The city's flagship tourist event, Hunter Valley Steamfest, has been postponed for the third consecutive year.
It was with regret that Maitland City Council announced the news yesterday, but it assured the Burton Automotive-sponsored event would be back bigger and better on July 30 and 31.
"After two years of COVID-related cancellations and postponements, we didn't foresee extreme weather forcing another postponement," Council's executive manager vibrant city Rachel MacLucas said.
In the news:
"We're hugely disappointed to be making this announcement to our faithful steam community and excited patrons."
The 35th anniversary event was tipped to attract tens of thousands of visitors to Maitland to enjoy an expanded program with diverse activities honouring the Hunter's rich steam and industrial heritage.
The recent wet weather has instigated a number of issues outside everyone's control.
These start with a significant embankment failure at Picton, south of Sydney, severely affecting the main tracks and branch line, isolating steam locomotives 3801 and 6029 - two of the key Hunter Valley Steamfest attractions.
"ARTC has worked tirelessly to find a solution to the situation," Ms MacLucas said. "However ARTC 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."
The 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 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," Ms MacLucas said.
"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 July 30 and 31, 2022."
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.
Hunter Valley Steamfest is council's largest and most successful event.
It celebrates Maitland's rich steam and industrial heritage and is a huge crowd-puller with the traditional Great Train Race one of the highlights on the Maitland events calendar.
Each year visitors travel to Maitland from all across Australia and abroad to celebrate Burton Automotive Hunter Valley Steamfest and take the opportunity to ride on one of the locomotives to locations such as Branxton, Paterson, the Port Waratah Coal Loop and Newcastle.
In 2018 the event attracted more than 60,000 over the two days it was held - a huge economic boost for the city.
Steamfest was established in 1986 following the closure of the last coal operated steam hauled freight service in Australia on the South Maitland Railway Line in 1983. The event pays homage to the end of an industrial era and the men and women involved in its operation.
Do you know you can subscribe to get full access to all of our stories? Subscribing supports us in our local news coverage. To subscribe, click here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.