Jenolan Caves

Toot! Toot! All Aboard for Jenolan Caves!

July 8, 2015

The Caves Express - historic blue mountains train carriage has been restored.Many visitors on their way to Jenolan Caves pass through the sometimes bustling, sometimes sleepy, villages and towns of the Blue Mountains. The settlement of Valley Heights today is one such sleepy village.

Caves Express set speed record for mountain steam train.

But this is a far cry from its status for most of the 20th century.  It was the home of a busy Railway Depot, which housed up to ten steam locomotives and employed 80 men at its peak.  In 1929 it witnessed a new arrival on the tracks with an express service which was to become a flagship of the railway fleet for many years.

The 'Caves Express' which began operations between Sydney and Mount Victoria in that year was targeted at the Blue Mountains tourist market.  The growing popularity of the motor car and vast improvements to road conditions had challenged the supremacy of train travel.  Train schedules were dramatically speeded up with the use of limited-stop running and a lightweight train of only 5 American suburban carriages. 

In its heyday, the Caves Express was claimed to be the fastest steam mountain express train in the world, reaching speeds of up to 69.25 miles per hour (see Canberra Times, May 27,1933). 

The carriages were adapted for tourist use by enclosing the end platforms, grouping seats in settings of 4 either side of an aisle and adding buffet facilities.  The train was hauled by specially assigned superheated C32 class locomotives. 

After the 2 1/2 hour journey from Central to Mount Victoria, passengers could enjoy a meal at the Tea Rooms (which now house a remarkable collection of local memorabilia) prior to the, at times, perilous journey by motor coach down to the Caves!

Thus a new era was born and a vital link to the future success of Caves House at Jenolan was forged.  

One of the carriages is First Class, with buffet facilities, and has been superbly restored to its former glory.  Numbered RBR 1049, it has been carefully repainted in colours of Garter Blue and Golden Yellow as when in service from 1938 onwards.  It is interesting to note that because any photos of the train were in black and white only, the carriage's original colours had to wait to be revealed during the restoration process.  Paint chips were carefully colour matched as close as possible to the original colours.

The restoration of this carriage involved many hours of research.  Assisted by Jennifer Edmunds, project lead, Rod Hawkes, invested hundreds of hours of physical labour and offsite research to complete the project.  Detailed plans of the original carriage were available from NSW State Rail archives.

This famous buffet carriage was recently nominated for a National Trust award, and this highly regarded masterpiece of a bygone era is on display and open for inspection at the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum (open on 2nd and 4th Sundays every month except May and December). 

See their website for details.  

















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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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