Beloved Cockatoo Run rail journey to track through St George and the shire

The festive season will come early for vintage train buffs when the famous Cockatoo Run holds its Christmas in July excursion later this month.

After a two year hibernation the 42101 diesel locomotive recommenced its Cockatoo Run heritage train trips in February.

The famous Cockatoo Run has been running for 30 years from Central to the South Coast taking passengers nostalgic for the days of vintage train travel.

It has been run by a team of dedicated volunteers from heritage train operators East Coast Heritage Rail (formerly 3801 Limited) who restored and maintained the 42101 at their workshop the Eveleigh rail yard.

But in January 2017 they were locked out of Eveleigh and left homeless after negotiations broke down with Transport Heritage NSW.

Now safely housed at a siding in Maitland the 42101 is back on track and ready to take passengers.

"We've gotten through some pretty dark times with our Cockatoo Run train, but we've been lucky to resettle our train on a private siding and recommenced operations from February this year after a two year hibernation," Todd Rowling said.

"For a hard working team of volunteers, it's been a rollercoaster but fantastic to be back in operation and we're pretty excited to be running a large five car train roughly once a month through St George and Sutherland Shire.

"We've been amazed the train has sold out every month.

"The next trip is our Christmas in July run on Sunday, July 28.

"Each Cockatoo Run carries 250 passengers in five carriages all of a different style. There is a lounge car, economy car, saloon car and a buffet carriage. You can book whatever seat you want.

"It's a fairly jovial experience. We get die-hard train buffs, families and people who just like to travel.

"The train leaves Central just after and arrives in Hurstville approximately 9.30am and Sutherland approximately 9.45am.

"Then it will travel along the scenic South Coast line to Wollongong before turning right along the old freight line ascending 600-metres up the Illawarra Escarpment through rainforest and past waterfalls to Robertson and Moss Vale. "

On the way the train stops at Summit Tank for passengers to admire the view over Lake Illawarra and then visits the historic Southern Highland township of Robertson .

Passengers have the choice of hopping off there for a while or continuing onto Moss Vale before returning to Central Railway Station along the same route.

It returns back to Central by around 7pm.

Rail adventure: The Cockatoo Run stops at Wollongong station enroute to Summit Tank and Robertson.

Rail adventure: The Cockatoo Run stops at Wollongong station enroute to Summit Tank and Robertson.

What some Cockatoo Run passengers have said over the years:

  • Cockatoo Run is time out, time away from the rush of everyday life.
  • Time to relax and enjoy the scenery and conversations.
  • It is stepping off the planet for a day.
  • It is so different; many children have never been on a train before and it is nostalgia for the older generation.
  • It is a trip for the young at heart. If you are not young when you get on, you will be when you get off! It is such fun.
  • Two mothers observed that their young children were free to move around and enjoy the trip; they were not constrained in the family car seat belt. In addition, the children were perfectly safe.
  • Leaving the train at Summit Tank to walk to the lookout, gives the realisation of a journey that is really going somewhere; a sense of accomplishment.