All Aboard: Thousands Set to Flock to Maitland for the First Hunter Valley Steamfest Since 2019
The wait is finally over, as Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest pulls into Maitland Station this Saturday and Sunday for the first time since 2019.
The popular event is gearing up to celebrate its belated 35th anniversary after COVID-19 lockdowns and flood events disrupted the last three years.
For only the second time in history, Steamfest will play host to a landmark ‘quad run’ during the ARTC Great Train Race on Sunday morning, where four legendary locomotives all travel side by side – something not seen since Steamfest’s anniversary in 2016.
Starting from Waratah and racing against a de Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth biplane to Maitland are four iconic trains, including 3801, which will be making its first appearance at Steamfest since 2007, Beyer-Garratt 6029, 5917 and for the first time ever at Steamfest the recently revived R766.
Transport Heritage NSW Chief Executive Officer Andrew Moritz said the organisation was ‘fortunate to be part of the only event with four steam trains running side by side anywhere in the world.’
'It is only fitting that each locomotive taking part in the race is a marvel of Australian railways,’ Mr Moritz said. ‘3801 is the only steam locomotive to have visited every mainland state, while 6029 pushed the envelope on the size and power of steam traction with its articulated design. May the best locomotive win.’
Sold out journeys across the weekend will take punters on scenic jaunts around the Hunter Valley, visiting Branxton, Paterson and Singleton.
Maitland City Council Coordinator Events and Activation Adam Franks said Hunter Valley Steamfest was a ‘common ground for train enthusiasts, young and old.’
'The people you see at Steamfest, they grew up with a love and a passion for steam locomotives,’ Mr Franks said.
‘And that’s carried over to their children or their grandchildren. There’s a wonderful cross generational appeal to steam trains and the machinery on display at Steamfest that our community continues to connect with, year after year.
‘After a few years of cancellations and postponements, we couldn’t be happier to be back in business.’
Mr Franks said in addition to the four way ARTC Great Train Race, Steamfest was expanding its offering into the evening on Saturday.
‘From 5.00pm to 9.00pm, Maitland Station Precinct will play host to a fleet of food trucks, carnival rides, live music, traction engine displays and a display of locomotive 3801.’
On both days, the Rally Ground will be bustling with a vast display of antique machinery and traction engines, Maker and Merchant demonstrations, wood carving demonstrations and trackless train rides.
Over in the Station Precinct, visit the Railway Street Collectors Market, be thrilled by the amusements rides, fortune telling and mystical moments in Carnival Lane, and enjoy live music and delicious food from the many food trucks on offer.
Motoring enthusiasts will be catered for during Sunday’s Show ‘n’ Shine at Maitland Park from 9.00am to 3.00pm, which will offer a spectacular display of motoring history.
Hundreds of classic cars are expected to pour into the park, with proceeds from all entry fees donated to local charity Firstchance.
More information on the Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest program and train journeys can be found at www.steamfest.com.au.
The first Hunter Valley Steamfest was held in April 1986, three years after steam operations on the South Maitland Railway ceased.
Approximately 80,000 people attended Hunter Valley Steamfest’s 30th anniversary event in 2016.
Hunter Valley Steamfest regularly attracts in excess of 50,000 people from across the Hunter Valley, New South Wales and interstate.
This is the first time Hunter Valley Steamfest has been held since 2019 due to COVID-19 lockdowns and health restrictions in 2020 and 2021, followed by flooding in 2022.
After a decade-long restoration completed in 2020, Australia’s most loved steam locomotive – 3801 returns to Hunter Valley Steamfest for the first time since 2007.
Locomotive R766 will be making its first appearance at Steamfest after being bought back into service in 2022.