Steam Railways of the South Maitland Railways DVD
South Maitland Railways DVD



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Download the film script:

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This 26 minute documentary film was shot during 1982, in the last weeks of operation of an Australian steam railway system which had operated continuously for over 100 years. The South Maitland and Richmond Vale Railways were ‘industrial dinosaurs’ - relics from a bygone era.


Although somewhat dated in 1994, the film accurately portrays the end of an era, capturing activities which had been comonplace since the industrial revolution but which today, are only performed for special events.


The 2-8-0T 10 Class locomotives were built by Beyer and Peacock in Manchester, UK and a total of 14 units were supplied to the S.M.R. between 1912 and 1926. When this film was shot in 1983, all 14 were in steam. Two years later, less than seven were servicable.


1n 1980, each of the class had travelled between 1.6 and 2.0 million kilometers, even though the longest haul was only 38km!


Photos shown here were taken during the last weeks of operation by the film’s producer and serve as a reminder of days gone by.



Review of the film by Bob Driver, 1983:

“A few short decades ago, the fabulously rich Greta coal measures (stretching from Maitland to the foothills of the Broken Back Range beyond Cessnock), were Australia's major source of black coal.


This film traces the history of the privately owned railways that grew to serve this great coalfield, especially the South Maitland Railway, in its heyday, one of the Country's vital energy pipelines and later to become famous as the last commercial operator of steam locomotives in Australia.


From the discovery of coal on the coast at Newcastle and Professor Edgeworth David's survey of the Greta Seam, the film chronicles the initial railway construction, first to East Greta (Gillieston Heights) and on to Stanford Merthyr and Cessnock with many 'then and now' comparison scenes.


The story of the railway, its passenger trains, non-air rolling stock and signalling is interpersed with regional folklore including the Bellbird disaster and the great floods of the 1950's.


The legendary S.M.R. 10 Class locomotives are described in detail and the magic of steam captured in such scenes as machines being prepared for the road, a journey on the footplate and a magnificent sequence of double 10 Class in full eruption with a 1500 tonne export coal train on the Caledonia Bank!


The transition to an oil-based economy sounded the death knell for the South Maitland Coalfields and their decline and the eventual cessation of steam operations on the S.M.R. are accurately documented.


Attention is focussed on the importance of preserving this historic railway and its unique locomotive workshop as an operating tourist attraction. The final scene, looking over the cooling pond towards the colliery ruins at Abernethy are as haunting as they are tranquil, a powerful reminder that so little remains of such an important chapter in Australia's rise to industrial maturity.


A must for railway and mining historians, this film is an important educational document and a potential catalyst for a wide range of project activities at the school level.”



Bob Driver, Sydney, 1983.

Railway Photographer.

Author and Historian.


Download the film script:

As .PDF File    As a .rtf File


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