Railpage Australia Visits Richmond Vale

The museum was very much open for business while we were there!
The museum was very much open for business while we were there!

Rolling over to find the alarm beeping at 0545, and the sun not yet awake is not the way one normally plans on spending ones day off, although today was special. After packing everything into my bag and getting ready, it was into a cab and off to the bus stop to get the bus into the city. Upon arrival at Central, I rounded up the group that would form the Railpage Australia group travelling to the Richmond Vale Railway Museum. Having met up with Maikha Ly and herded everyone onto the bus, we were soon underway, over The Sydney Harbour Bridge and onwards to Richmond Vale.

As is so often the case with trips involving large groups of friends (or in this case, small groups of friends who soon formed into one large group with a common interest), the trip there and back is often almost as fun as, if not equal to the actual destination visited. This trip would prove no different, as a bus load of young (and not quite as young but still classed as “young enough to have a good time”) people would prove, yelling and laughing our way up the F3. Highlights would include moving my moving around the bus, trying to talk to everyone, the test of just how many rail buffs would fit on the back seat (six) comfortably, the test of how many times the “Thomas the tank engine” theme song would skip going over the bumps in the driveway…

Upon arrival at the RVRM, the group literally poured out of the bus, like a flood of eager young people (although with the typical cynical “I don’t really like trains that much, really, I’m just here for the… oh, look, a station sign! I must photograph it” folks bringing up the rear), and it was time to draw the raffle. Prizes were handed out (at this stage, those winning tickets won their owners a ride in the cab of SMR30 on one of the shuttles to/from Pelaw Main), and much laughter was had. It was at this point we were introduced to our guides for the day, Richard Kiejda and Graham Harper, both top blokes who have given plenty of good service to the RVRM, and were kind enough to show us around and tell us all the history of the Richmond Valley Railway, as well as the history behind both Richmond Main and Pelaw Main coal mines.

Inside the cab of SMR30
Inside the cab of SMR30

During the day, we managed to fit in two trips to Pelaw Main and back (with our own private car, to boot!) behind SMR30, as well as a guided tour of the site at Pelaw Main, another tour at Richmond Main (itself a massive source of local history and of great interest to me personally), a guided tour of the locomotive shed/workshop out the back of the main museum (taken there, not on foot, but on a special loco hauled tour in an old wooden BOB car), a tour into the carriage shed (as well as the opportunity to be let loose wandering around the various items stored there), and a trip down “rotten row” (a collection of old NSWGR/SRA rolling stock items saved from scrap and stored for possible future use), which was again as massive source of interest.

When we arrived at the main hall, for lunch, we found a spread fit for an army, with plenty of cool drinks on offer, and a full on BBQ meal – sausages, a good selection of salads, bread rolls, the works! As we were expecting a sausage wrapped in some bread, we were all very surprised by the museums hospitality, all of it provided and cooked by the museum and it’s hard working volunteers.

After lunch, the final raffle was drawn, and some serious (and not so serious) prizes awarded accordingly. The final total that the group raised for the museum came to a modest total of $1136.20. This is enough money to completely restore one non-air braked hopper, or a significant way towards restoring another passenger carriage for the museums use. At any rate, whatever the museum deems they need to spend the funds on! Certainly an excellent little sum for such a great little museum, often overlooked as it’s somewhat off the beaten track.

SMR22 awaits her turn for restoration out the back of the museum
SMR22 awaits her turn for restoration out the back of the museum

However, none of the day would have been possible without a few key people. Before I go on to name those people, all the folks involved at the RVRM gave us a fantastic and memorable day out, and all those out there involved with this organisation deserve my thanks, what an amazing place to visit, and somewhere I hope to get along to again soon.

Firstly, none of the day would have been possible without one Maikha Ly. Maikha is a close friend of mine, and he has a bit of reputation in the railfan community as being a bit different – in a good way. He is always looking to push the conventional boundaries of the railfan outing (just look at this trip, chartering a private bus to visit a museum just to see what it’s all about!), as well as trying to introduce likeminded folks together. If it wasn’t for Maikha, I never would have become so heavily involved in the community, and a lot of close friends I have these days I would never have met if not for him. People don’t thank him enough, especially for the latter. He gives up his own time (as I am finding out in my adult life, a precious and limited quantity) to help other railfans meet, and greet, and have a great day out. Full congratulations to him for the sheer logistics of the outing, a number of people doubted it would succeed, and it did – I’d say he passed with flying colours!

A lot of thanks is also given to our guides for the day Graham Harper and Richard Kiejda. Both of these gentlemen gave up their entire day to show us around the various parts of the museum, and they are both a wealth of knowledge and local history. It was fascinating to listen to them speak about the history of the mines and the railway, as well as the background of the museum itself. Anyone with questions walked away with plenty of answers, and no question was left unanswered. A memorable moment for myself would be Graham telling the group about the “pit ponies” in the mine at the Richmond Main, how they would only work with one miner for their lives, and would refuse to work for anyone else. Amazingly, the horses could tell one miner from another and became as close to them as any human might have.

The whole group, in all its glory posing next to SMR30
The whole group, in all it's "glory" posing next to SMR30

We never would have arrived at the museum without someone to drive the bus, and it was here that Railpage’s TheLoneGunMan stepped up (or rather, sat down) to take on the role. As if dealing with the everyday stresses of navigating Sydney and then the F3 in the rain wasn’t enough, he also had to put up with a selection of terrible music from both Maikha and myself, a bus full of over-enthused (most having had too much sugar) rail buffs, and, on the ride home, one flat tyre! It is a testament both to his skill (and patience) that we were able to get there and back, as without a driver, we would have been a bit stuck on getting there and back!

Finally, a thankyou to both the new and old faces I shared the day with. Again, without people to fill the bus and populate the outing, I never would have had such a great day out! I met some great new people (some of them Victorians who came up especially, which was a feat in itself), caught up with some old mates, and we all collected a new batch of photos and stories to share for years to come. Memorable moments would be watching everyone pile onto the back seat, rocking the bus at traffic lights, hooning up and down the F3 (and being overtaken by semi-trailers, elderly drivers and rail-replacement buses…) and so on!

SMR30 taking a break over the observation pit
SMR30 taking a break over the observation pit - a marvellous loco!

For those out there reading this recount and wondering exactly what it would be like, come along on the next outing! Keep an eye on Railpage Australia Forums for news of planned outings, as they are usually discussed with a month prior to the actual day, to help give people plenty of notice. If it’s possible, I will always be joining any outings that work/real-life permits me to, and I always like to meet new faces and have a great day out with!

Further Reading:

Trackside – Richmond Vale Railway Museum. A brief history on the museum, with a little background on the mine and the railway. By no means a definitive guide, there are plenty of books around to fill in the gaps. Of course, you could always visit the museum itself, and experience it all first hand!

Richmond Vale Railway Museum Website. The internet home of the website. Read more about the history of the RVRM, learn about running days and other events on at the museum, as well as how to get there and more!

Railpage Outing to RVRM Photos. The full set of photos taken by myself at the museum. This represents less than a third of the photos I took on the day, there was just so much to see! If I had more time, I would have taken twice as many, and then twice as many again!

Railpage Australia Invades Richmond Vale – Photos and Stories. A thread on Railpage Australia giving members a forum to share their own stories and photos from the day. Some amazing photos from everyone, each one showing a different and unique perspective on the outing. Some very funny photos of the group on there too, showing just how much fun everyone had!

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4 thoughts on “Railpage Australia Visits Richmond Vale

  1. I have just read about the pit ponies working for one man only for life – Biggest load of garbage that I have ever heard.

    Once again, a made up story that has no truth in it what so ever!

    People who had NO association with the Coal Industry in real life seem to come up with amazing stories.

    In otherwords, if a miner left the colliery, the horse was retired as it would NOT work for another miner! I don’t think so. The horses were assigned to different wheelers BUT where ever possible, miner and horse worked together. Horses were transfered between collieries as required and I can assure you they didn’t refuse to work.

    It is a fact that if miners treated a horse badly, the horse did remember these miners and often refused to co-operate with them at times.

  2. I understand and only wish that people who know little of what they are talking about wouldn’t make inaccurate statements.

    As you probaly are aware, I wrote Coal Railways and Mines, The Story of the Railways and Collieries of J & A Brown. As a matter of interest, I was present that day you were all at RVRM and was sitting with a friend eating a sandwich whilst you all ate your lunch about 10 feet from us.

    If you are interested in Newcastle Colliery Railways, my next book, Coal Railways and Mines, The Colliery Railways of the Newcastle District and the Early Shipping Facilities (Two Volumes) will be about 1152 pages total, is soon to be published. It covers all Collieries in the Newcastle District connected with a railway that I know of.

  3. Ok, so, young Raichase got told something that is allegedly not true, did you have to become so personal and vile in your response above?

    Secondly, cut the ego-tripping, self-satisfying triple about your authorship of your books. No one knows you wrote the book, and just because you did, doesn’t give you self-centred rights to royalty from us all.

    Edit from Trackside: Removed part of the comment for censorship reasons.

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