The Australian Railway Historical Society (ACT Division) had its beginnings in 1966 when about 15 local enthusiasts met to consider the formation of a branch of the Society in the Australian Capital Territory.
The branch was formally inaugurated in May 1967 and – in spite of its small membership at the time – succeeded in organising a number of well-patronised rail tours prior to the withdrawal of steam locomotives from the southern districts of NSW in 1971.
The purchase of the Garratt steam locomotive 6029 by the Commonwealth Government (from the State-owned railway operator) in 1974 and its entrustment to the Society for operation on special trains, set the stage for the incorporation of the ACT branch as an independent division of the Australian Railway Historical Society and signalled our entry into the field of railway preservation.
The ACT Division of the ARHS was formed in Canberra in 1975.
The Society today
Today the Society is trustee of the Canberra Railway Museum Trust and as such, is dedicated to the study, preservation and operation of significant items of NSW railway history.
As a non-profit organisation, the Society does this by running heritage rail trips locally and long-distance train tours, and operating Canberra Railway Museum, Michelago Tourist Railway and a CountryLink Ticketing Agency.
The society also maintains a significant library archive collection.
Membership has grown over the years and today is around 260 financial members with a further 145 family members.
Today the Society owns or has custody of more than 100 items of rolling stock. These include seven steam locomotives, five diesel locomotives, four diesel rail motors (CPH 37) and an extensive fleet of vintage timber-bodied and modern steel sitting, sleeping and dining cars.
The Society’s Banquet Express theatre trains to stage shows such as ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in Melbourne and ‘Miss Saigon’ and ‘The Lion King’ in Sydney use our operational carriages and showcase the high standards of hospitality and catering skills provided by members.
The Society also operates the RailRoad Restaurant dinner trains, dinner/dance trains and picnic trains.
The Society is managed by a Council of 9 members, including President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and 5 ordinary councillors, elected annually from the membership.
Council has decentralised the day-to-day management of the Society by appointing managers for such activities as the Michelago Tourist Railway, track maintenance and track vehicles, training and certification, Canberra Railway Museum and passenger services.