SHE was two minutes late, it was the wrong locomotive for the train buffs and the carriage roofs carried some grime but rail enthusiasts are a forgiving lot.
More than 300 of them were welcoming the Southern Aurora, all 360 metres of her and 50 years after the breakthrough journey between Sydney and Melbourne with the completion of the standard-gauge railway.
The irony of its arrival, then and now, was its role in reducing Albury to just another stop on the intercapital express.
The Southern Aurora overcame the barriers that prevented NSW trains running on Victorian tracks and vice versa.
No longer did interstate passengers have to change trains.
Yesterday the memories of that breakthrough came flooding back for many of the family and friends of the drivers and crews who were part of the “big wheel roster”.
There were also people who as kids had witnessed its arrival in 1962, others who had been on the scene of its greatest disaster, when nine people died at Violet Town.
Elizabeth Welch, whose father Bill was part of the roster, brought along her sisters for the event.
“We were just kids back then when it broke through the beads,” she said.
“But in those days Wodonga was a railway town, most people knew the drivers, everyone was involved.”
Stan Warnock, now 92, was the youngest driver on the roster.
He, too, was on hand to see the train’s arrival.
“We drove all sorts of trains and she was really no different,” Mr Warnock said.
“Today is a trip down memory lane.
“I’m excited to see her, she never gave much trouble.”
Doug Brockfield, now from Milawa, had memories of a different kind, among the first on the scene of the rail crash that killed nine people in 1969.
The driver of the Southern Aurora had suffered a heart attack, the train colliding head-on with a northbound goods train.
“I saw this great plume of smoke as I was driving down the old Hume Highway and when I got there it was horrendous,” he said.
“The fire was spreading to the carriages and we had to break the windows to get the people out.
“The memories still send shivers down my back.”
Peter Berriman, chairman of the Rail Transport Museum that has spent $2 million restoring the train after it was taken out of service in 1986, said it was an enormous turnout.
He was one of the 90 passengers that had just finished an Eggs Benedict breakfast in one of the two dining cars on the first full day of the trip.
Mr Berriman also admitted to a couple of tipples in the lounge car (read bar) the night before.
“Wherever we go with these heritage trains people turn out to have a look but this is exceptional.
“It brings back the romance of rail,” Mr Berriman said.
The Southern Aurora left Albury at 10.15am headed for Melbourne on day 2 of its 11-day trip that will see it head into western NSW and stop in Brisbane before heading back to Sydney.