Progress Report 25: Grand Opening of Pete’s Hobby Railway

Under perfect weather conditions, Junee’s latest rail attraction, “Pete’s Hobby Railway”, was officially opened on Monday last (6th February). Approximately 60 friends of Peter, some local, others from as far away as Sydney, made the journey to Junee to be present at the opening and also help celebrate his 75th birthday.

Over the previous two days, these guests had been provided with guided tours of the various rail-orientated attractions in the surrounding district – including the Wagga Rail Heritage Centre, Tumba Rail’s preserved Ladysmith Station, Bethungra rail spiral and the Junee Roundhouse Museum, while lunch on the Sunday was partaken at the former Junee Railway Refreshment Rooms (now the Railway Station Café). Dinner on the Saturday evening was at the historic Junee Hotel while the formal 75th birthday party was held at the Junee Ex-Services Memorial Club on Sunday evening, 5th February. Guest speaker was Chris Harding, President of the NSW Division of the Australian Railway Historical Society.

Following approval by Junee Shire Council of the Hobby Railway proposal in June last year and despite many months of adverse weather conditions (either too wet or too hot!), some 300 metres of track (of the 500m or so proposed) have already been constructed, together with a passenger platform, thanks to volunteer support. In addition, local contractors have been used where needed for specialist works and supplies of materials.

Image 2017.1419: Pre-dawn light-up. Ben with the first shovel. Photo by Peter Neve.

Image 2017.1419: Pre-dawn light-up. Ben with the first shovel.
Photo by Peter Neve.

With the invited guests seated in the shade of a large Kurrajong tree, Master of Ceremonies, Nicholas Pyers, asked volunteer Josh Burke (who almost single handedly was responsible for the construction of the period timber-faced wooden platform), along with Peter, to unveil the heritage-style station nameboard – LOFTUS. The name was chosen by Peter as, not only was this the construction name for Junee station back in the late 1870s, but it was also the name of the southern Sydney suburb where he resided for over 50 years. The name comes from the State Governor of the time, Rt. Hon. Sir Augustus Loftus (1879-1885).

Image 2017.1490: Unveiling of the LOFTUS station nameboard by Josh Burke (left) and Pete's Hobby Railway owner, Peter Neve (right). Josh built the station (and nameboard) virtually unassisted. Image by Rhys Harrison.

Image 2017.1490: Unveiling of the LOFTUS station nameboard by Josh Burke (left) and Pete’s Hobby Railway owner, Peter Neve (right). Josh built the station (and nameboard) virtually unassisted.
Photo by Rhys Harrison.

Nicholas then asked the Pete’s Hobby Railway fettling gang whether the track was safe for the opening train to proceed. The gang, comprising retired NSWGR Ganger Gordon Stewart and his adult son Lenny, arrived on a Sheffield hand-pump four wheeled trike. After checking the track, they advised Nicholas that the track was indeed in order for the passage of the official train. Nicholas then gave approval for the first train to enter the newly named station.

Image 2017.1529: Retired Railway Ganger Gordon Stewart looks on as son Lenny undertakes a final check of the rail line prior to advising that the track is in order for the Grand Opening train to enter the station. Image by Rhys Harrison.

Image 2017.1529: Retired Railway Ganger Gordon Stewart looks on as son Lenny undertakes a final check of the rail line prior to advising that the track is in order for the Grand Opening train to enter the station.
Photo by Rhys Harrison.

The official train of two carriages and hauled by a beautifully restored 1915-vintage steam locomotive, steamed majestically through a ribbon across the track, coming to a stand adjacent to the new station nameboard – the scene being photographed by many of Peter’s friends.

Image 2017-1539: With owner Peter Neve at the throttle, the official first train breaks through the ribbon to enter the newly named station. Josh Burke, who built the station, proudly looks on. Image by Rhys Harrison.

Image 2017-1539: With owner Peter Neve at the throttle, the official first train breaks through the ribbon to enter the newly named station. Josh Burke, who built the station, proudly looks on.
Photo by Benjiman O’Malley.

With passengers on board, the first train was flagged way by retired Station Master Claude Riley, attired in his 1970s State Rail uniform and cap. Train Guard Rhys Harrison then gave the green flag for the train to depart.

Image DSC_7617_29607: Station Master Claude Riley (middle) flanked by Railway Ganger Gordon Stewart and son Lenny (left and right respectively) standing near the Station name Board. Photo by Graham Besley

Image DSC_7617_29607: Station Master Claude Riley (middle) flanked by Railway Ganger Gordon Stewart and son Lenny (left and right respectively) standing near the Station name board.
Photo by Graham Besley

On reaching the temporary western end of the track, volunteer driver Ben O’Malley brought up a fully restored 1955 Ruston diesel locomotive to the rear of the train and hauled the two cars non-stop through Loftus platform to the southern extremity of the line.

After the train was returned to Loftus platform, all guests were invited to partake of an excellent BBQ luncheon provided by Junee Lions Club.

Image 2017.1561: Proud owner of Pete's Hobby Railway, Peter Neve, cuts the official cake (supplied by the Junee Bakery) - enjoyed by all present! Photo by Rhys Harrison

Image 2017.1561: Proud owner of Pete’s Hobby Railway, Peter Neve, cuts the official cake (supplied by the Junee Bakery) – enjoyed by all present!
Photo by Rhys Harrison

During the afternoon, the guests enjoyed train rides and photographing the Pete’s Hobby Railway collection, including the statically displayed Perry and Fowler locomotives.

Image DSC_7641_29631: A happy carriage load of Peter's friends enjoy a ride on the Hobby Railway. The restored 1955-built Ruston diesel locomotive is on the left. Events Co-Ordinator Nicholas Pyers (orange shirt in background) looks on. Photo by Graham Besley.

Image DSC_7641_29631: A happy carriage load of Peter’s friends enjoy a ride on the Hobby Railway. The restored 1955-built Ruston diesel locomotive is on the left. Events Co-Ordinator Nicholas Pyers (orange shirt in background) looks on. Photo by Graham Besley.

Image DSC_7618_29608: Volunteer driver Ben O’Malley bringing the fully restored 1955 Ruston diesel locomotive, along with passenger cars, down the Western Track. Photo by Graham Besley.

Image DSC_7618_29608: Volunteer driver Ben O’Malley bringing the fully restored 1955 Ruston diesel locomotive, along with passenger cars, down the Western Track.
Photo by Graham Besley.


Subject to Council approval, the next public running of Pete’s Hobby Railway will be over the weekend on 11th & 12th March 2017, in conjunction with Junee’s 2017 Rhythm-&-Rail Festival.

Pete’s Hobby Railway is operated under the provisions of the Rail Safety Law (NSW) 2014 which expressly prohibits the general public on site when the trains are running. Similarly, the public to ride on the train or to operate the trains for hire or reward, hire or lease. However, the railway (and particularly the newly named platform) is easily viewable from the street frontage where photographs, etc., can be taken.

Grand Opening Booklet

A four page, A5 sized, booklet was produced and distributed to guests on arrival.

A PDF of the booklet can be viewed here.

Other Photo Galleries

A number of our guests took photos throughout the day. Here are links to a selection of them;

Where are Progress Reports 23 & 24???

Peter has already prepared this “Grand Opening” Report, even though the other Progress Reports have not caught up. As coverage has appeared in the local media (some not entirely accurate!), Peter feels that it would be best to get our coverage out there as soon as possible … so here it is! Hopefully, Progress Report 23 & Progress Report 24 will be posted within the next week and cover what took place during the rest of November, also in December and January. – Webmaster.

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