If you haven’t been to the Workshops Rail Museum, then perhaps you’ll have trouble grasping the magic… especially if you’re not a “train person”.
Year after year, we faithfully go back. We can’t stay away…even though we actually live more than 1000 kilometres away! Perhaps, that gives you some idea of just how special this place actually is!
Whether you are a train person or not, steam trains have a magic appeal. For some strange reason, we still fall in love with that old chugga chugga toot toot and that puff of smoke rising from the boiler. Yet, I still don’t know why they call it the “romance” of steam. There’s actually nothing romantic about the stench of burning coal. Coal dust isn’t very pretty either. It’s actually filthy, stinky stuff which does terrible things to your lungs and the environment.
And always light, aerial, underneath
Goes the elate metre of her wheels.
Steaming through metal landscape on her lines…
Of phosphorus on the tossing hills is white.
Ah, like a comet through flame she moves entranced
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.
An excerpt from The Express, by Stephen Spender
Yet, our love affair with steam trains lives on. When any little kid pretends to be a train, they still pretend to be a steam train, not a modern locomotive and the great popularity of the Thomas the Tank Engine series also testifies to the continued popularity of steam.
A rage of smoke, a laugh of fire,
A lighted anguish of desire,
Of gold and iron, of sound and flight,
Tumultuous roars across the night.
An excerpt from The Bridge, John Redwood Anderson.
But the Workshops Railway Museum isn’t only about steam trains and aside from special days, you can’t actually ride on one. The museum covers the history of Queensland railways from its beginnings to the present and includes a number of diesel and electric engines as well as historic memorabilia.
The Workshops Rail Museum http://www.theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au/ is located in North Street, North Ipswich and is just 40 minutes by car from the centre of Brisbane and 70 minutes from the Gold Coast. It is open from 9.30AM to 5.00PM daily and is closed Christmas Day, ANZAC Day and Good Friday.
The original railway workshops were built at Ipswich in 1864, close to the location of the first railway in Queensland. They soon became overcrowded and between 1884 and1888, new buildings were constructed about 1 km north of the original workshops. In 1900, construction of new railway workshops began on the current site. The original site ceased operation in 1907. In its heyday the workshop employed 3,000 people.
The Workshops were also an important part of the Australian war effort during WWII, when it employed over 3,000 people on site. Some of the windows are still blackened out to protect these top secret operations.
The museum itself opened in 2002.
On this visit, there was a special Thomas the Tank Engine theme for the school holidays. Engines were dressed up as characters from the series and there was story telling with Sir Topham Hat (AKA the Fat Controller) as well as colouring-in and other activities. Our kids had outgrown Thomas this visit but have enjoyed it in the past.
There is a children’s play area at the back of the museum called the Nippers’ Railway. A “Nipper” was the youngest member of a railway gang. The nipper did odd jobs around the camp to help the men who built and maintained the railway line. The Nipper’s Railway has a play train track set up and the kids can sit in a wagon and an adult can push them around the track. There is also a train station, a railway crossing and signals. The kids can ride trikes around the track and wear safety vests and very much look the part of a railway ganger. There seems to be something new every time we visit but I have very fond memories of the kids dressing up as police and fire people. They have always had a wonderful time and it’s also been a chance for Geoff and I to relax while the kids wear themselves out. The Nippers’ Railway is my sentimental favourite.
Mister’s favourite is the model trains. He says they are fun to use and likes that “it’s actually about Queensland.” The model train layout is big and impressive. Naturally, it is set in Queensland and includes palm trees and Queenslander houses. Being from NSW, that also makes it more of a novelty.
There are a number of opportunities where you can pretend that you are actually driving the train using computer simulation programs. They are great fun.
You can also go on guided tours of the operating workshops. There are two different tours available: Blacksmiths Shop Tour where you see a real modern blacksmith at work and the Steam Shop Tour where you’ll see real Queensland Rail workers maintaining and restoring trains from of the Queensland Rail heritage train fleet. You need to wear enclosed footwear on these tours.
My only reservation about going to the Workshops Railway Museum is allowing enough time to really experience all the exhibits. If you have read my previous post, you will understand why an hour just isn’t long enough to satisfy a 3 year old boy or any other train enthusiast. There is so much to see and experience, I would strongly recommend going for the day or if you live locally, becoming a member. It is a particularly good way to keep little people happily occupied. We have always loved it!!
Anyway, we had a wonderful time and, of course, we wished you were here LOL!