Get set to take a journey back in time in the Southern Highlands.
Rare historic steam and diesel trains will set out on a journey through NSW and Victoria from May 30 to June 30 and they will passing through the Highlands on the first leg of the journey.
Three historic steam and diesel trains will depart Sydney Central at 5.17am on May 30.
The 1966-built diesel locomotive 42103 hauling heritage carriages will pass through Bowral at 8.16am and Bundanoon at 8.37am on the same day.
It will be the first stage of one one of the rarest displays of heritage rolling stock in Australia.
Steam trains rarely travel long distance in Australia and some sections of the planned route have not seen steam trains in many years and, in some cases, decades. In addition, some country lines on the itinerary rarely carry passenger trains anymore.
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Cruise Express, an Australian travel agency specialising in rail and cruise holidays, has chartered the historic locomotive and carriages as part of a unique, six-day 'Great Southern Loop' rail tour from Sydney to Melbourne and return via Echuca, Deniliquin, Parkes, Orange and Bathurst.
More than 150 passengers will join the nostalgic journey back in time but locals along the route across two states can also join in the spectacle as the rare trains pass through.
Other stops and highlights of the journey are:
- May 30 - Arrive Goulburn 9.20am and depart 9.28am with steam locomotive 5917, built in 1952 and back on rails after a two-year overhaul, travelling to Junee. Passing Yass 10.54am and Cootamundra 1.14pm
- Steam train 5917 arrives Junee 2.03pm, departs 2.44pm by 42103 diesel loco via Wagga Wagga (3.15pm) to Albury, arriving 5.02pm
- May 31 - Depart Albury 9.30am, with passengers this time riding the iconic Spirit of Progress train to Melbourne. The former express train served the Melbourne-Sydney route from 1937 to 1986. Heritage locomotives will haul the original carriages including compartment, kiosk and parlor cars. Passing Wangaratta 10.27am, Benalla 10.55am and Seymour at 11.56am, arriving Melbourne 2.05pm.
- June 1 - Depart Melbourne Southern Cross 5.45am, with the giant, blue, steam locomotive R711, built in 1952, taking heritage cars to Seymour, arriving 7.30am and departing 9.10am by steam again to Toolamba (10.23am) and Echuca, arriving 1150am and departing 3.30pm after a paddle steamer cruise on the Murray River.
- Arrive Deniliquin by R711 steam loco at 5.30pm - the first time the route from Echuca has seen steam in 17 years
- June 3 - After a day of local touring, passengers will depart Griffith at 7am on diesel 42103, bound for Narrandera (8am) and Junee (9.57am). Depart Junee 11.30am by steam train 5917 via the heritage-listed Bethungra Spiral that loops up and over itself, Cootamundra at 12.30pm and, arriving Parkes 4.33pm.
- June 4 - Depart Parkes by steam train 5917 at 7.42am, via Orange (arr 10.42am, dep 11.37am), Bathurst (arr 1.13pm, dep 2.27pm) and Lithgow (4.23pm) - the first time in 15 years a steam train has journeyed on the route
- Depart Lithgow by diesel loco 42103 at 5.10pm, via Katoomba 6.05pm, arriving Sydney Central approx. 8.37pm
All times are approximate and subject to change and other train movements.
Cruise Express Managing Director, Meg Hill, said "there's growing interest in great old trains and the magic of slow travel and we've been running sell-out tours around Australia featuring historic trains for the past three years."
"As life speeds up, more of us want to slow down and return to simpler, more graceful times and these beautiful old trains offer us an opportunity to step back in time for a few days to savour the romance and excitement of old steam and diesel locomotives and the traditional, period carriages that follow them," she said.
"Even if people see and hear these great old trains thunder past their train, they can experience a little of that nostalgia and charm."
For more information on heritage rail tours www.cruiseexpress.com.au or call 1300 766 537.