Red Rattler train returns to railways

The historic train idling at the station. Picture: PARKER MCKENZIE.

By Parker McKenzie

The historic Red Rattler trains have hit the tracks for the first time in 18 years, with a trip from Flinders Street Station to Belgrave Station to mark the occasion.

After multiple attempts to revive the steam locomotive trains since they ceased operation in 2004, 8 March was the first time the tait train, known more commonly as the Red Rattlers, has made a trip with riders since.

Steamrail Victoria Safety Manager Kevin Clark said after 18 years it is fantastic to relaunch the tait train.

“The restored train will bring much happiness to those who travel on it. It will be a great opportunity for older travellers to reminisce about the past,” he said.

“Younger folk can experience an electric train from a bygone era.”

The first Red Rattler steam-hauled trains were commissioned in 1910. The train was also the first to operate on electric rail service in Australia when it ran between Sandringham and Essendon in 1919.

After arriving at Belgrave Station aboard the Red Rattler, La Trobe MP Jason Wood said it was important to thank all the volunteers who made the restoration possible.

“I remember catching the old Red Rattler trains and the blue ones when I was a schoolboy going to Ferntree Gully Technical School,” he said.

“This has been a long-term personal project, as I said I made an election commitment of $1 million dollars.”

Steamrail Victoria received a $1 million grant from the Federal Government to return a train to service, which was used on safety enhancements, an exterior repaint and additional carriages.

The project included collaboration between several key stakeholders, including the accredited operator V/Line, Metro Trains, the Department of Transport, RTBU union and Downer Group.

The refurbished Red Rattler train will operate on a limited basis throughout 2022 while additional carriages are returned to service.

The first chance for the public to ride on the train will be in May when shuttle trips from Berwick to Dandenong and Pakenham begin. The train will also connect with Puffing Billy when it arrives at Belgrave Station.

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