Hunter Valley Steamfest 2017 success

Massive crowds flocked to Maitland over the weekend for the country’s biggest celebration of mechanical heritage – Steamfest.

More than 50,000 people from across the region and beyond turned out for the 31st anniversary of the event.

Among the hundreds of immaculate muscle cars, clunking vintage machinery and old-world technology were the thundering steam-powered locomotives that give the event its name.

Maitland City Council events coordinator Adam Franks said crowd numbers were high on Saturday thanks to the warm weather and swelled again on Sunday in preparation for the Great Train Race.

“The numbers really picked up in the morning for the race,” Mr Franks said.

“There was a bit of a mixture, lots of locals but plenty of people from Sydney and even interstate. “We even had a few from the US and UK stop in to say hello.”

The race, which pitted a vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane against two steam locomotives, saw crowds line the railway overpasses into Maitland.

The high-powered locomotives tore past the stations but, in the end, the sunshine-yellow Tiger Moth took the chequered flag.

Thousands of passengers boarded the trains for runs up the Valley. Locomotive 3642, built in 1926, ferried crowds up to historic Paterson, belching steam and soot as it wound through the green countryside.

Mr Franks said for the youngest in the crowds it was a new experience, but for the parents and grandparents it was like stepping into a memory.

“The type of people you get at the event grew up with this stuff,” he said.

“But now they’re parents or grandparents their kids are interested in it. It just cuts across the generations and people all feel connected to it.”

Mr Franks said last year’s Steamfest, the 30th anniversary of the event, was a tough act to follow. 

“For us it was about continuing that momentum from last year,” he said.

“We really wanted to emphasise the rally ground with the historic machinery, live blacksmithing, cooking and sheep shearers.”

Almost 400 classic cars and hotrods were on display in Maitland Park for the Show N Shine, which Mr Franks said ended up being one of the more popular attractions.