Tourism could steam ahead thanks to train visit

Popular: Crowds gather near The Flume as the steam train makes its way into Warrnambool on Saturday. Warrnambool City Council is keen to work with organisers to make the visits more regular. Picture: Christine Ansorge
Popular: Crowds gather near The Flume as the steam train makes its way into Warrnambool on Saturday. Warrnambool City Council is keen to work with organisers to make the visits more regular. Picture: Christine Ansorge

The long-awaited steam train journey to Warrnambool on the weekend will hopefully not be the last, the city’s head of tourism says.

Warrnambool City Council manager of visitor economy David McMahon said the steam train’s visit on Saturday, the first in 14 years, showed the potential tourism benefits from more regular visits.

“From a tourism point of view, we take these things very seriously and there is great potential in this,” he said.

Mr McMahon praised organiser Eddie White for making his dream of bringing the R711 steam engine to Warrnambool a reality and said the city council would now support organisers to bring the train to the city more often. 

“We’re looking at how we can work with Eddie White and Steamrail Victoria about how we can make it more regular,” Mr McMahon said.

“We will be working closely with how we can support them in their project.”

On Saturday, council staff travelled on the train and spread the word about Warrnambool, offering tours of city highlights.

A survey that went out to passengers will also help the council direct its tourism work.

Mr McMahon said the steam train trip was a “wonderful experience” for those on board, as well as the thousands of people who turned out in the south-west and beyond to see the locomotive in action.

​“Warrnambool was abuzz with the train,” he said.

Regular visits could be an added attraction over the colder months, Mr McMahon said, with the opportunity for the train to stay overnight and give visitors more time in the city.

“It’s another great way to get that mix of tourism,” he said.

We’re looking at how we can work with Eddie White and Steamrail Victoria about how we can make it more regular.

David McMahon

Organiser Eddie White has already expressed interest in future trips, telling The Standard “it definitely will happen again”.

Mr White said future trips might include another day trip, or a weekend trip offering short shuttle rides to locals.

The R711 pulling 1950s-era Spirit of Progress carriages brought 220 passengers to Warrnambool on Saturday, with tickets selling out within days.