Puffing Billy Railway honours “Change Makers” during Volunteer Week

By Our Reporter
Left image: Sarah, a volunteer at Puffing Billy Railway; Right image: Don and Dash after the morning track patrol // Photos supplied by Puffing Billy Railway

In celebration of National Volunteer Week 2023, Puffing Billy Railway, a cherished heritage steam railway with a rich history spanning over 120 years, is paying tribute to its committed volunteers who have played a significant role in the railway’s development over time.

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme of “Change Makers” is particularly fitting for Puffing Billy Railway, which has seen significant changes throughout its long history. From its humble beginnings as a means of transporting goods and people to the thriving tourism attraction it is today, Puffing Billy Railway owes much of its success to the tireless efforts of its volunteers.

Over 300 dedicated volunteers currently work on the railway, performing a wide range of tasks, including operating the steam locomotives, maintaining the tracks, and providing an unforgettable customer service to visitors. Their passion and commitment have helped to preserve the railway’s heritage and promote tourism in the region, a press release said.

“Our wonderful volunteers have played a crucial role in the success Puffing Billy Railway has achieved, having worked tirelessly to ensure the railway remains a thriving attraction for visitors from around the world,” said Peter Abbott, CEO of Puffing Billy Railway. “Their dedication and hard work have made a significant impact on the railway’s history and its future.”

One such volunteer is Sarah, who has been part of Puffing Billy Railway for almost a year. Her journey began as an Engine Cleaner and Wednesday night workshop member, and since then, she has taken advantage of the many different opportunities available to her.

Sarah’s ultimate goal is to drive a steam train, in between completing the railway’s safe working course and starting an apprenticeship to become a qualified fitter; the first female fitter for Puffing Billy Railway. Despite her fulltime apprenticeship, Sarah still volunteers one day a week in a safeworker trainee capacity as a guard and is always looking for ways to expand her knowledge and skills.

“Being around staff and volunteers who are so passionate about what they do is infectious, and I have found everyone very approachable and happy to share their knowledge, skills, and experience with me. To be part of a heritage railway and see the hard work and dedication everyone puts into getting the trains running is something to be seen. There are so many different roles that all play a part in getting train services out for people to enjoy and I am so happy to be a part of the team,” said Sarah.

Don and Dash are two dedicated volunteers who have been working together for 11 years as Track Patrol volunteers. They meet up every Friday morning at 6.30am in Belgrave to ensure the tracks are clear for the day’s train services and both love their role.

Dash has always had a passion for steam engines and loves to explore local railways whenever he travels. Volunteering at Puffing Billy Railway provides a great social outlet for Dash while Don relishes the serenity of the hills, which is in stark contrast to his previous corporate life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Don and Dash continued to communicate every Friday, despite being unable to physically volunteer together. They are true friends for life, thanks to their shared passion for volunteering.

“We think we have one of the best roles on the railway. We get to encounter all kinds of wildlife and be in the serenity of the hills. Volunteering helps to keep our brains active and we just love the early mornings in the hills!” said Don and Dash.

“We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and hard work of our volunteers, who are truly the change makers of Puffing Billy Railway,” said Peter Abbott. “We invite everyone to join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week and recognising the contributions of these dedicated individuals.”

For more information about volunteering at Puffing Billy Railway or to learn more about the railway’s history and experiences, visit www.puffingbilly.com.au.

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