Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest’s 35th Anniversary rescheduled until July

It is with regret that Maitland City Council announces the postponement of Hunter Valley Steamfest until 30 and31 July 2022 as a result of recent and ongoing weather events.

‘After two years of COVID related cancellations and postponements, we didn’t foresee extreme weather forcing another postponement. We’re hugely disappointed to be making this announcement to our faithful steam community and excited patrons,’ says Rachel MacLucas, Executive Manager Vibrant City.

The recent wet weather has instigated a number of issues outside everyone’s control, starting with a significant embankment failure at Picton, south of Sydney, severely affecting the main tracks and branch line, isolating steam locomotives 3801 and 6029, which were two of the key attractions for this event.

ARTC has worked tirelessly to find a solution to the situation however, have now confirmed that the extensive works required to repair the heritage branch line can’t be completed in time for the delivery of the locomotives for Steamfest.

‘We’re extremely thankful to ARTC for their ongoing commitment to Steamfest. They’ve tried everything to resolve this in time, and we are very proud to have them as our rail partner for this event. We also want to thank Transport Heritage NSW for their support of Steamfest. We know they have exhausted all avenues to try and get to Maitland for the event and they share our disappointment with this decision’ said Ms MacLucas.

The recent wet weather has also impacted the ability to use two of the key sites that are integral to Steamfest, the Rally Ground, which features traction and portable engine displays, vintage machinery, ARTC display, maker and merchant markets and more as well as Maitland Park, home to the enormously popular Show ‘n’ Shine.

Council is committed to producing a quality event for our 35th anniversary of Steamfest. However, the unavailability of our locomotives and the recent wet weather impacting the grounds and set up of other popular program elements means that we can’t deliver the full Steamfest experience for our patrons at this time.’

‘We understand everyone will be disappointed because we are too. We are now looking to the future, and will continue planning with our naming rights partner, Burton Automotive, for a spectacular anniversary event on 30 and 31 July 2022,’ said Ms MacLucas.Ticket holders for trains will be contacted in the coming days with options to transfer their tickets to the rescheduled date or obtain a refund.

Beloved Loco Back on Track for Steamfest


In huge news for Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest, Locomotive 3801 will be rolling into Maitland Station for Steamfest 2020, which will be held on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April.

3801, which is arguably one of the most loved locos in Australia, attended Steamfest for the first time back in 1987. 3801 also took out the Great Train Race that year and won a further eight races over following 20 years. The last time 3801 was part of Steamfest was in 2007 and now, after being inactive for 13 years, it has been restored to its former glory and will be operating multiple journeys over the two days of Steamfest.

3801 will be joined by the largest operating locomotive in the Southern Hemisphere and event favourite 6029, another loco boasting a rich history in the Newcastle area. The ‘Garratt’ was last at Steamfest in 2018 and where it won the Great Train Race so the crew will be hoping to get the job done again.

The draft Steamfest rail timetable is now available and tickets will be going on sale soon.

As well as all the action at the Maitland Station Precinct and on the railway tracks, the Steamfest Rally Ground will be teeming with an impressive display of steam traction and portable engine, a mini railway and more. The ever popular Show ‘n’ Shine will also return to Maitland Park on the Sunday with over 400 hot rods, classic and show cars on display.

Local Students Visit Steam Shed

For the first time, a group of school students and teachers have taken a tour of the Steam Shed on The Rally Ground.

Linuwel School students and teachers met members of the Maitland Steam & Antique Machinery Association who gave them an overview of the shed, showed off some portable and traction engines, taught them about the use of steam and they even took part in a steam quiz before heading back to school.

During the tour, the students got to see portable engines, including the Council owned 1890 Marshall, a chart cutter, the Thorney Croft truck, a fire engine and a range of boilers.

The students, one of which is the youngest member of the Maitland Steam and Antique Machinery Association, are currently studying Industrial Education at school and found it great getting first hand experience and seeing how things work.

For enquiries about having your school visit the Steam Shed, please contact the events team at Maitland City Council on [email protected].

Family Ties at Steamfest

Charlie, his Pop Ian, and the City of Maitland Pipes and Drums performed at Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest last month.

Ian Innes moved to Australia from Scotland over 50 years ago to play bagpipes. He is now the Pipe Major in the City of Maitland Pipes and Drums and shares the Scottish Culture with the local community.

The band practices each Friday evening and are always looking for young members. Four years ago, Ian thought his seven year old grandson, Charlie, might like to come along to a performance with him.

When asked how Ian got Charlie involved, he said ‘We had a small kilt, and I said “Well Pop is playing today if you want to come along, so we got him dressed up in a white shirt and a kilt, and he’s learning to be a drum major”‘.

Charlie was a natural and became the youngest drum major in the country. It seems the rest was history because Charlie, now 11, loves to perform with his Pop and their new aim is to get his six year old sister Olivia involved.

‘I just like being part of it and having a role’, Charlie said.

The grandfather and grandson duo will be soon heading off the Drum Majors Competition in Aberdeen in July with Charlie competing and Ian cheering him on.

If your community group would like to get involved with Steamfest in 2020, please email [email protected]

A Celebration of the Steam Era at The Rally Ground

When you’re at Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest this year, make sure you head on down to the Rally Ground, a bustling hive of activity which celebrates and showcases engineering ingenuity across a range of machinery from the steam era.

You’ll find entertainment for the whole family including Sanjex Seratti with his vintage games and penny farthing demonstrations. Sanjex is keen to pass on his passion of the steam era, saying “I’m looking forward to passing on a bit of history about the penny farthing and sharing the old ways and an appreciation of the old steam technology”.

At the Rally Ground you’ll also find wood carving demonstrations by Chainsaw Artist Mark Ray and workshops with Steampunk Sydney where you’ll have the opportunity to pose for a photo or hear about the history of Steampunk.

Brought together by Maitland Steam and Antique Machinery Association, the Rally Ground features one of Australia’s largest collections of portable engines, traction engines and vintage farming equipment.

John Preston’s Sooty

You’ll be amazed at the endless display of portable and traction engines including old favourite Sooty. Listen to a steam powered radio or buy a fresh hot cob of corn cooked by steam power.

Mini portable designed and built by Simon Pritchard

The Rally Ground also features a dedicated kids area with coal shoveling, miniature railway rides and the trackless train to get you from one end of the Rally Ground to the other.

Entry fee to the Rally Ground is $2, children under 16 years are free of charge. Please note that some activities also incur charges.

View the full Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest program here.

Local Projects to Benefit From Green Steam Funding

The 2019 recipients of Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest’s Green Steam funding are Maitland Public School and Earthcare Park Landcare Group.

Maitland Public School will put the funds towards their Gardening Club and green enterprises which aim to assist students to develop their social skills and appreciation of the environment. Now in its second year, the Gardening Club allows students to research crops and work as a team to plant, weed, feed and harvest.

Landcare Group will use the funds to continue their restoration work at Earthcare Park including the reintroduction of a wide variety of indigenous grasses.

Green Steam is an initiative where $2.00 from every ticket sold helps support local environmental recovery programs, renewable energy projects and greening initiatives to assist in offsetting the carbon emissions produced by the steam operations of Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest.

Each year expressions of interest are sought from non-profit organisations seeking investments in their programs and projects which improve the natural environment.


Tiger Moth Pilot Phil Unicomb Tells Us Why He Loves Steamfest

Ever wondered who is in the air, flying high and racing against the steam locomotives in Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest’s Great Train Race? Well wonder no more, because we were lucky enough to have a chat to the man behind the controls, Phil Unicomb.

With a grin from ear to ear, the 2019 Tiger Moth Pilot, Phil Unicomb greets his visitors to Royal Newcastle Aero Club (RNAC) HQ in Rutherford with passion and enthusiasm, and it’s instantly apparent that he adores his job.

A seasoned pilot, Phil has been heavily involved with RNAC since 1978 where he is now the Chief Flying Instructor. When the idea of flying a Tiger Moth in the Great Train Race at Steamfest was presented to Phil many years ago, he was immediately on board.

‘Through my involvement with old aeroplanes and being a real steam enthusiast, the two went together, so that’s why I really like to do it’.

‘I’m a real Steamhead, I love steam!’

In 2018 the Tiger Moth which was to be flown by fellow pilot Charlotte Zeederberg was unable to race due to high winds, so Phil is hoping for fair weather this year.

When asked if he thought he could edge out the locos to fly over the finish line in 1st place, Phil said that the weather plays an important part in the race.

‘If we get the moderate Westerly, the locomotives have the advantage because I’m pushing into the wind,’ he said.

The Great Train Race will take place on Sunday 14 April as Phil and the Tiger Moth go head to head with locomotives 3265 and 3526.

A number of unique journeys on locomotives 3265 and 3526 will be available across the Steamfest weekend, in addition to journeys on the ever popular Tin Hare and Red Rattler diesels.

There are a limited number of seats still available on the Great Train Race. To purchase tickets on the Great Train Race and all Steamfest journeys click here.

First female pilot takes control of Tiger Moth at Steamfest

In exciting news for Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest, there will be a fresh face piloting the hugely popular Tiger Moth aeroplane that will go head to head with the two steam locos in Sunday’s Great Train Race.

Charlotte Zeederberg, who has been flying for 12 years, will be the first woman to take up the position of lead pilot at the festival and she’ll also be in with a real shot when it comes time for the big race.

Born in South Africa, Charlotte moved to Australia 10 years ago with her husband Brian, also an accomplished Tiger Moth pilot. The pair fly the vintage planes out of Luskintyre Airfield and Charlotte’s passion for flight resulted in her coming second in the Great Tiger Moth Air Race in 2014, in a field of 38 pilotss.

‘While they don’t go anywhere fast, they are still great fun to fly. They’re the Harley Davidsons of the sky. Phil Unicomb has done a great job as the pilot in the past and I hope to pick up where he left off. I’m just excited to try something completely different and that’s one of the things I love about flying, how things are never the same’.

Sunday’s Great Train Race will pit the Tiger Moth against locomotives 3642 and ‘The Garratt’ 6029 in a dash from Hanbury Junction to Maitland, with the event starting at approximately 10.20am.

‘In regards to me being the first female to do it, I guess I haven’t thought about that too much’, Charlotte says.

‘I’ve flown for so long with the guys in Luskintyre and I guess I consider myself no different to anyone else. I am just overjoyed to be asked to do this and it’s very exciting for me’

Along with the Great Train Race, 3642 and The Garratt will be running journeys over both days and they’ll be joined by the popular Tin Hare and the Red Rattler diesels.

There will also be an array of traction and portable engines, and antique machinery on the Rally Ground, hundreds of cars on display at Sunday’s Show ‘n’ Shine in Maitland Park, as well as entertainment across the weekend including, live music, amusement rides, kids’ activities, and more than 100 food and market stalls.

Get tickets for journeys at www.steamfest.com.au/journeys/