I learnt some sad news yesterday — the “Spirit of the West” restaurant train has ceased running. I was told that yesterday was the final day, although their web site says the final run is next Saturday 31st May. This is disappointing news as it was a great experience. I have been on the train twice myself (once for lunch, and once for dinner) and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.
Speaking to Ian Studham at the Rail Museum, I got a little more information about what has happened. Last year South Spur Rail (the originators of the “Spirit of the West”), was sold to Coote Industrial Group, a publicly listed company. Coote announced at the time they would continue to run the restaurant train for a year to see how well it fitted in to their business profile. Now a year later it appears it doesn’t fit well enough for them to continue with it.
I understand the train did make a small profit, but speculation is that it wasn’t enough of a profit to make it worthwhile the hassle of having to maintain the extra rail safety case for carriage of passengers, and all the associated extra public liability insurance it entails. Not to mention all the extra staff and services that need to be maintained that are not used anywhere else in their business.
At this stage the carriages and infrastructure are being held on to by Coote. I suppose there is a possibility they could sell it as a self contained business, but if that doesn’t eventuate then RHWA is going to have to find some more space at the rail museum to store the Federation coaches that belong to them. The tentative plan at this stage is that the two sidings immediately to the north of the Goninans access line will be converted to dual gauge and made part of the museum by creating a gated pedestrian level crossing over the Goninans access line. Obviously a lot of work, and it will entail a fair amount of knock on effects — for example dual gauge points are bigger so the access road will need to be relocated as it is already nearly too narrow where it passes near the narrow gauge point leading to the back sidings.
So all in all, the end of an era, but then again the only thing that is constant is change itself. Especially in the rail industry in Perth!
Image: The interior of the Spirit of the West restaurant train