Family Fun Day, 23 May 2021

We all met in the car park at Target, Newton, around 9am on a glorious Autumn morning with our granddaughter Mia on board. We had plenty of time to mingle and have a chat before we departed on our adventure. It was very pleasing to see several new faces amongst the group with a mixture of little kids and big kids alike. After a quick briefing from Julie, we set off, in two separate groups, to navigate our way to the Morphett Vale Railway. We were “Tail End Charlie” in the second group of six vehicles, ably led by the Trevor and Barb B.

We made our way through the traffic until we reached Greenhill Road. From then on the driving was leisurely and very scenic. Greenhill Road is very narrow and winding but has great views out over the city of Adelaide. We saw many people out and about along the way including cyclists, bush walkers and plenty of other motorists making the most of the beautiful sunny day. The colours of the leaves on the trees were truly magnificent as we passed by Mount Lofty House and the Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens. Driving over the Freeway, we continued on through Ironbank and Cherry Gardens as we meandered our way through the Adelaide Hills to arrive at the Recreation Park at Morphett Vale around 11am.

Les and Eileen Butler had kindly arrived early in the morning and saved us an ideal spot right between the railway station and the playgrounds. Mia was so excited she didn’t know where to look or go first. The trains didn’t start running until 1pm so we headed straight to the playgrounds while some of the others went to the train station for the “Behind the Scenes” tour. By all accounts the tour of the workshop and the trains by the volunteers and the drivers was excellent.

MVRail was founded on 24th July 1977. After a short period, suitable land to establish the railway was found at Wilfred Taylor Reserve, Morphett Vale, and a lease negotiated with the Noarlunga City Council, (now City of Onkaparinga).  Basic facilities and a simple track layout were constructed initially. Over the past 10-15 years the railway has undergone rapid expansion with the construction of a Signal Cabin, numerous workshop extensions, and track and rolling stock improvements.

Today, MVRail boasts around 40+ items of rolling stock and around 2kms of new and refurbished track. Additionally, a semi-automatic, fully interlocked, colour-light signalling system has been installed; this is based upon prototype practice.  The rolling-stock fleet consists of 4 diesel locomotives, numerous maintenance wagons and a large passenger car fleet. MVRail does not own any steam locomotives.

Other highlights include the large lattice girder bridge, (known as Algebuckina Bridge), which crosses Christies Creek. This bridge is over 40 metres in length and is the highest (and longest) public miniature railway bridge in South Australia.  Additional features include Turntable and Traverser   facilities, clubrooms, workshops, two-storey Signal Cabin and railway station.

After a brief break for lunch, Mia was off to play soccer with two teenage girls, Lauren and Rachel, from our group and it didn’t take long for the other children to join in. The soccer game soon turned into building a treehouse, playing pirates and exploring the dry creek running through the middle of the train track enclosure.

Photos supplied by Les B, with thanks

The trains started to emerge as the track was set up by the drivers and helpers and the kids all came running at the first blast of the train whistle. Mia and Sharon had already completed two laps of the track before I had even packed away our picnic lunch and drinks. There were two small steam engines coupled together, pulling several carriages and a number of other conventional engines pulling up to ten carriages each.

The little kids and big kids alike, lined up for their rides with eager anticipation.  Each ride encompassed two laps of the quite extensive track including a large bridge over the creek and a small tunnel. There was even a koala sleeping high up in one of the trees overhanging the track on the far side, opposite the train station. I think Mia had at least 7 or 8 rides including at least one ride on all but one of the trains. The smell of the coal burning in the steam trains brought back many memories of time with my son, riding trains, many years ago. Unfortunately, one of the steam engines had a malfunction and was taken out of service before we could get on for a ride. Even so, the other trains were all great. There was even a replica of “The Overland” which I thought was very apt for our club visit.

By 4pm the trains had fallen silent and the kids had all started to run out of energy. A few minutes to pack up and then we were on our way home. Mia fell asleep before we made the Southern Expressway and slept all the way home. A great day was had by all, it truly was a “Family Fun Day”.

Kudos to our trip leaders, Julie and Trevor G for a great job organising the whole day.

Bruce C