CMRT member Tim Cocking shares some family memories of the train service from 50 years ago.

(Photo: Rail Motor at Strangways Station c1977)

My Grandmother, Eleanor Pengelly, was the Post Mistress for the Strangways post office in the 1950’s, 60’s + 70’s. She made regular use of the train service to/from Newstead and Castlemaine from her house at Strangways. I was able to visit by train with my parents, who lived in Melbourne, and when I was 10 years old, I was able to do the trip

unsupervised. I would be put on the Bendigo train at Spencer Street station, with a ticket and strict instructions to get off at Castlemaine.
For a boy (and his younger brother) this was a great adventure! After the big tunnel near Chewton, I would get off the “big” train at Castlemaine to be met by my Gran. We would then board the little single carriage “Rail Motor” along with perhaps a dozen other passengers for the trip from Castlemaine to Strangways.

I recall the little carriage as having an open layout with lots of windows and a blue and yellow paint job that matched the bigger VR trains. It traveled pretty slowly, giving ample opportunity to view the scenery, (which by the way was enjoyed by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth some years earlier!) The Rail Motor had a small driver cabin at the front, and some type of window allowed passengers to speak with the driver if they wished. This was very handy for my Gran, who knew all the drivers and asked them to stop the train at a railway crossing so we could get off the train close to her house! (The

Strangways station had long been disbanded.)

The Castlemaine-Maryborough service was scheduled a few times a day and meant that my Gran never needed a car. As I got older, I was able to cycle from Castlemaine to Strangways on the road.

The passenger train service on the Maryborough line was halted in the late 1970’s. I recall the goods trains running regularly in the 1980’s, with huge loads of wheat until they too were stopped. Now, so many decades later, it is with great anticipation we look forward to the rail trail taking shape so we can safely travel on that same track once again.

However we won’t be traveling via steam, as the Queen did in 1956, or a diesel Rail Motor as I recall in the 60’s and 70’s, but by a greenhouse-friendly mode of transport appropriate for the 2020’s!