New steam loco ahead

Victorian Goldfields Railway V499 project coordinator Jonathan Newton with the new (green) steam locomotive cab at Maldon's railway compound.

Victorian Goldfields Railway V499 project coordinator Jonathan Newton with the new (green) steam locomotive cab at Maldon's railway compound.

Moves by Castlemaine's Victorian Goldfields Railway to build Victoria's first new steam locomotive since the 1950s are gaining significant momentum.

Already the cab for the planned new tourist loco has been built and in recent days a $3000 crowd-funding campaign has hit its target enabling the movers and shakers at VGR to move on to the bold next stage - construction of the smoke box.

The project is more than chuffing along - it's gaining interest and support from across Australia and overseas, V499 project coordinator with VGR, Jonathan Newton, says.

The V499 refers to the class of loco that's being built with metal fabrication for the smoke box to be done in Castlemaine and work on that expected to start next month.

Jonathan says the project is being driven by a significant upsurge in patronage of the vintage tourism rail attraction that enables passengers to travel in yesteryear style between Castlemaine and Maldon.

"Over the past few years we've experienced substantial growth here at the railway. Last year we were running nine-carriage trains which we've never done before," Jonathan says.

"That takes up all the Castlemaine platform and we were still saying to people on the platform 'sorry but we're full'. The railway's growing at an astronomical rate."

Admittedly, building an entire new steam loco is a costly (we're talking anywhere up to $5 million) and long-haul project, with an ultimate completion date not expected for several years, but interesting options for speeding up its financing include selling shares.

"It really is long-term thinking but we've got no doubt that it will happen," Jonathan says.

"We're thinking of doing a share launch option some time in the future when people can actually buy a share in the engine.

"Nothing to this scale has been built for well over half a century. It's never been done in this country before but it's starting to attract a lot of interest.

"The more that we keep progressing with the project, more and more people are coming on board."