Australian Society of Section Car Operators, Inc.

Australian Society of Section Car Operators, Inc.

The Australian Society of Section Car Operators, Inc. (ASSCO), is an accredited railway operator that seeks access to railways for its members. It is a non-profit organisation, registered under the Associations Incorporations Act (SA).

Group history

ASSCO was founded in late 1999, after a series of informal meetings, by a group of motor section car owners who were running in South Australia.

At the time, many cars were being run using the insurance and systems of a number of heritage railways, including Steamtown, and often under the "work for ride" banner.

Changes to the regulatory regime in South Australia allowed for the accreditation of a body as a railway owner and operator, subject to meeting the requirements of Australian Standard AS4292 Railway safety management.

An incorporated body, ASSCO, was established to hold the accreditation, and in 2000, work commenced on the preparation of a safety management case for the group. The case considered obligations under the Rail Safety Act, Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act, AS 4801/4804, AS4360, AS4292 and ISO 9000 quality systems.

Interim accreditation was achieved in late 2000. Work to prepare the safety case was done by one of the founding members, with operational experience coming from a former railwayman, whilst a number of the processes used by the North American Rail Car Operators Association were considered and, were necessary, modified to meet Australian Regulatory requirements.

By April 2001, the organisation had in place an access agreement, which meant formal accreditation could be granted. ASSCO was the first not-for-profit ("Heritage") railway to be granted accreditation as a railway operator without owning or managing its own railway line in South Australia. It was also the first heritage operator to start up under the regulatory regime since it was implemented.

The committee at the time, and subsequently, has avoided taking (long term) responsibility for any infrastructure, because of the work and cost associated with its maintenance. That said, the group has held a lease over the railway between Kevin and Penong on the Far West of Eyre Peninsula.

Originally, operations focused on the railways of South Australia. Although realised early on that other states would be essential to assist the group to grow, work for access in other states did not commence for a few years.

First run

After gaining accreditation, the group made a number of approaches to heritage and commercial railway operators for access.

The first railway to agree to host an ASSCO meet was NRG Flinders Operating Services Pty Ltd, operator of the Leigh Creek Line, between Port Augusta and Copley. This was the longest run for section cars at the time, some 250km. The event was run over the June Long Weekend, 2001.

This line carries one coal train each way each day, meaning the trip crossed trains both days.

Other runs

ASSCO has operated on railways owned by Genesee and Wyoming Australia Pty Ltd, Pichi Richi Railway, The Australian Electric Transport Museum and Lions Club of YPRail. It has also leased the Kevin Penong line for two weekends. This was the most westerly run it has done.

In line with its current focus on Queensland railways, ASSCO operates predominantly over the 42" gauge trackage of Queenland Railways. It has operated as far north as Cairns, including the Normanton-Croydon Railway.

The group has accessed a limited number of heritage railways, including the Mary Valley Railway.

Insurance problems

Like many heritage railways, ASSCO suffered the effects of the insurance crisis in the early part of the decade (2002-2003). Whilst a few thought the organisation was dead, work to regain insurance continued. This included support of other programs, even when these did not benefit the organisation directly.

ASSCO was eventually invited into the CHRTSA group scheme, enabling it to restart operations. This move also benefited other heritage railways in South Australia, as its contribution reduced the overall premium payable by other heritage railways. More recently, the group moved into other pooled premium schemes, and the cost of insurance on the open market has fallen considerably.

ASSCO does not carry members of the public. However, members are themselves tourists, and provide a considerable boost to local economies where they operate.

Sharing the benefit

The group realised the benefit of synergistic working when it was founded. That is, there must be a benefit for the organisation which hosts a run, or for a commercial railway owner, the access should be cost neutral, if not at a small profit.

Indeed, ASSCO members have provided a number of organisations with non-pecuniary benefits as a result of access.

Current Operations

ASSCO holds accreditation in two jurisdictions, but presently operates only in Queensland.

The organisation has around 80 members.

Affiliations

ASSCO is an International Affiliate of North American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) and CHRTSA

[http://www.assco.org.au ASSCO Website]

[http://www.railpage.org.au/assco/history.htm Old ASSCO Site with links to early runs]

References

* ASSCO Web sites
* "Trackside" The magazine of the Society, various editions.
*" Update" The original news sheet of the Society, Various Editions
* Posts to the [http://lists.cirr.com/cgi-bin/wilma/speeders Speeders Group]
* "Section Cars return to Penong Railway" — West Coast Sentinel 30 January 2003
* Doncaster, N, 2001: "ASSCO Does YPR" Catchpoint November 2001 National Railway Museum
* "ASSCO — Eyre Peninsula Run" Catchpoint May 2002 National Railway Museum
* "Section Car Enthusiasts hold inaugural run" NRG Flinders Staff Magazine June 2001
* Kirk, J, 2003: "Section Cars in the Flinders Ranges" Railway Digest September 2003 Australian Railway Historical Society NSW


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