Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New England's railway museums

Following up my last post, Introducing New England's railways, I thought that I should at least list some of New England's railway museums to help those who want to plan a railway trip.

A list of railway museums follows. You will see the strong Hunter Valley focus, reflecting the Valley's many railway lines. By far the largest New England rail festival is the Hunter Valley Steamfest held in April of each year. One of the best sites background for those planning to explore New England's railway history is Rolfe Bozier's

Hunter Valley 

The Richmond Vale Railway Museum is a volunteer non-profit organization, formed in 1979 with the aim of preserving the Railway and Mining Heritage of J&A Brown and the Hunter Valley.

The R.V.R.M. is located in the old Richmond Main Colliery site, Main Road 135, Leggett's Drive, Richmond Vale 4kms south of Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley.

The R.V.R.M. runs trains first three Sundays of each month and every Sunday during School Holidays however we are closed entirely during the month of December. Gates open at 10am and close at 4pm.

The Rail Motor Society was established in 1984 as a not-for-profit organisation to collect, preserve and operate a representative fleet of NSW Government Railways rail motors. The Society operates heritage tourist trains on the NSW railway network.

The Society's Depot and Museum is located in the old Paterson Goods Yard opposite Paterson Railway Station, on the North Coast Line. Road access is off Webbers Creek Road.

The Depot houses the Society's collection of Rail Motors and other rolling stock. The steel 3-road Rail Motor Shed was constructed in 1992-93 and is 75 metres long and 14 metres wide.

I was going to give more information on the Society and especially its rail tours. Sadly, I cannot copy from the Society's web site and don't have the time to retype. So I will leave it to you to follow up.

Great Northern/Main North Line and associated lines - from the Hunter to the Borderfettlersculpture Werris Creek

This is the fettler's sculpture from the Werris Creek Railway Monument and associated Rail Journey's Museum.

Built as a memorial to those who died whilst working to develop our nation's infrastructure, the Australian Railway Monument is a sight to behold. Opened in October 2005, the six evocative structures of the monument are set on the backdrop of the impressive historical Werris Creek Railway Station. Search the name walls of this sobering commemoration and acknowledge those who died on duty.

The associated Rail Journeys Museum is located in the Railway Refreshment Room building of the Werris Creek Railway Station. This unique Museum brings history to life with the new Audio Visual component. Designed to tell the personal social life of railway men and women, the rail journeys museum is operated by ex-railway workers who tell of the laughs, joys and tears of working on the railway.

The museum is at Railway Avenue and is open 7 days, 10am - 4pm. Entry by donation.

Armidale Railway Museum (web site has an extensive collection of tools and implements used by old-time railwaymen, including trolleys and "trikes" used on the most remote parts of the railway line.

The Railway Museum is adjacent to the Railway Station on the corner of Brown & ODell Streets, Armidale. Exterior exhibits can be viewed at any time. Interior display open 11am - 11.30am each day. Admission is free. Donations welcome.

Guyra Railway Station has been now been turned into general museum. The Guyra Antique Machinery Museum displays the evolution of farm machinery, from horse-drawn to rubber tyred tractors. In this day of automation, the chaff cutters, water pumps and sheep shearing plants will remind you of the hard work our agricultural pioneers endured.

Tenterfield Railway Station and yard is managed by Tenterfield Railway Preservation Society.  It is among the most complete station precincts in terms of composition of railway buildings and small objects typical of an important regional style railway station. 

Listed as one of only 6  Rail Heritage Precincts in NSW, the railway station is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture and was built in 1886 as the terminal station of the Great Northern Railway.

Although no longer served by trains the building remains as one of the town's finest heritage structures. Internally the building retains its features as they existed on the last day of train operations in the 1980s. Opening times: 9 4 p.m. Admission please 'phone (02)6736 2223. Opening times can be varied for groups of 6 or more and guided tours are available with advance bookings.

The Wallangarra Railway Station marked the end of the Great Northern Railway and the start of the Queensland line. For many years this station was the point at which all Brisbane-Sydney passengers had to change trains. The station with its dual style NSW and Queensland style building has been restored as a museum.

Unlike the Government in Sydney whose cost cutting desire led to the closure of the line north of Armidale despite its historic significance, Queensland has kept its part of the line open. The Southern Downs Steam Railway sometimes runs steam train trips from Stanthorpe to Wallangarra. 

North Coast and associated lines

In Three things I still have to do in New England -1 Railways I spoke a little of the history of the Dorrigo-Glenreagh line. Sadly, this most beautiful line is another of the lines closed by Sydney because of cost cutting.

There are two museum organisations at each end of the railway.

On the east, the Glenreagh Mountain Railway, known as the GMR, was established in 1989 as a heritage railway. It has run services along part of the track, but has had to suspend pending further work. It still maintains museums.

Inland, the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum was established to create a museum and restore a railway service. After a brief opening period it shut its doors to the public, but still exists with one of the largest historic rolling stock collections in NSW. At this stage, I do not know when the museum will re-open its doors to the public.

I would love to think that this line might be re-opened.

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