Train Works Train Museum at Thirlmere

Garratt 6040

On a rainy and cool day which quickly and surprisingly turned sunny and warm Ruben, his father and I visited the Train Works Rail and Train Museum in Thirlmere just as Ruben was finally starting to feel better after close to two weeks of being ill.

Stepping inside the museum was like stepping back in time. It effect was so potent that being hurried out of the Rail and Transport Museum at the end of the day, I could scarcely believe I was back in 2014 having travelled down memory and imaginary lanes for so long I seemed trapped in another period.

Well, that’s one way of time travelling without a big blue box.

Thirlmere Train Works Rail and Train Museum

Ruben (and Clara) on Rails

Ruben’s favourite parts of the exhibition seemed to be seeing the 6040 Garratt, 3830 and seeing other steam locomotives he had read about since he was a child. Awed by their size, curious about their craftsmanship, and wondering about the care and attention to detail, nonetheless I wasn’t able to share the nostalgic excitement which radiated from him nor join in the various technical talk passing between Ruben and his father.

My favourite picks of the museum however was the opportunity to see the insides of various rail carriages, though I wouldn’t have said no to a better look at the insides of a engine either. Being able to look inside a railway car is just one of many steps back in time as you get a better idea of how people then lived and their expectations compared to ours today.

Perhaps also even the standard upheld then compared to our negligent attitudes today.

In particular I enjoyed exploring their collection of electric commuter trains from the 1920s to the 1960s. The single deck commuter carriages of the 1920s (C3045, above) featured ornate wooden decor and seats emblazoned with the government-run railway’s symbol. It is a far cry from the commuter trains of today in that it has a much more ‘homey’ and warm feel to it, but one thing I noticed in particular was the separation into first and second class seating. The seats with the ability to be flipped around to sit in a different direction were a familiar concept though.

Thirlmere Train Works Rail and Train Museum

1940s trains (T4310) were closer to that of today, losing the ornate wooden decor and beginning to use steel painted in cool greens which in some ways seems to have fared worse than the wood. You can see marks of rust taking root and scratched and peeling paint. Blinds against the sun are still provided though, showing a care for commuters, and shows that our current express trains that still run on the Central Coast and Newcastle line are truly a relic of our past as it has a boarding area which can be otherwise closed off from the main seating area.

Taking another step forward into the 1960s brings us finally to the beginnings (C3804) of the double-decker trains which we see today. The cool green colour scheme is used again and although it is double decker like the trains today it seems so much more spacious on the inside. The stairs are narrower, but the doors are wider and there is sideways seating to one side of the stairs — efficient use of space. It is very interesting to see how spacious, open and uncluttered this train carriage from the past feels and how comfortable it looks, especially without the clinical white fluorescence of modern trains. The blinds on this train have disappeared.

Thirlmere Train Works Rail and Train Museum

Hearing of Dr John Job Crew Bradfield and his progressive plans for Sydney’s railway network is somewhat saddening though, particularly in imagining how Sydney could be today. Sydney’s network has not progressed very far in so many years, perhaps if his plans were finally realised Sydney could have a railway system it deserves, but unfortunately it’s a case of too little, too late.

Don't touch the ladder, laddie

Modelling with numbers

While Ruben rattled off various model numbers, admired and marveled over trains he had been reading about since childhood, I unfortunately had no such knowledge to fall back upon though could admire the feats of engineering that had gone into them. At least since the model numbers were printed on the trains themselves it wasn’t too difficult to see which train he was talking about.

The museum was deceptively small from the outside, having wandered into their Great Train Hall, it seemed apparent that you could wander inside there all day and never want to find the way out.

Even now having walked through the lines of trains, I need to look back at photos to remember them. I can make excuses as to why I can’t seem to remember these numbers, but I had an inkling today that my troubles could have to do with my practice of remembering numbers in Chinese since I was a child. I learnt my multiplication tables in Chinese and I learnt my phone numbers in Chinese, only knowing them in English now because of how much I’ve had to translate and use these in English.

I’d like to come back to this train museum again in the future because it still feels as though there’s more to explore and plenty more history to unearth. Perhaps next time I will come armed with better knowledge of these trains now that I’ve been exposed to them. In the meantime, I can put this hypothesis to practice and see what I can remember for next time. :)