The success of the vintage train tours though the region has inspired a renewed push to get the 'Riverina Express' back on the rails for tourist journeys and special events.
The not-for-profit rail heritage organisation Lachlan Valley Railway is looking to secure grant funding so it can restore a DEB Set diesel train at Junee and run it across the Riverina.
Railway member and Junee resident Ross Jackson said there was a "distinct lack of heritage rail tourism in the Riverina".
"For instance, there's the Puffing Billy outside Melbourne on its own network but here we have an incredibly vast rail network and we're not captive to anywhere as long as we have the rolling stock to do it," he said.
"The concept for the Riverina Express is to use ex-NSW Railway cars that are designed for long-distance comfort and buffets, and to reintroduce those and operate them around the Riverina to support local events and tourism ventures.
"What I find is that a lot of people say 'that's a great idea and we should do that' but not a lot of people put written support behind it and when you are applying for grants, having a lot of support sitting behind it works really well as it shows strong community support."
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The DEB Sets carried passengers on the Riverina Express from Sydney to Albury and Griffith from 1973 until 1982, when both the service and and the trains were replaced with the current XPT providing TrainLink services between Sydney and Melbourne.
Mr Jackson said a revived Riverina Express could provide services for events such as the Henty Field Days, race meets at Wagga and Albury and Leeton's Art Deco Festival.
"We could run multi-day rail tours out from the Riverina as a lot of the services at the moment are run out of Sydney," Mr Jackson said.
"Places like Wagga could be the hub and people could transport themselves to Wagga to catch the services."
The Lachlan Valley Railway has run two 'Southern Aurora' style trains through the Riverina, bringing 260 tourists to the region.
The 3801 steam locomotive also brought hundreds of visitors to Wagga earlier this month for its stopover during a tour of NSW after 12 years of restoration work.
"We want to do [the Riverina Express] in partnership with the Junee Railway Workshops and make it a community project so people who want to learn about railway heritage can get involved," Mr Jackson said.
Junee Railway Workshops director Wayne Robinson said the proposal would see the rail motors stored at their facility and use part of their roundhouse to restore one of the rail cars.
"I think it would be a great thing for the Riverina to have; they used to run here when I has a boy so to have them back running trips back and forth would be a great tourist attraction," he said.
"You just have to look at the 3801 over the Easter period and how many people poured into the Riverina area.
"Tourism would also provide a bit more work in the town in terms of accommodation and the like."
Mr Robinson said Lachlan Valley Railway had a set of four 900-class DEB rail motors, also known by the name 'comet' in storage that required "a fairly substantial overhaul".
"Depending them getting the finance and their level of volunteer support with us helping, I would envisage an 18-month period [to restore the trains]," Mr Robinson said.
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