In 1983 as an initiative of the then Chief Executive of State Rail Mr. David Hill, a small working party met to investigate the feasibility of returning one of the 38 class steam locomotives to working order. Attention was focused on the class leader, 3801, as the best existing exhibit for restoration. At that time, the Hunter Valley Training Company were seeking job skill training work for out-of-trade power industry apprentices caused by a recession in the Hunter Valley. As a consequence, HVTC undertook the restoration of 3801 over a 3-year period from November 1983 to November 1986 during which time some 300 apprentices worked on it, learning their trade in the process.

With the locomotive set to return to service, 3801 Limited was incorporated on the 5th June 1985 at the behest of the State Rail Authority as a company limited by guarantee for the prime purpose of maintaining and running locomotive 3801 and its train for the benefit of the people of NSW. This we did with great success for some 20 years, carrying over half a million passengers and operating a regular program of tour and charter trains to a variety of destinations both in NSW and interstate. During this period, 3801 ran to destinations such as Alice Springs, Canberra, and every mainland state capital, most notably hauling the Bicentennial Train in 1988 and performing an extensive year of tours alongside the famous Flying Scotsman.

With the return of Locomotive 3801 to predecessors of Transport Heritage NSW in 2006, we continued to focus on our passenger experiences, delivering a range of tours to the public with a wide range of historic steam and diesel locomotives.  We also continued to work on the restoration and maintenance of rolling stock.  Recent highlights have included the return to service of lounge car CAM502 and diesel Locomotive 42101, both of which are now regular fixtures in the roster alongside the rest of our locomotive and carriage fleet. 

But we have learned that heritage rail is not as much about the rolling stock as it is about the experiences…


Our Cockatoo Run, proudly operated since 1995, Hawkesbury River Express and various one-off tours that we run are what our passengers know and love. Whilst we operate many interesting and important rolling stock items that the rail community loves to see, the travelling public value the experience of our heritage rail tours, enjoying time with family and friends, and reflecting on the role that rail has played in developing Australia.

Accordingly, our name is no longer reflective of what we do. And more importantly, what we want to do in the future. It is therefore a natural time for East Coast Heritage Rail to be born.

We wish to be a safe, sustainable and collaborative organisation that works to improve and promote heritage rail, across all of Australia. We look forward to working with other groups and people to help everyone achieve their and our goals, and for the heritage rail sector to be stronger as a result.

ECHR is an organisation whose purpose is to preserve railway heritage for the enjoyment of the public by operating tour trains. We are a not-for profit company, and all surplus funds are directed to ongoing restoration and maintenance of our trains.

ECHR operates day tours and charters out of Sydney as well as scheduled services to the Illawarra and Southern Highlands.  If you would like more information on these tours please visit our website, www.eastcoastheritagerail.com.au, call our office on 1300 65 3801, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Note to regulators, suppliers and customers:

Our legal name, ACN and ABN (64 002 951 671) remain unchanged, and all associated trademarks and brands remain the property of 3801 Limited. We remain accredited as a railway operator and registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. The transition will be a gradual one, with logos, branding and uniforms updated across our organisation as time and funding permits.