Gympie train driver Peter Alder (front) and Mary Valley Heritage Railway president Tony Hallam are determined to prevent Race the Rattler runners from claiming another victory.
Gympie train driver Peter Alder (front) and Mary Valley Heritage Railway president Tony Hallam are determined to prevent Race the Rattler runners from claiming another victory. Renee Pilcher

Train driver out for revenge

GYMPIE train driver Peter Alder returns behind the controls of the Valley Rattler for this year’s Race the Rattler with only one thing on his mind - revenge.

Alder made his debut as driver in the popular footrace pitting man against machine last year, but it didn’t go to plan.

Prior to his big debut, Alder had served as firemen for five years to the now retired Ted Mitchell.

A brave finish from team runner Jack Curran, running the final leg for The Losers, ensured Alder’s maiden race ended in defeat last year.

Only seconds separated the Brisbane runner from the Valley Rattler, thrilling a large crowd crammed onto the platform at the Old Gympie Railway Station.

Alder was quick to congratulate Curran and his team on their achievement, but was already looking ahead to this year’s event to turn the tables.

He even cheekily questioned the validity of the win as Curran had not raced the entire distance.

At the Gympie Old Railway Station yesterday putting the Valley Rattler through its paces, Alder was preparing for his second tilt at the title.

There is much at stake this year for Alder. Not only would a defeat be his second in a row, but it will also be three running for the Valley Rattler.

“It’s a big year for us because none of us want to lose this one,” he said.

“Overall, the Valley Ratter has six wins to the runners’ five. We don’t want to even up the score with a loss.”

Alder will rise far earlier than the runners come race day, getting out of bed before the sunrise to fire up the Valley Rattler’s engine at 4am.

A key to a Valley Rattler win will be fine weather and little fog. The less moisture on the track the better.

“If it rains or there is heavy fog, that will cost us because the train slips a little on the wet tracks going uphill,” Alder said.

Something certain to give the runners a boost of confidence is that the Valley Rattler will be using an engine that has never won a race.

“I’m not too worried about that statistic,” Alder said. “The engine is more than capable.”

The winner of last year’s race was Hervey Bay’s Steven Page, who finished behind the Valley Rattler with a time of 1.07.02. Coming in second was Justin Hunter.

Page relished the win after coming second to Ipswich’s Michael Reeves the year before and wrongly thinking during the race he was in second position.

Race the Rattler is the biggest event organised by the Mary Valley Heritage Railway each year, attracting up to 300 runners attempting to outrun the restored Valley Rattler back to the Old Gympie Railway Station from Dagun.

Held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, runners tackle a gruelling 18.5 kilometre course either as individuals or in teams of fours. The event is not just for runners, as Valley Rattler marketing officer Camilla King explained.

“Supporters can board the steam train at Dagun to cheer on the competitors as they make their way back to the Old Gympie Station,” she said.

Supporters’ tickets cost $25 per adult and $10 per child, including a bus transfer to Dagun.

The entire day will get underway at 9.30am on Monday, June 14 at the Dagun Station, with the first of the runners expected to hit the finish line in Gympie at 10.30am at the Gympie Old Railway Station.

Entertainment at the Gympie Railway Station will begin at 10am and extend into the early afternoon.

Food and drinks will be available while prizes and random draws will be awarded at the presentation ceremony due to get underway as the last of the runners stagger across the finish line.

Gympie Times


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