The historic Cockatoo Run train journey is out of action after the volunteer group that runs it was locked out of their base in the railway sheds at Redfern.
The vintage trains are a familiar sight to the people of the Illawarra as they make their way between Sydney and Wollongong, particularly the scenic “Cockatoo Run” trip up to the Southern Highlands.
But the volunteer charity group that runs it, called 3801 Ltd, has now been locked out by bureaucrats who changed the locks on the Large Erecting Shop (LES) at the Eveleigh rail yards on February 1.
It’s an impossible position for 3801 Ltd spokesman John Brown, who said the company, which receives no public funding, would likely face liquidation if it can’t run its journeys.
“There is nowhere for us to go at all,” he said.
“We’re prepared to work with Transport for NSW and Transport Heritage NSW – but it seems every time there’s an impediment put in place.”
The charity had been renting the LES shed for decades, paying a nominal rent of $38.01 per year. Transport for NSW wanted the shed to be shared by different groups and 3801 Ltd was willing to sign a new lease to this effect.
But the department insisted they move their carriages and equipment out first – before negotiating a new deal. And 3801 Ltd has nowhere to go to store its assets.
“If we take everything out of the shed, where do we put it?” Mr Brown said.
“Why can’t they put a contract in place that shows how we can use the LES?”
For the volunteers who maintain and run the rolling stock, it means they can’t get in to the shed without specific permission, accompanied by a Transport for NSW officer.
Mr Brown, a long-time rail worker, said it was an “unconscionable” situation.
“We would like to have a real fair go so we can work with other people,” he said.
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the department had “offered support” to assist 3801 Ltd to relocate to an alternative site.
“However, as with other private businesses, the overall responsibility for relocating to another site lies with 3801 Ltd,” she said.
“We are exploring options for the LES that would allow heritage organisations to use the facility for short term stabling and provisioning for tourist train trips operating out of Central and other metropolitan stations.
“3801 Ltd would be welcome to use the facility under these terms, however the work required to the LES to make it a shared user facility cannot happen until 3801 Ltd’s assets are removed.”
Correction: The 3801 locomotive, after which the volunteer group was named, is not still operated by 3801 Ltd.
It is not locked up in the LES at Eveleigh, as an earlier version of this story said.
The 3801 locomotive was reclaimed from 3801 Ltd in 2006 and is in the hands of Transport Heritage NSW. The Cockatoo Run has been operated using other locomotives.
Cockatoo Run: Labor takes saga of rail charity group 3801 Ltd into parliament
The NSW Government will have to answer how a rail charity group has been locked out of its base, with the issue set for an airing in Question Time next week.
The group 3801 Ltd, which has operated the Cockatoo Run historic train journey for decades, has been evicted by Transport For NSW from its base in the Large Erecting Shed at Eveleigh.
Labor’s shadow minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park said this was “unacceptable” and called on the Transport Minister to intervene.
“The heritage train rolling along the South Coast Line is a familiar sound and is a popular activity for locals and tourists,” he said.
“Should this matter not be resolved quickly we risk losing this for good.”
Yesterday’s Mercury reported that the group operated the 3801 locomotive. This is incorrect; the 3801 engine was taken back by the Government in 2006.