Speakers Panel

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The story of Puffing Billy Railway’s beginnings in 1900, its struggle to survive closure, the efforts of dedicated volunteers to keep it operating and its grand return to Gembrook make for a fascinating talk! 


Puffing Billy has a small group of experienced speakers available to talk to clubs throughout the metropolitan and country areas of Victoria.

The railway has provided speakers for many years and our panel has visited more than 1,500 Clubs to date! Feedback received indicates that the Clubs visited thoroughly enjoy the talk.

Meet our Speakers Book a Speaker

Puffing Billy crosses the Trestle Bridge

To arrange a Speaker, simply gather a minimum of 25 people. Our Speaker Panel will then arrange for a speaker to visit, at no cost to the club.  Presentations can also be adapted to suit club/group needs.

Groups who engage an authorised speaker are offered a substantial discount to travel on one of Puffing Billy’s first class heritage dining carriages.  The Steam & Cuisine Luncheon offers a choice of a Natter Platter as well as a traditional Three Course Menu.

 

At a Glance

  • This service is Free of Charge
  • Minimum number per group is 25
  • Average time per presentation 45 minutes
  • Day or evenings - 7 days per week
  • Speakers will travel up to 100kms from the Melbourne GPO
  • Longer distances by negotiation
     

 

Enquiries and Bookings

Belgrave Office during business hours on (03) 9757 0700 (+61 3 9757 0700 int'l).

AFTER HOURS:

Mr Don Horsburgh on 03 9764 0004 (+61 3 9764 0004 int'l), mobile 0411 027 732 (+61 3 411 027 732 Int'l) or email: dhorsbur@bigpond.net.au.

 

Introducing The Puffing Billy Speakers Panel Volunteers

Puffing Billy's Speaker Panel

Pictured above are the panel members Robert Dawson (OAM), Don Horsburgh and Alan Gray. These three experienced volunteers spend many hours each year making speaking presentations to Probus, Retirement Villages, Historical Society’s, Schools, U3A, Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters,  Life Activities, Red Cross, C.W.A.,  Lodges’, Libraries’, National Seniors, V.I.E.W.,  RSL War Widows, Garden, Church, Special Interest Clubs/Groups and Community Radio Station Broadcasts.

 

Robert Dawson (OAM)

Rob was born and raised in Upwey, overlooking the Puffing Billy railway line running between Upwey and Belgrave.  As a 13 year old he began selling chips, drinks and tickets from a tray by walking up and down the platform at Belgrave.  Later he would join the school parties that would do odd jobs cleaning up along the track.

As an adult Rob spent many years as station master at Emerald, this included selling tickets, food and talking to people and generally spruiking the railway.  From conductor to station-master and everything in between was always a thrill as his love of steam trains grew, however the little Puffing Billy railway was always his first love.

Rob also regularly attends the Belgrave workshop where volunteers do cleaning and basic jobs on repairing and maintaining the carriages and engines. For 30 years he would use one of his furniture vans as a runner’s baggage transport vehicle for the Annual Great Train Race.

In 2013 Rob was honoured to be presented with an Order of Australia Medal for services to Puffing Billy Railway and Rotary.

Rob and his wife Marjorie reside in Ferntree Gully; they have 3 sons and 5 grandchildren; until retirement in 2012 Rob ran a successful furniture removal/storage business for 25 years.

Since joining the Visiting Speakers Panel in February 2016 Rob has completed 21 jobs.

 

Alan Gray

Alan has fond memories of visiting his grandparents at Upwey and the highlight was to watch Puffing Billy steam by.  This was the first thing he remembers as a child and it was the start of a long love affair with the railway which has never faded.

Alan joined the Puffing Billy Railway 11 years ago after retiring from a 36 year career with the Commonwealth Bank; he developed an interest in public speaking and this eventuated in him becoming the State Coordinator of 10 Business Development Officers.  In this role he became a guest speaker on behalf of the Bank at Industry Trade Shows, Field Days and Universities.

Alan is a Vietnam Veteran and is a leader of a Veterans Group.  Over the past 12 years the group has completed over 40 tours to places of historical interest throughout Victoria and as a result he has also gained an interest in this field.  He is a regular keynote speaker to the Army Driver Trainees at Puckapunyal.

He enjoys his role as a Head Conductor and Trainer as it enables him, and his team, to have direct contact with the thousands of passengers who visit the railway. Over the past couple of years Alan has also been actively involved as the Secretary of the Puffing Billy Railway Modellers Group.

Alan is married to Heather and they have lived in Cranbourne for 40 years.  Heather is also a Puffing Billy volunteer and is of great assistance to Alan in his speaking role. They both find volunteering a rewarding experience.

Since joining the Visiting Speakers Panel in July 2009 Alan has completed 175 jobs.

 

Don Horsburgh

Don became a volunteer in 1991 when he retired from paid employment.  He served as an Officer with the Royal Australian Air Force for 21 years before seeking industry experience.  RAAF service was followed by more than 15 years as a human resources manager in the public and private sectors of the rail industry.  The rail industry where he’d most recently worked, appealed as the place to be, so it wasn’t a difficult choice to become a volunteer with Victoria’s famous Heritage Steam Railway.

In a voluntary capacity, over a 26 year period, Don has worked at the heritage steam railway as a booking clerk, station- master, retail assistant and more recently over a 4 year period project managed the interviewing, scheduling and publishing of a PBPS Book “Saving Puffing Billy”.  He has served as an elected member of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society Executive Committee and has recently chalked up 600 speaking presentations throughout Victoria since joining the Speakers Panel in August 2000.  In 2004 Don succeeded (the late) Laurie Bunn and became Coordinator of the Visiting Speakers Panel.  During his time as Coordinator Don has spent hundreds of voluntary hours administrating the Speaker’s Panel activities in addition to undertaking speaking engagements and selling shop merchandise to those attending his presentations.

Don lives in Rowville with his wife Beverley.  Their 3 children have presented them with 8 grand children. He believes it is important to preserve the unique history of a working heritage steam railway.

Don when not volunteering at “Puff” spends his spare time organising and leading extended holiday and day tours for residents of his Retirement Village. Residents have travelled to many parts of Australia and Fiji. Since 2002 Village residents at Rowville, have enjoyed more than 70 extended tours and outings.

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