Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Richmond Main: Richmond Vale Railway Museum


Situated 4 km south of the town of Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley, the Richmond Vale Railway Museum traces its history back to 1979, when the Cessnock City Council aquired the abandoned 1910 Richmond Vale Colliery. Today, the Richmond Vale Railway Museum operate train rides over the former 4.6 km long direct line between Richmond Main and Pelaw Main stations.


The Richmond Vale Colliery's cooling dam and towers, as photographed in May 2016.

Hidden in the back-roads of the Lower Hunter Valley, the Richmond Vale Railway and Mining Museum is surrounded by the ghostly remains of what was once part of the 19th Century mining empire controlled by J & A Brown. The Richmond Vale Colliery was purchased by J & A Brown in 1897, but the Richmond Vale Railway Line did not reach the coal mine until 1905. The colliery was developed in 1910, and the following year the name was changed to Richmond Main Colliery. Production reached its peak in 1918, and the mine continued to operate until its closure in 1967. Today, you can still see the cooling towers that overlook the cooling dam behind the main administration building which has been preserved.

Richmond Main's railway platform and picnic shelters, May 2016.

Trains operate only on the museum's open days, and Richmond Main's platform today is overlooked by a number of picnic shelters in the surrounding parkland. During my visit in May 2016, the train was an unusual mix consisting of two former 1957 NSWGR stainless steel carriages once belonging to an electric U set, hauled by a 1938 built 0-4-0 tank locomotive named Marjorie.

This 0-4-0 tank locomotive was built in Sydney in 1938. Photo taken May 2016.

Getting close to a steam locomotive on a family open day is hard enough, but on the day of the Annual Richmond Vale Railway Museum Model Exhibition it proved quite a task. It seemed that everyone young and old was waiting to have their photo taken beside the little steam engine. While I did get the shot I was chasing for my latest book when the train reached Pelaw Main, the crowds at the head of the short train did enable me the rare opportunity to photograph the inside of car 6001.

The interior of car 6001 on the Richmond Vale Railway Museum, May 2016.

When introduced back in 1957, the new stainless steel technology that these Budd Company inspired interurban electrics offered was put to the test on the electrified route across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. During their lifespan, these trains operated to Gosford and later Newcastle on the Main North Line, and to Port Kembla on the South Coast Line before the last were withdrawn in 1996. I have many fond memories of catching these trains from Gosford to Sydney during school holidays. The trains were always crowded, noisy and had that burning electric smell wafting in through the open windows. So to be able to photograph an empty interior some 30 years after first riding them felt a bit surreal. Today however, the train would lurch along behind a slow moving 0-4-0 tank locomotive with the smell of steam floating in through the windows.

Rix's Creek at the 2016 Richmond Vale Railway Museum Model Exhibition.

While the short trip to Pelaw Main is a story for another day, back inside the club rooms of the Richmond Vale Railway Museum there was a model train exhibition taking place. This meant only one thing to a train enthusiast such as myself; double the fun! So with my curiosity for the Richmond Vale Railway now satisfied, and a new sense of appreciation for Newcastle's early coal railway history tucked away in the memory bank, it was time to head down the line looking for some more trains. But as usual, that too is a story for another day.


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See also; Pelaw Main: Richmond Vale Railway Adventure and Carrington: rails to Newcastle's dockside

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