Perhaps the last thing you might expect to find in Canberra is a railway museum and an excellent one at that.
Well, as of mid 2017 you will just have to imagine it as it went into liquidation, closed down and was sold off in pieces. I was devastated. I have retained my review as it was as, firstly, the lead picture is one of my favourites on my blog and secondly to retain it as a historical record in the hope it might interest someone, in addition to me.
The current train service from Canberra (totally unrelated to the museum) consists of a three times a day service to Sydney via the Southern Highlands. It is slow, expensive and unreliable compared to the much more frequent bus service.
The museum is quite a treasure trove concentrating on locomotives and rolling stock with a small selection of rail memorabilia including tickets and ticket machines, old pictures, timetables, signage and communication equipment in the museum’s entrance area.
The locomotives and rolling stock here are not as well polished or tastefully presented as those in the National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide (my favourite railway museum in Australia and one of the best I have encountered anywhere in the world). I suspect they have less funds here in Canberra.
What differentiates the Canberra Museum, from its big brother in Port Adelaide, is that you can saunter through the carriages and climb (within reason!) onto more locomotives and into a number of the locomotive cabins. This makes things a lot more interesting, especially for children (young and old ones!). Additionally, while technically you are not supposed to enter the workshops where renovation work is underway the dividing line between the open yard and the workshops can be blurred – don’t say I told you this, as you veer ever so slightly and unknowingly from the official track!
One of the most significant locomotives, from a Canberra perspective, in the museum’s collection of around a dozen or so, is Engine No 1210. This locomotive was constructed by Beyer Peacock & Company in Manchester, England in 1878. In 1914 it hauled the first train to arrive into Canberra. Following its withdrawal from service in 1962, 1210 stood on a plinth outside the Canberra Railway Station (adjacent to the Railway museum but entered via a different road) until 1984 when the ACT division of the Australian Railway Historical Society took it over and got it running again. As you can see from my attached picture (2) it is currently undergoing a refurbishment and repaint.
While 1210 is important because of its historic links with Canberra, the most visually appealing and interesting locomotive from my perspective is the now fully restored and stunning looking Beyer-Garrat 6029 (my main picture). Now the largest operating locomotive in the southern hemisphere, it was originally used the haul coal in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, for around 30 years. I was very fortunate as the 6029 (renamed the City of Canberra) was in full steam and moving around the yard during my visit to the museum. Well, not quite in full steam as this level of power would have been excessive to shunt around the yard – but you get the picture. This British built 1953 locomotive, still undergoing operational tests following its restoration, is used on occasional tours though none are currently on offer as I write this review. Watch the website for details. I am!
In addition to the locomotives, which are bound to excite anyone with an interest in trains, also on display in the museum are a half dozen, or thereabouts, sets of carriages. These range from vintage Pullman carriages with ornate polished timber and metal ceilings to more recent sets with stainless steel adornment. The carriages come in an assortment of sitting, dining, sleeping and freight/goods cars. As indicated earlier you are free to wander through the carriages at your leisure.
The museum offers various train ride options throughout the year using its operating vintage locomotives and rolling stock.
Top of the range is an annual overnight New Year’s Eve trip to the famous fireworks display in Sydney. Such that you have the best views, a fully catered harbour cruise is included in the package. This trip comes with a hefty price tag starting at A$1,450 per person twin share for 2015. Should any reader be thinking of buying me a present this would suffice (nicely).
More regular shorter trips such as market day trips to Bungendore (steam and diesel hauled) are available for those of lesser means.
Short vintage Railmotor (picture 5 attached) rides to Fyshwick are available on the second and last Sunday of each month with departure times half hourly from 11:00 to 14:30. These short rides cost $5 per person irrespective of age, size or social status.
Being a train buff, I cannot imagine how any visitor to Canberra would not want to visit this wonderful museum.
Museum Opening Hours: CLOSED Mid 2017