Scott McGregor, a former actor and TV star who now runs rail tours throughout Australia, Europe and Asia, said as a kid his childhood memories were of the biggest locomotives ever built rumbling past the family farm just out of Orange.
And then on the odd afternoons in town he could go down to the railway station and watch double-headed Garrets, which to any non-railway fan were about as massive as the industrial revolution ever built.
He watched them roll across Summer Street, blocking the traffic for 20 minutes, making the ground shake and flattening a penny to the size of a pancake because they were both 200 tons.
“I put pennies on the line and I’ve still got them in the cupboard,” Mr McGregor said.
“That’s pretty inspiring and there’s a whole generation of boys like me who wanted to be train drivers.”
Even after spending years on television, including a number of years on ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and as the host of ‘Room for Improvement’, Mr McGregor was able to build up and restore his own collection of old rail cars at Mudgee.
His father was the manager of the Central Western Daily and in the 1960s there were lots of railway strikes, most of which seemed to fall on a Monday.
To get the newspapers delivered he had to throw everything in the back of a station wagon and drive around little country towns like Stuart Town, Mumbil, Euchareena, Manildra, Spring Hill, Millthorpe and Blayney.
“That pressed on me the importance of the railways as a lifeline to all these communities so without the trains, these people didn’t get their paper,” Mr McGregor said.
“Trains were a very important part of community life.
“I thought trains had a major role then and I still do.”
Orange Rail Action Group chairman Neil Jones said new trains were planned for country centres like Orange to replace the ageing XPTs.
“We don’t know what trains we’re getting yet but we’ve been promised the entire new regional fleet will allow the opportunity to incorporate modern comfortable benefits that were not available in 1982 when the first XPT arrived on our tracks,” Mr Jones said.
“So rail travel in the future will underpin the growth of regional tourism, business development and access to health and education services.
“It will be the way to go.”
The average distance travelled by regional passengers is 356 kilometres a journey, and each year passengers take more than 38 million journeys.
Judging by the great success Scott McGregor has with his local and international rail tours, this love of rail travel is widely shared in the community.