ONE of the most ambitious vintage rail trips ever organised in Australia will take lovers of authentic train travel on a journey from Sydney to Melbourne and back in August.
The Southern Rail Spectacular is a five-day heritage steam and diesel rail tour organised by Cruise Express.
The company runs regular heritage rail and sail tours around Australia and overseas, but this is its first rail journey to include steam - and not just one but four steam locomotives.
The tour boasts the largest steam locomotive to operate in Australia - the 265-tonne Beyer-Garratt 6029, built in 1954.
Six train preservation societies will share their steam and diesel engines and original carriages to create the heritage rail journey.
Departing Sydney on August 30, passengers will travel by diesel locomotive to Goulburn where they will board the 6029 steam locomotive bound for Junee. From there, diesel engines will convey passengers to Albury for overnight accommodation.
The next morning, it's all aboard former express train, The Spirit of Progress, which will travel on standard gauge for the first time. The newly-restored locomotive P22 will haul to Seymour for a visit to the Railway Heritage Centre. Then it's on to Melbourne for a two-night stay.
More steam locomotives join the adventure on September 1 when the restored 103-year-old A2986 will take passengers for a scenic ride through central Victoria to Castlemaine, where they will transfer to the Victorian Goldfields Railway for the journey to the historic gold rush town of Maldon and back.
On September 2, the R707 steams from Melbourne to Newport - home to Steamrail Victoria, 707 Operations and the Diesel Electric Rail Motor Association of Victoria - then back to Melbourne to change trains to standard gauge and the Spirit of Progress run to Albury for an overnight stay.
The final day begins with a diesel-hauled trip to Junee where 6029 will meet travellers once again to take them to Goulburn. Then it's over to the diesels for the final run to Sydney.
Including four nights' accommodation, breakfasts and daily excursions, the five-day Southern Rail Spectacular is available from $2190 per person twin share, and from $2790 for solo travellers.
- 1300-766-537, www.cruiseexpress.com.au