Celebrating 30 Years of Training at HVTC with a 100 Year Old Australian legend

Almost 200 people took a historic steam train ride, driven by two restored locomotives that hauled Hunter Valley coal for much of the last century, to mark three significant occasions in the region’s history.

The six carriage train was the first train to take passengers on the South Maitland Railway lines in more than three decades.

Hunter Valley Training Company founding chairman The Hon Milton Morris AO has organised the train ride as one of a series of events to commemorate the company’s 30th anniversary. The train ride also marks the 125th anniversary of the discovery of the Greta Coal Seam and the 100th anniversary of the arrival of one of the restored locomotives.

Almost100 guests of HVTC joined another 100 paying guests (mostly steam train enthusiasts from Sydney and other areas) to ride from East Greta Junction to Neath for a “miner’s lunch” at the local pub and then back again. HVTC guests included key clients, staff members chosen by ballot as well as members of Friends of South Maitland Railways.

In August 1886 Professor T.W. Edgeworth David discovered the Greta Coal Seam, an event that Mr Morris said was the catalyst for considerable change and prosperity in the area. Mr Morris said that the Seam was one of the richest in the world producing the best gas coal.

Around25 mines were established between Cessnock and Maitland which he said was the impetus for the migration of many miners from Wales and England as well as the development of Cessnock and establishment of rail town slike Neath, Abermain, Kurri Kurri and Weston.

English steam train manufacturers Bayer Peacock were commissioned to build a small steam engine of great power to haul as much as 600 tonne of coal in one go along the large network of railways built to service the mines.  The 10 class loco was created and the 20that came to Australia all went to Maitland. The first of these locos, No. 10,arrived in August 1911. No. 18 arrived in 1917. Both worked at the J&A Brown collieries in the Coalfields.

HVTC inherited these two locos when it purchased the former South Maitland Railway workshops in 1986. In November 2010, the two locos came home to the “Big Red Shed”, which was once their workshop at South Maitland Railways and is now part of the Hunter-V-Tec training centre, following an $880,000 restoration. Mr Morris said that the project was funded by generous individuals and companies.

Mr Morris, a steam train buff and former NSW Minister for Transport, said the locomotives are a very important part of the history of the Hunter, of South Maitland Railways and of Hunter Valley Training Company.

“Taking the first train ride on these lines in 30 years is a fitting tribute to Professor David, the coal companies and the rail and coal workers who helped shape the Coalfield’s towns and lay a foundation for our region’s prosperity,” Mr Morris said.

“The ride is also a tribute to the many apprentices who have helped to restore important parts of the Hunter’s and NSW’s heritage as part of their practical training,” he said.

Maitland based HVTC is Australia’s oldest and largest group training company and is this year celebrating 30 years of operation. It has 12 offices in NSW and Queensland as well as two registered training organisations located at Maitland and Sydney.

VJ Thomas Greader