Rare R-class steam loco on track

A RESTORED R-class steam locomotive will pass through Kerang tomorrow on a "weekend sleeper tour" that takes passengers to Swan Hill, then on by coach to the Manangatang races.

The trip is being run by Seven Operations, an independent rail heritage group which bought and restored R707 - one of only three working R-class locomotives - in the 1980s.

The R class was an express passenger steam locomotive that ran on Victorian railways from 1951 to 1974.

Seven Operations aims to preserve heritage trains and the skills associated with maintaining steam locomotives to support tourism in regional Victoria.

The Manangatang Cup train will leave Southern Cross station at 10pm this Friday and head to Bendigo then on to Swan Hill, passing through

Kerang in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Arriving in Swan Hill at 6.30am, R707 will make an early shuttle trip to Piangil before the service connects with a bus to Manangatang, where the first race kicks off at 1pm.

It was originally planned the train would run direct to the races but V/Line staff had changed their minds about the safety of the track,

Nathan Watt from Seven Operations said.

"Between V/Line, as track manager, approving the trip when we made application to run it and today, V/Line have now assessed that the track to

Manangatang is not at a standard for operations of a passenger train," he said.

"Nonetheless we appreciate V/Line working with us to instead be able to operate the trip via Swan Hill and Piangil."

"If people want to come up to Swan Hill on Saturday or Sunday, they can jump on the shuttle to Piangil and have a heritage train experience," he said.

The rail line to Manangatang, which is still used for grain transport, branches off the main line at Bendigo and travels north through

Bridgewater, Boort, Quambatook, Lalbert, Manangatang, and then through to Robinvale.

It was built in stages, reaching Manangatang in 1914 and Robinvale in 1924.

The last passenger trains to run on it were in 1978.

Those on board R707 will bed down in private sleeping compartments and enjoy meals and snacks in an air conditioned 1950s vintage atmosphere, with licenced club carriages and an espresso bar.

"We are very excited," Mr Watts said. 

"Normally it just does day trips." 

Leaving Swan Hill at 12.40pm for the return journey with an estimated 7.40pm arrival at Southern Cross, the train should be seen steaming through Kerang at around 1.30pm on Sunday.

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