needed someone at the depot on a full time basis to attend to the more time consuming mechanical maintenance tasks. Routine servicing would in the main still be undertaken by the Saturday volunteers. This was a major proposal at the time because it involved considerable funds for wages and additional amenities and equipment at the depot to support a full time employee. It took some time to firstly convince Dean and then secondly to come up with a budget to support such a move. I also told Dean of my ideal candidate in Ron, which Dean supported from the start. After some toing and froing, Ron liked the idea of giving up being a diesel locomotive maintainer in Victoria to essentially work full time on steam with SteamRanger so in August of 1986, Ron moved to Adelaide and so began his long association with SteamRanger.

Ron's value was soon demonstrated with his deeper knowledge and expertise on steam plus his ability to relate to everyone within SteamRanger, including all budding volunteers. As would be expected, it took some months for Ron to learn about the many little differences between Victorian and SAR rollingstock. He did have early difficulties with the absolute lack of workshop equipment, even a simple item such as an angle grinder. Gradually many items were scrounged, borrowed and even purchased and these became the beginnings of the now well equipped workshop at Mt Barker. During the early days, Ron was well supported by an energetic group of retirees affectionately known as Dad's Army including regulars in Roy Stanley, Carl Sappiatzer, Max Biggins, Rusty Stanway, Tony Collins and Dean Smith.

Photo opposite: Ron and his jazz combo at a "Steam Up" festival at Mt Barker

Over the years, Ron has supervised literally thousands of different and complex tasks with some of the more major being; rebuilding 207's, 224's and 621's axleboxes; repairs to the main frames of 207, 224 and 251; retyring 520's leading drivers; rebuilding pony/ trailing trucks and tender bogies on 207, 520 and 621; rebuilding the motion on 207 (twice) and 520; new crankpin bushes for all locos; many new main piston and valve rings/liners for all locos; numerous boiler repair tasks including sections of boiler plates, stays, fusible plug holes, regulators, elements, boiler fittings and mountings; fitting of the new superheater header to 621. These are just a few examples of Ron's ability to work through tasks and fabricate parts and support equipment as work proceeded.

Ron's passion for steam was one of the main driving forces behind his dedication and nothing was impossible, it just may have taken a bit more time and funds to work through. He had an innate ability to size up a looming problem, consider the big picture, think sideways if necessary then come up with a solution which could be managed by SteamRanger's often limited resources.

Ron on his lathe machining a bogie centre Feb 2006 and measuring 621's smokebox tubeplate Jan 2009 - Photos: Ian Johnston

Ron spent time studying to successfully become proficient in both Air Brake fitting work and pressure vessel welding, as well as applying his talents to his trade of fitting and turning. He has been responsible for the efficient use of volunteer tradesmen, particularly in the machine shop, and for the training of volunteers to be valuable "trades assistants" to support him in his work. Ron made everyone feel at ease with his friendly nature and nothing was too much trouble in explaining what was required to be done. The work and results Ron has achieved over the 23 years has been a result of his tenacity and being fastidious in everything he undertook. A good example, is that after 50000 kms of running since Rx 207's driving axleboxes were rebuilt by Ron prior to 2000, when pulled down as part of the retyring work in 2008, the axleboxes were found to still be in almost perfect condition and good for another 50000 kms.

Ron was quite a discerning chap and during the Dry Creek days he took a strong fancy to the very pleasant lass running SteamRanger's office when it was located in the city. Ron and Lorraine subsequently married and were blessed with a son in young Ryan and they have found their niche living in the Adelaide Hills. While Ron may have departed SteamRanger, he will still be handy to provide advice when requested.

Ron and Lorraine (621 trip to Melbourne May 1994) & Ron and Ryan at Mt Barker Depot(both photos Roger Currie)

During the past few years Ron has taken a liking to performing remedial massage and undertook some studies so as he could take up such work part time, particularly for his local footy club. At the same time Ron could feel that the many years of hard and heavy work, often cramped in fireboxes and smokeboxes, had taken its toll on his body and he now and then needed someone to give him a good remedial massage. This was part of the reasoning as to why he decided that the end of the 2008 financial year was a good time for a major change and to put more effort into establishing his massage business.

On Tuesday 30th June 2009, Ron's co-workers at Mt Barker depot held a sausage sizzle to farewell Ron and for depot volunteers to take time to express their appreciation and best wishes to Ron and reminisce about former times. As a memento from the depot chaps, a pensioned off Rx class steam pressure gauge was brought back to its gleaming brass glory, mounted on a wooden base and with a suitably inscribed brass plaque, presented to Ron. In response Ron thanked the many people he had worked with and said he was delighted with the gauge as it represented what he had striven for over many years - good steam pressure!

Co-workers at Mt Barker for Ron's farewell (Ian Johnston)

[IMAGE] Another stalwart leaves us - Vale Eric Milne

Many of our more longstanding members since the 1960s will remember with affection ARHS stalwarts Eric and Thelma Milne, both of whom have passed away in recent months, Eric early in January and Thelma in late 2009.

After joining the Society in August 1964 Eric became ARHS SA Division President from 1971 to 1977, during one of the most revolutionary periods in the Society's history, when we were faced with taking over responsibility for running and maintenance of our own rollingstock, including restoration of both locos 621 and 520 and the imminent need to build our own depot at Dry Creek in the early 1980s.

Eric was one of the earliest members to be elevated to Life Membership status of the Society to recognise his contributions. Both Eric and Thelma were very familiar faces on ARHS tours in to 70s, 80s and 90s and were always "there" when extra hands were needed.

This photo taken some 10 years ago at a gathering of past Presidents at Port Dock Museum shows Eric (centre) with other holders of presidential office; Ian Johnston (2000-2005) and Dean Harvey (1955 & 1956)

As a conclusion to this tribute it might be appropriate to quote (extracts from) some of Eric's own words published in our 50th Anniversary Book in 2002.

He entitled his words "Recollections"

"My introduction to the ARHS was in March 1963. I was walking along Gawler Place with my eight year old son and we stopped to look at trains in Bridgelands Hobby Shop window. David drew my attention to a sticker "Last Train to Mt Pleasant". He insisted we go .....and sent off an application form. But the train was booked out! We were advised to book on the "Last runs of 500" - to Victor, Tailem Bend and finally to the Barossa. In those days the trains ran from North Terrace so with a packed lunch we set off to Victor. A photostop was held at at Mt Lofty .. what a sight as the largest of SA's fleet came roaring up the mountain with smoke pouring from the funnel. I captured it on my 8mm camera."

"After retiring from full time work in 1969 I joined with Kim Bird to organise school holiday trips to Bridgewater booked via John Martins ..... bookings were a menace - one day a car half booked, the next double booked. And on one trip the fireman smothered the fire approaching Blackwood and the guard had to run back with his detonators to stop 621, following just 100 yards behind us."

Those of us who had the privilege of working with Eric can just hear him telling these stories with a characteristic glint in his eye.     Eric, we will miss you!

[IMAGE]Another SteamRanger volunteer receives an ATHRA Award

In recent years both Phil Neville and Bev Sawyer from SHR have received ATHRA (The Association of Tourist and Heritage Rail Australia) awards. On the 16th October the Queensland Minister of Transport announced the 2009 awards.

The top award, The ATHRA Excellence Award, was won by long serving volunteer Peter Soar for his contributions to both SteamRanger and the National Railway Museum. He was presented with his award at the ARHS SA general meeting in late November. Congratulations Peter!

In the same award round our colleagues at the National Railway Museum Port Adelaide received the high sought-after ATHRA-ARTC Infrastructure Restoration Award for relocation and operational reinstallation at the NRM of the historic water column from Euralia.

The key contributor to this project was multi skilled StreamRanger mechanical services volunteer John Gordon, right, who was ably assisted by his son Steve.

[IMAGE] SHR mechanical services stalwart retires after 23 years!
         - farewell and well done Ron Williams!

Over the last two decades many visitors to SHR's Dry Creek and then Mount Barker depots would have met our longserving mechanical services fitter Ron Williams Ron became one of our earliest employees in 1986 when the increasing number of steam excursions organised by then Tours Director Dean Harvey made it obvious that we could not continue to maintain our busy loco and rolling strock fleet with volunteer effort alone.

On Tuesday 30th June 2009, Ron's co-workers at Mt Barker depot held a sausage sizzle to farewell Ron and to allow depot volunteers to express their appreciation and best wishes to Ron and reminisce about former times. As a memento, a pensioned off Rx class steam pressure gauge was brought back to its gleaming brass glory, mounted on a wooden base and with a suitably inscribed brass plaque and presented to Ron. In response Ron thanked the many people he had worked with and said he was delighted with the gauge as it represented what he had striven for over many years - good steam pressure!

Ron was recruited from Victoria where he was employed as a diesel loco maintainer after being the last steam apprentice trained in Victoria which meant he was a pretty rare breed. After some cajoling by then loco manager Ian Johnston he upped traps and came to join us at Dry Creek as a full time paid employee in August 1986. He soon settled into the SA community and eventually married Lorraine who was employed by SteamRanger at the time as our office manager. Living these days at Nairne, Ron has built up over the past few years some expertise in remedial massage and undertook formal studies so as he could take up such work part time, particularly for his local footy club.

Our photo shows a smiling Ron and Ian Johnston and the mounted pressure gauge.

We wish Ron, Lorraine and son Ryan all the best in the next stage of their lives post SteamRanger. The magnitude of Ron's contributions will become increasingly evident over the next few months when, in the short term at least, there will be a vacuum with no-one readily available with the same degree of knowledge and expertise.

All the best Ron and sincere thanks from all of us for your invaluable contributions.

Click HERE to go to our Mechanical Services webpage
and read a lengthy article by Ian Johnston on Ron's career and contributions to SHR

[IMAGE] Operations and Marketing

Christmas and New Cockle Train running

With Christmas rapidly approaching all areas of SHR are planning for a record number of Cockle Train passengers once our enhanced timetable kicks in on the 16th December. Click [IMAGE] to download a poster with all the details!

Up to five return services a day!     RedHen and Brill railcars and DE507 will be used on various dates, with main line DE958 hauling what we hope will be maximum length consists between Christmas and New Year! Heritage wooden carriages on most trains.

And on Sunday 3rd January we will be using Brill 60 to run the StrathLink service from Victror and Goolwa up to Strathalbyn and return.

2010 Program Finalised

The Operations and Marketing teams have now finalised our 2010 program, commencing in early April. The scheduled services will be very similar to 2009 and there will be only minimal changes to fares.

A number of special events have been planned including:

  • A Fleurieu Railfest based at each of our southcoast stations in late May and involving a number of complementary outside organisations. In 2010 this will replace the traditional "Steamup Mt Barker" event.

  • The autumn railway heritage showcase "State of Steam" displays in Rundle Mall, in conjunction with NRM, Pichi Richi etc.

  • Further coordinated rail and river excursions using the "Oscar W" riverboat at Goolwa.

Watch this space for further information!

[IMAGE]Rail Safety Incident Management

In September SteamRanger in conjunction with various emergency and other services conducted a "desktop" disaster exercise based around a collision between SteamRanger's Southern Encounter and a road truck which failed to stop at the Stop sign on Native Ave at Mt.Barker. No physical train movements were involved.

The incident saw the leading wheels of the locomotive derailed and the locomotive on a lean with the last car and the errant truck blocking through traffic on Native Ave.

What did SteamRanger learn? Generally our Incident Management plan was shown to be robust. The Operations and Safety Manager, Brian Busch, offered special thanks to those who contributed and indicated that all concerned learnt a lot from this exercise which is a requirement on us under the Rail Safety Act

More details of the exercise can be read HERE on our Operations page.

[IMAGE] Brill 60 featured in article in "Track and Signal"

The September 2009 issue of rail industry magazine "Track and Signal" has featured an extremely well written article on SHR's Brill 60 railcar written by well known enthusiast and photographer Graeme Dorling.

Graeme's article provides a valuable insight into the restoration challenges and will do much to expose Phil Neville's group's award winning work to the wider rail community. Well done Graeme!

The magazine is available at most larger newsagencies. If you can't find it, a low resolution image of the article can be downloaded HERE

[IMAGE] Busy Spring Holiday Period for the Cockle Train

For the two weeks of the school holidays in early October 2009 we upgraded our Cockle Train running to a daily service. Trains were run with both our heritage railcars; Brill car 60 and our suburban RedHen cars. Around 100 passengers were carried on most days, with some days attracting group travellers. On two intervening Sundays later trains were hauled with our larger DE loco 958 which had brought the "Southern Encounter" down from Mt Barker for the day.

The local Victor Times" newspaper had earlier reported that there were "Whales galore on Fleurieu" which were easily seen from the trains. Ther reported that "the number of Southern Right whales visiting the region this season has surpassed all records and they don't appear to be leaving anytime soon. Large groups of whales have been spotted swimming together along the coast from Port Elliot to Victor Harbor almost every day Whales were spotted between 70 and 150 metres from shore at Petrel Cove, delighting onlookers and at Basham's Beach where Southern Right whales were spotted only 50 metres from shore." The SA Whale Centre's Natalie Perkins said the frequent group sightings close to shore were part of the whales' mating habits

[IMAGE] Bugle Ranger railcar excursions well patronised

Our replacement for the "Junction Jogger" which we had run to Mt Barker Junction in previous years is now (2009) running southwards from Mt Barker on the fourth Sunday of the month.

Although the dates have sometimes corresponded with one of the wettest months in Adelaide for some time there have usually been a few glimpses of sunshine and passengers , often in family groups, are happily turning up for a trip up and over the ranges to the site of the old Bugle Ranges station with RedHen railcar 428. Peter Michalek was there to capture passengers joining at Mt Barker on the first train.

[IMAGE] Victor Harbor Railway Precinct Development Plan

In 2008 The Victor Harbor Council engaged contractors to look at future development in what they termed the "Railway Precinct" extending from the foreshore near the horse tram terminus to beyond the SHR turntable. SHR was extensively consulted.

The contractors presented their report to Council in December 2008 and this has been made available publically via their website HERE This is a very large file and may take some time to download on a slow internet connection.

The Executive Summary of the reports says (in part):

  • "The Victor Harbor Railway Precinct is an important corridor of underutilized land situated between Ocean Street and the foreshore. The corridor has the potential to facilitate north-south movement from Hindmarsh Road to the causeway entry, and east-west movement between the Town Centre and the Memorial Gardens and foreshore.

  • Proposals for the Railway Precinct reflect a thorough analysis of the options for SteamRanger movement and conclude that the turntable should stay in its existing location, with significantly upgraded viewing facilities.

  • These requirements, combined with the need to provide public car parking, and the desire to create additional public pedestrian space adjacent the Railway Station, have primarily determined the form of the Railway Terrace area. The resulting streetscape provides an improved frontage and entrance to a renovated Railway Station, space for markets and other public activities and improved linkages to Ocean Street, Flinders Parade, Coral Street and the heritage buildings and Warland Reserve to the south.

  • The provision of a shaded promenade from Hindmarsh Road along the corridor to Warland Reserve adds an attractive pedestrian and cycle route through the Town Centre. This new link also facilitates and encourages visitors to walk between the Railway Station and the Turntable.

  • Improved links with Ocean Street, proximity to the redeveloped Crown Hotel site and greater usage of the Railway Station building will combine to make Railway Terrace a more attractive location for tourist related commercial activities. Ease of movement from the Station to Ocean Street and foreshore will also encourage SteamRanger users to explore the Town Centre.

  • The Railway Precinct is a very important linking space with great potential to benefit the surrounding major tourist attractions by providing improved access across and through the Town Centre. As the Precinct is redeveloped it will become a significant attraction in its own right, providing a unique glimpse into the rail and port history of Victor Harbor via the integration of heritage buildings, the rail service, and newly created public spaces and paths."

Four pages of the 54 page report of particular interest to SHR can be viewed HERE
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The report will be discussed by Council in due course and it is expected that the resultant agreed implementation could take up to seven or eight years to complete.

[IMAGE] People

One of SteamRanger's "originals" passes on.

A significant group of SHR volunteers attended the funeral in early May of Bette Smith one of the group of volunteers who was at the core of establishing our operations in the 1970s.

Bette was one of our earliest qualified stationmasters and, with her son Michael, the motivating force behind the Young SteamRangers" group established to recruit the younger generation of passengers and volunteers. She worked in a multitude of roles and will be best remembered in her role of "Aunty Polly".


Our photos show Bette surveying her realm as the StationMaster at Goolwa, handing a train order to engineman Bill Hassam, and with "Santa" on a Christmas special. Your friends and hoards of young passengers will miss you Bette!

[IMAGE] Enough Committee work for another stalwart

Following the 2009 AGW one of our key contributors have decided not to renominate for an important committee position.

Andrew McDonough (right) has decided to retire as Human Resources Manager. The Manager Human Resources is responsible for overseeing training, assessment and record keeping in regard to OHS&W, First Aid and Safe Working across the organisation, including those activities specifically delegated to other managers. He is is also responsible for oversight of recruitment and induction of volunteers and for volunteer and staff welfare and sucession planning.

The BOM is actively seeking a replacement and would warmly welcome offers from members. Just call us on 1300 655 991!

As well as attending to these very time consuming formal duties, Andrew filled the Marketing Manager position for a period. Of recent times he has been busy as a guard, stationmaster and ticket officer, areas in which he intends to continue to contribute. We hope to see him around for many years yet.

[IMAGE] New Marketing Manager

It is with pleasure that we can announce that Don Snow has been appointed Marketing Manager for the remainder of the current managers appointment time (to May this year when all BoM appointments expire). Don is very keen to take up this role and we are sure his enthusiasm to breathe new life into this important facet of our organisation will be most welcome. He becomes an erx-officio member of the Operations Committee and Board of Management.

Don brings to SHR over 50 years of experience with volunteer organisations and community groups. From an apprenticeship in the printing industry and a staff position with YMCA, Don joined the SA Community Welfare Dept in 1965 and rose through a range of increasingly senior positions there before retiring in 1993. Voluntary positions included SANFL football, SA Railway Modellers and the SES.

Moving to Victor Harbor in 2004 he joined various local community groups and qualified as a Passenger Attendant, Ticket Officer and Station Master for SHR and has been in primary mover in forming the Southern Fleurieu Volunteers group.

Don has recently been appointed to the Tourism Victor Harbor Committee, as a representative of the Tourist Attractions / Operator sector for a two year term. This will facilitate him developing valuable linkages with the community and local policy makers.

[IMAGE] Certificates of Appreciation!

As is our custom at AGMs, Certificates of Appreciation were presented to a number of our longer serving volunteers at Woodville on the 30th April.

A "Gold" certificate was presented to Goolwa based volunteer Ken Wastell for his contributions over many years to loco, railcar, restoration and track work as a member of the Goolwa based team. Roger Currie caught Ken several years ago at the controls of Brill car 60 which he worked on during its restoration and drove for some time.

Other recipients were;

  • Bernie Ashfield - silver certificate for his ticket officer and shop contributions
  • Pam Cameron - silver certificate for contributions at Mt Barker with gardening and cleaning
  • Peter Greeneklee - silver certificate for his auditing and carriage restoration contributions
  • Pat McMahon - silver certificate for his carriage restoration contributions

  • Bill Bebbington - appreciation certificate for on train and SM contributions
  • David Groves - appreciation certificate for fund raising and loco restoration contributions
  • Don Snow - appreciation certificate for ticket officer, station master and committee work
  • Ron Norrell- appreciation certificate for carriage, loco restoration & workshop contributions
We sincerely thank these people for their contributions and hope to see them actively involved with SteamRanger for many year to come. A full list of previous awardees can be read here

[IMAGE] 2009 Running Programme

This year's operating program has been expanded to increase the number of services during the winter. All Cockle Trains year-round will now run with a mimimum of three return trips a day rather than reducing to two return trips in the winter. More trips will be run in certain holiday periods.

    Features of the 2009 programme will be:

  • Twilighter dinner trips to Strathalbyn in February, March, September and November

  • Christmas themed dinner trips in December

  • Introduction of a Bugle Ranger train in winter and spring between Mt Barker and Bugle Ranges using a RedHen railcar. This service replaces the Junction Jogger train to Mt Barker Junction due to that section of line being unavailable for the present.

  • ... and continuation of Southern Encounter, Highlander and StrathLink trains as in 2008
The up-to-date timetables, running dates and fares are now included on our main website HERE

Our printed brochure (opposite) will soon be mailed to members and be available at all the usual tourism offices.

It can be downloaded from this site as four easily read A4 pages by clicking HERE
It is a large (4 Mbytes) fle and will take a little time to download
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