SteamRanger Heritage Railway operates a number of different heritage steam and diesel hauled tourist trains between Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills, up over the crest of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, down to Strathalbyn and on through the coastal holiday towns of Goolwa and Port Elliot to the tourist resort town of Victor Harbor.
Trains operate on up to 140 days a year and are manned by volunteers from the Australian Railway Historical Society, who are also responsible for maintenance of the rail line and the heritage locomotives and carriages.
The most popular services are…..
The Cockle Train
COVID UPDATE JUNE 2020 – As a result of capacity restrictions on indoor seated attractions, the Cockle Train will have a maximum of 80 passengers on each journey, with tickets only available from Goolwa or Victor Harbor ticket offices prior to departure (no advance or online bookings available). Due to these limitations, trains will not service Port Elliot or Middleton until further notice.
Commences its run each day at Goolwa station, in the historic Wharf Precinct alongside the River Murray. After crossing the main Goolwa to Victor road the line heads off across the plains to Middleton, picking up or dropping off passengers on request, and then to Port Elliot where it reaches the Encounter Bay coast. The station here is operated by the local National Trust and features a small historical museum.
After leaving Port Elliot the train climbs to the top of the coastal cliffs and passengers then experiemce some of the most picturesque coastal scenery on the Fleurieu Peninsula, with nothing separating you from the beach below and a perfect view of the Southern Ocean – in winter the home of Southern Right Whale
After a 30 minute journey the train edges into Victor Harbor station, right in the centre of the town and surrounded with its iconic pine trees. Here, the locomotive is detached from the carriages and turned on our specially retained 30m long electric turntable before rejoining the carriages for the return journey to Goolwa.
The number of trains operated varies through the year. The Cockle train does not have reserved seats, passengers can buy tickets at any of our stations for one-way journeys in either direction along the line or for a bargain priced round trip. Trains wait for about 30 minutes at both Goolwa and Victor and roundtrip passengers can extend this period by returning on a later train.
For more information, current ticket prices and The Cockle Train Timetable visit www.steamrangerheritagerailway.org/our-trains/cockle-train
The Southern Encounter
Operates on the first and third Sundays from June until the end of November. The journey commences from Mount Barker station – a pleasant 20 minute drive from Adelaide along the South Eastern Freeway.
Leaving Mt Barker mid morning, the train first climbs up to the crest of the line and then winds down the eastern escarpment of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, passing through several long abandoned station sites which bear testimony to the importance of this branch line a century ago. The journey then continues southwards across the plains and well away from the main road native bushland unfolds from your carriage window and kangaroos and other animals might be seen trying to keep pace with the locomotive! Then its across the towering Currency Creek viaduct and on to Goolwa.
At Goolwa, the train draws alongside the river wharf and passengers alighting here have over four hours to explore local attractions, have lunch on the riverside, visit the Steam Exchange Brewery in the old goods shed or take a short river cruise.
Beyond Goolwa the train then meanders westwards to the picturesque holiday settlement of Port Elliot before cresting the cliffs where passengers can experiemce some of the most picturesque coastal scenery in the State, with nothing separating you from the beach below and a perfect view of the Southern Ocean – in winter the home of Southern Right Whale.
Then into Victor Harbor for a three hour stopover before jumping on again for the return trip.
KiA Dad Tim recently took his family of 3 kids on the Steamranger.
Here are his top tips for taking the family
Pack Snacks When you think you have enough, pack 25% more. It’s the better part of 3hrs each way with 3hrs stop over at Victor.
Consider taking an iPad and a portable charger. Most kids I saw on the train had the same. We actually didn’t use them at all on the way there (exploring the carriages was really fun), but the ride home everyone was knackered and ready for rest. It was also dark the last 90mins of the trip.
Have a plan for the Victor stop off. I arranged to catch up with family and check out the new playground. There’s loads of options. Visit the Victor Harbor Whale Centre, Granite Island or grab some fish and chips and have a play at the brand new GT Fisher Playground
It’s comfortable, spacious enough and staff were fantastic, collecting rubbish every half hour or so and explaining train related things as we went along.
A short journey on board a heritage ‘Redhen’ railcar, or behind heritage steam locomotive 621 or Rx207 from Mt Barker to Strathalbyn and return.
The journey commences from Mount Barker station – a pleasant 20 minute drive from Adelaide along the South Eastern Freeway.
Leaving Mt Barker mid morning, the train first climbs up to the crest of the line and then winds down the eastern escarpment of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, passing through several long abandoned station sites which bear testimony to the importance of this branch line a century ago.
Crossing the Angas River you then enter the historic township of Strathalbyn where many Scottish migrants settled in the early 1800s, influencing the early architecture which is still evident today. The town is well worth a visit to explore its well stocked antique shops and cafes.
The return train leaves Strathalbyn at around 1.30pm for its climb back up the ranges to Mt Barker , arriving home around 2.20pm.
For more information, current ticket prices and The Southern Encounter Train Timetable visit www.steamrangerheritagerailway.org/our-trains/the-southern-encounter