Monday, 19 September 2016

Korumburra: South Gippsland steam memories

Korumburra is a former railway town nestled in the green rolling hills of South Gippsland in Victoria's south east. The railway station which is perched high on a hill overlooking the town of 4,400 people, first opened 116 km from Melbourne's Flinders Street Station in June 1891. The stately red brick and terracotta roofed station building that still stands at the top of town dates back to 1907, and is one of the rare examples of a Queen Anne styled station building built for the Victorian Railways. Yet back in 1990 when I was at Korumburra to photograph steam locomotive K153 celebrating her 50th Birthday, I had absolutely no idea that less than 6 months later I would move away from South Gippsland, or that only 3 years later passenger trains on the South Gippsland Line would become a thing of the past.

I captured K153 departing Korumburra Station in 1990.

If watching a steam train excursion pull away is something that evokes nostalgic longings for the past, then you can only imagine what it must have been like for locals when the final V/Line passenger service from Leongatha passed through Korumbura on Saturday 24th July, 1993. When freight services to the Australian Glass Manufacturing's Koala Siding near Nyora ceased in January 1998, it brought to an end more than 100 years of government service on the line. Despite usage of the line between Nyora and Leongatha having been transferred to the South Gippsland Tourist Railway in 1994, it too would cease operating some 23 years later in January 2016. Today, Korumburra Railway Station lies silent on the former South Gippsland Line.

T352 and T376 at the head of the Barry Beach freight train in Korumburra yard. Photo 1990.

Korumburra was also the starting point for the weekly freight service to Barry Beach, conveying fuel tankers to the Bass Strait oil rig service facility in Corner Inlet. While doing work experience as a high school student with V/Line in 1989, I was lucky enough to have got to travel in the cab of a T class locomotive on the Barry Beach freight between Leongatha and Korumburra. Later in that same week, I was able to ride in the cab of a P class locomotive from Leongatha to Melbourne and back on the midday Leongatha Passenger. If I wasn't already crazy about trains as a teenager, I was certainly obsessed with them from that moment on. Unfortunately my childhood dream of growing up to become a train driver, also happened to coincide with enforced redundancies and the closure of many country branch lines throughout Victoria. So as I prepared to leave high school, the thought of joining the railways just didn't seem like it would lead to a secure line of employment. Perhaps it was the right call after all.

Korumburra Railway Station, as I photographed it in 1990.

Today, despite decades of broken election promises from politicians, the South & West Gippsland Transport group continue to push for the reopening of the South Gippsland Line and reintroduction of passenger trains to Leongatha on their Facebook page. With passenger trains having already once come back from the dead in 1984 after briefly being cancelled in 1981, it remains to be seen if future generations will once more be able to board a train for Melbourne at Korumburra Station.

Thankfully I have the above photos from that one magical day in 1990 to look back on and recall my time fondly of living in South Gippsland. Together they form just a small part of the story in my book 30 Years Chasing Trains, but one that left a big impression in the mind of a young train enthusiast. Even now, I can still recall sounding the horn on a P class diesel as we raced against the setting sun on the evening train to Leongatha, and the moment that K153 let rip with an almighty whistle as she steamed out of Korumburra Railway Station. They're both memories that are etched in my mind forever, and images that I am pleased to include in my book.

100 pages. Full colour print & eBook version available exclusively through

See also; Foster: Victoria's South Gippsland Line and Flinders Street: Melbourne's grand old station

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