Train enthusiast, David Fallick discovers a magnificent rail museum sure to please devotees both young and old.
Much more than just a static display of locos and rolling stock, Trainworks, the newest of Australia’s diverse collection of rail and tram museums, is the whole enchilada.
Ideally located on a five-acre site at Thirlmere, only 90 kilometres southwest of Sydney, on an existing standard gauge loop line which was part of the original Main Southern Railway, Trainworks has successfully married the original with the contemporary. The former includes the historic platform and station buildings, more than 100 items of rolling stock, plus countless pieces of rail memorabilia, and the latter, the multi-million dollar purpose built complex dating from 2008.
But Trainworks is more than a mere museum. It successfully recreates the glory days of rail, when the station was the equivalent of today’s airport and the mainline passenger services were the jet airliners of the day. When rail travel was the norm for a population that no longer owned horses but most of whom had not yet acquired a car. At Trainworks you can stand in the recreated station concourse with its cast iron pillars and high-vaulted roof and imagine you’re preparing to depart on a long distance rail journey. You’re surrounded by history; the brass engine makers’ plates, evocative of when locos were imported from the United Kingdom and even manufactured in Australia, the ubiquitous old manual, timber luggage trolleys and other platform paraphernalia. There’s even a small theatrette screening more rail history and a dynamic display of how a steam engine actually works.
After absorbing the numerous displays in the concourse and Main Hall, it’s on to the Great Train Hall via the Workers’ Walk, highlighting the roles and responsibilities of various people who built, and continue to staff, our rail system. You’re immediately dwarfed by the immaculately preserved, giant black Beyer-Garratt 6040, the very epitome of brute power and, with the C38 class, the pinnacle of steam propulsion. Once you’ve digested all this new knowledge, you can wander for hours between the dozen or so roads (i.e.lines) of locos and rolling stock standing under cover in the Great Train Hall. The array is mesmerising and even a non-train-buff will be both absorbed and impressed. There are also many opportunities to capture some fantastic photographs. Trainworks celebrated its first birthday earlier this year. May it have many more and continue to combine the admirable roles of education and nostalgia. So grab the grandchildren, and even their parents, and head for Thirlmere. You won’t regret it.