Sydney: Powerhouse Museum

Travel Period : 1 May – 7 May 2014

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Day 3 Morning to Afternoon Itinerary :

  • Powerhouse Museum–>>
  • Paddy’s Market –>>

Getting to Powerhouse Museum of Sydney

It is difficult to categorise the type of museum the Powerhouse Museum of Sydney is (though it is often described as a science museum), as it has a diverse collection encompassing all sorts of technology including Decorative arts, Science, Communication, Transport, Costume, Furniture, Media, Computer technology, Space technology and Steam engines.

For our case, we decided to include this museum in our itinerary because of its Transport, Steam engines and Space technology sections, which we knew Dar would be interested in.

The Powerhouse is just a 10 to 15 minutes walk from Mercure Sydney hotel, along a slightly down-sloping straight path. The day’s temperature had unexpectedly dropped to a low 15-17 degrees Celsius. We made sure to cover ourselves adequately with our hoods on as we made the short journey there.

Powerhouse Museum 

From far, I wouldn’t have known the building in front of us is a museum, if not for the Google Maps indicating its location and the not-so-obvious sign at the road junction (later on, we spotted a much bigger sign on the other side of the building).

The building looks more like a college or institution

Tickets Info

Remembering to use the discount vouchers from the Sydney Guides we took at the airport, we purchased the tickets at one of the Ticket Counters:

  • Adults: AUD $15 each *Discount: $9.60 each
  • Child: AUD $8 each (Age 4-15 yrs) *Discount: $4.80 each
  • Total paid after discount: AUD$24
  • More information on Powerhouse Museum Website

A brochure with the museum’s map was also given to us for easily navigation of the 3-storey building (not counting its basements).

Exhibits 

While we were queuing to buy the tickets, Dar eyed the huge steam train which was prominently displayed near the main entrance. He loves trains so this got him excited and all geared up for our museum visit. To lessen our load, we first placed our backpack and jackets at a baggage counter (they called it ‘Cloaking Counter’) for safe keep while keeping a water bottle and essentials in Cat’s bag.

#Transport

This steam train, known as the Locomotive No. 1, is New South Wales’ first train. This locomotive has been in the museum’s possession for more than 120 years and is a significant object in its collection. The museum makes sure it does not go unnoticed by any visitor, given its prominent location right at the entrance.

The steam train was nicely painted and furnished, with no barriers between us and the train. Dar asked for our permission to get closer to his favourite vehicle. We agreed, seeing there’s no safety concerns nor signs restricting him from doing so. Of course, we made sure he did not put himself into any danger or damage the exhibit during his exploration.

As we moved along the train from its front sections towards its rear, we managed to check out the interiors of its cabins, which showed the vast differences between the first, second and third classes’ cabins at its era. Effort has also been put into the passengers’ dressings and belongings and allowing us to hear their conversations, which were common during a typical 19th century train journey. We couldn’t really make out much of their conversations due to their strong Australian accent though.

Later on, when we moved to the Transport section, we found ourselves standing beside a mock railway platform, with the original Central Railway Station destination board at one end of the railway track. The board was extraordinarily large and together with the Steam Locomotive No. 1243 which had served Australia for 87 years, we felt like we were transported back in time!

Dar was once again eager to explore and experience these exhibits while we made sure we captured these moments with our camera. Besides trains, there were also other vehicles such as planes and cars from different ages.

#Space

Just behind the Central Railway Station destination board was the Space section. We climbed up some stairs to enter a life-sized model space-shuttle cockpit, after passing by one of the world’s largest rocket motors and a model of the first artificial satellite.

As I stepped right under the rocket motor and looked up, I realised how enormous this thing is and imagined myself turning into ashes within seconds (or milliseconds? ^^|), if flames suddenly burst out from the motor! Awesome power that it must had to be able to propel a rocket into space!

At this moment, we heard an announcement that the next session in the Zero Gravity Space Lab was to start soon, and we quickly moved on towards it. We had read that at this lab, we would experience the weightlessness experienced by astronauts in outer space. It was the main reason why we came to this museum.

“How is this lab supposed to accomplish that?” We asked ourselves as we stood on the suspended platform, while we watched a timer counting down to its next ‘zero gravity experience’. As we have recently watched the movie ‘Gravity‘ together with Dar, it would be easier for him to relate to what zero gravity was and how astronauts floated around in space.

After we explained to Dar about what this lab could accomplish, he became very worried and wanted to leave the place, afraid he would suddenly float into the air and end up injured. We reassured him that this would not happen (although we had no idea what was going to happen to us next), as it just doesn’t make sense that an unmanned exhibit in a museum would cause injuries to its visitors right? (there wasn’t any safety belt too so we couldn’t be flying off ^^|)

On the other hand, we did notice a sign by the side, warning that some people may feel nauseous during the experience and are advised to leave the lab immediately. Aww… Love the feeling of suspense… ^^|

As the timer finally reached zero, a narrator informed us that we were going to enter zero gravity soon. The lights then started to dim, and the cylinder-shaped ‘space cabin’ around us started to move in a clock-wise direction. This made us feel that it was the platform we were on that was actually moving and we instinctively held onto the railings to maintain our balance and prevent ourselves from ‘falling off’ the platform! True enough, we were made to feel like we were placed inside a space shuttle in the outer space!

Dar started feeling uneasy over the weightlessness too but soon calmed down after we explained to him what was actually happening and we were in fact stationary all along. Just stepping outside and coming back in would produce a different feeling. It was quite amazing! After a while, we did feel a little uncomfortable and decided to leave the lab to explore the rest of the museum. I was also beginning to admire the astronauts for being able to overcome these sensations over a long period of time.

We toured around the exhibits at the Space section, such as photographs taken in space, and what astronauts do in space to keep themselves in shape despite being in a weightless environment.

We also came across a Moon Rock encapsulated in a prism. We didn’t get too excited over it though, since we have already seen a much bigger space rock back at Haus Der Natur Museum in Salzburg, Austria.

#The Steam Revolution

Since Dar loves Steam Trains, we believed the Steam Revolution section of the museum would interest him too, which showcased how steam had helped people by powering machinery, factories and vehicles for more than 200 years.

The exhibits showed how steam engines had been developed, what they did and how they changed the world. What’s interesting is that nearly all of the engines on display were fully operational so we could witness how they actually worked.

We explained to Dar how the interior of the steam trains looked like as we passed by some steam engines but unfortunately, he didn’t show much interests in them. He was in fact more interested in some small train models found at one section. Guess he is still too young to appreciate these intrinsic details, though we still made sure to describe many of the exhibits to him. There were some which allowed hands-on learning.

#The Wiggles Exhibition

The Wiggles are an Australian children’s music group formed in Sydney in 1991 and have wiggled their way into the hearts of children and parents around the world. When Dar was between one and two years old, we showed him some Wiggles videos and he enjoyed them, so we thought we would visit this exhibition to refresh his memory on them.

This section was clearly made for the young (and those young at heart), with brightly coloured furnishing and many hands-on activities for visitors.

We got Dar to sit in the Big Red Car with the other children, while they watched the same-named music video playing on the big screen in front of them.

As we checked out the rest of the exhibits at this section, we were more fascinated with them than Dar was, pointing out various characters and their names to him. He didn’t seem to recognise most of them though. I guess he must have been too young  to remember what he had watched.

Souvenirs 

After we left the museum, we saw the entrance to the souvenir shop with a cafe on the left and decided to check it out.

Since this is primarily a science and technology museum, many of the merchandise sold there consist of science experiment kits, solar system models, toy machinery etc. However, we didn’t find anything really unique and interesting to us, so we left the shop empty-handed.

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