Sydney: Steam Trains at Trainworks

Travel Period : 1 May – 7 May 2014

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Day 4 Sydney Trip

Getting There 

We took an early train around 8 plus from Central Train Station to Campbelltown, only to realise that the next train to Picton would be more than one hour later! As it was Sunday, there were fewer trains scheduled and we should have taken an early train there to transfer in time. As a result, we had no choice but to take an expensive taxi ride from Campbelltown directly to Thirlmere, where Trainworks is located.

If not, we would only have a short one hour to explore Trainworks before taking our booked steam train ride at 1pm. We had to leave Thirlmere early as the last train during the day from Picton to Campbelltown was at 4:51pm. We also wanted to get back in time for a ferry ride to Watsons Bay ( which we had missed on our first day).

Trains Museum 

It was quite a long taxi journey (that’s why the cab fare was expensive) and we were glad when we finally arrived, seeing the brightly colored Thomas standing out from afar. Families were gathered around it on the green lawn.

The taxi driver dropped us in front of the entrance of the museum and we alighted eagerly to begin our exploration of Trainworks — a train museum housing significant rail heritage collection associated with the history of the railways in New South Wales. This 5-hectare rail corridor site and much of the collection are owned by the state of New South Wales.

Afraid that the ride on the steam train would be sold out (it’s a special ‘Day Out with Thomas’ event for that weekend after all), we had already purchased the tickets online. We showed the counter lady our printed tickets and gave us wrist bands to wear as proof of payment.

Having learnt the lesson after missing the train transfer earlier, I asked her for help to check the train timing, so that we could time our stay at Trainworks to catch that last train back to Picton. She was so friendly and such a great help! She helped us search for the train schedule and made a phone booking for a taxi which we could take immediately to Picton Train Station after taking the train ride.


Entry: Adult: $19, Child (Age 5-15): $11
Train Ride: Adult: $15, Child (Age 5-15): $12
Combo (Entry and Train Ride): Adult: $26, Child (Age 5-15): $21

More details at Trainworks Official website.


#Exhibition Building

After getting our tickets, we stepped into the adjacent Exhibition Building, which showcases several interesting steam engines. The huge green steam engine Steam locomotive E18 caught our eyes immediately.

Built in 1866, this is the oldest locomotive in Trainworks’ collection, having a working life of almost a century. It was allocated to freight duties on the main lines to the South and West of Sydney, later sold to the Southern Coal Company and worked for them till 1953, when it was put out of service.  It was finally restored and transferred to Thirlmere in 1975. What a long history this locomotive has!

Dar was excited to see this ‘Emily’ (from Thomas & Friends) look-alike and quickly headed towards it. There was a lever for switching tracks and he was eager to give it a pull. Alas, it was still too heavy for him so it only moved when I gave him a helping hand (it was a good opportunity to remind him again to eat more at meals so that he can get stronger! ^^).

We then went on board to its firebox area and he pretended to be operating the steam train. After that, we went inside the train to check out its interiors. We noticed an opening on its side, which we soon realised it led through a tunnel slide for children! Dar was tempted to slide through it but hesitated because he couldn’t see where he might end up (that’s good safety awareness!). ^^|

We left the locomotive and saw the Governor General’s Carriage, which had transported many royal celebrities. Built in 1901 for Australia’s first Governor General, this carriage is considered the most luxurious ever built in Australia.

We also went into a Prison Van and saw several prison cells in it. We were slightly taken aback when we saw a man sitting in one of the cells and wore a sad expression (well, of course anyone would be sad being locked in a cell…). We then realised it was a mannequin (guess it wouldn’t be practical to hire a real person to sit in there whole day long, right? ^^). Dar got interested and went forward to check him out, before asking us questions about him and why he was inside.

#The Great Train Hall

When we exited the Exhibition Hall, we suddenly realised that we were just ‘warming up’ so far, after we saw rows and rows of railway-related locomotives standing in front of us! Wow… We couldn’t believe such an extensive collection of trains and railway vehicles is possible at one single location! I bet Dar must have felt himself entering a huge paradise of trains too!

We were standing in the Great Train Hall, which houses the biggest collection of rolling stock in Australia! A significant portion of the collection has been steadily refurbished and restored over the years. What amazing work they have done!

Dar quickly launched into the hall, eager to step onto one of the railway tracks. He loves walking on tracks and the last time he did so was back in Europe. Since then, he has been asking us when he could do it again. He finally fulfilled his dream once more here. The trains were all decommissioned so we weren’t worried that any of the trains would pose any danger to him.

It was at this Great Train Hall that we could see Australia’s ‘Heroes and Legends’, such as the 6040 Garratt (the heaviest and most powerful steam locomotive ever in Australia), 1905 Steam Engine (the first locomotive to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge) and many more!

Besides admiring and taking photos with the trains from the outside, some of the carriages were accessible to us too! We couldn’t hold our excitement when climbing aboard them to experience for the first time — the feel, look and smell of these wonderful relics of Australian social history!

Pretending we were passengers of the train in its glory days
On board a luxurious train with dining and sleeper carriages

We also came across the Rail Pay Bus, one of the oddest little items in the museum’s collection. I tried to guess what it was used for and only found out that it was used for transporting employees wages all over the state’s rail system from the information board. Interesting!

This place is so huge with so many collections that train enthusiasts would have no problem spending hours on end here to relive the glorious days of these trains! We also wished we could stay longer and explore them further, but unfortunately time just wasn’t on our side. 🙁

Upon reaching the end of the hall, we arrived at the Round House.


This relatively new building, as its name implies, is a roundhouse where locomotives are serviced. It has a 105-foot turntable at the front to facilitate movements of vehicles, especially for the early steam locomotives, since they were primarily designed to travel forward only. When we first saw this building, it immediately reminded us of the roundhouse in Thomas & Friends.

In this building, Trainworks’ staff and volunteers carry out heavy overhauls, restorations and maintenance of locomotives. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore more due to time constraints.

During the Day Out with Thomas event, this was also one of the two stops where visitors could board Toby, a steam tram in Thomas & Friends.

We then moved on to check out the next section, the Thomas & Friends trains.

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