The railway through Tenterfield has long been quiet, it has been nearly 30 years since the service ended. Tenterfield Railway Station is not as quiet, especially during the Saturday markets.
The railway station is a marvellous example of the architecture used in NSW railway in the late 19th century and is well maintained.
Brightly coloured steam tractors sit out the front, a magnet for children to inspect and climb, trying to operate anything that will move or otherwise just climbing over.
Entry through the main entrance in the middle of the building where you can pay for your entry into the museum before walking out onto the platform of the station.
A ticket window is in the entrance, however, there was no one there to collect the entry fees. Instead, a box is provided to drop your payment into, an example of the country trust found in country towns like Tenterfield.
Stepping onto the platform, railway rails are colour coded to show the different gauges used in Australian railway. NSW used 4′ 8.5″, far wider than Queensland’s 3′ 6″ gauge but less than Victoria which uses a 5′ 3″ railway gauge. The larger gauges allow larger and heavier trains to operate on the rails.
Along the platform, there are several rooms that can be accessed, including a gift shop and toilets. The displays are not that extensive in these rooms. Model trains operate in one of the rooms, always a treat for the kids.
The main displays are found away from the building. On the platform are several carriages you can walk through with history and memorabilia of the railways.
A rare 1906 guard’s van was added to the museum in 2014. The van has a wooden chassis and had been converted into living quarters with a coal stove, water heater, table and bench seating. A goods cart with the sides designed to allow good ventilation of air has a display of various tools, a couple of them that you can try using. Some items are painted yellow to invite you to interact with them.
At the ends of the platform, you are invited to cross the tracks to further displays and get a closer look at the trains and carriages. The first display (heading clockwise from the platform) is of the timber industry, one of a number of industries the railways supported. The display has a range of saws and felling equipment, including a few chainsaws.
The next display has larger exhibits, a collection of rail trikes and cars that transported workers, supplies and equipment to locations along the railway needing maintenance and repair. The cars are from a range of timelines and differing construction, from timber to metal to fibreglass, some with protection from the weather, many of them without.
Leaving the rail trikes and rail cars display, you will find a short section of a railway line with multiple tools set up to show how they were used on the rails, before reaching Tilly, the steam locomotive on display.
Tilly is locomotive number 2289, built by Vulcan Iron Works in Pennsylvania. It is a simple and robust US design for industrial duties. Tilly is one of two bought by Sydney Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board and later sold to the Emu and Prospect Gravel Company before retiring in 1962.
Tilly was part of the NSW Railway Museum in Thirlmere when it was redeveloped in 2009 as the Trainworks Rail Museum when it was relocated on loan to the Tenterfield Railway Museum. Steps beside the steam engine let you climb into the driver’s cabin for a look.
Behind Tilly are a few flat wagons with vehicles on them. A tractor is on the first, a 1934 International Truck on the next, and finally a WW2 Bren Gun Carrier, a tracked military vehicle used for training in the Tenterfield area.
A diesel passenger train sits on the northern end of the platform, used on country rail routes. They are reminiscent of the old red rattler single deck electric trains in Sydney that I remember ridding and operating until the early 1990s.
The windows have wooden frames that can be lifted open and have canvas blinds that can block out the light or offer shade from the sun. The brown seats come with the flipping backrest so the seating can be changed to be in the same direction of travel or face each other for a larger group.
A part of the museum has been closed but there are a couple of things to have a look at, including the turntable for turning trains around to the opposite direction. It is a long walk compared to the rest of the museum and you can’t get near it anymore, presumably due to safety reasons with it appearing to be falling apart.
Tenterfield Railway Markets
If you happen to be in Tenterfield on the first Saturday of an even month, you will find the Tenterfield Railway Markets in the forecourt of the railway station, between 8am and 12pm.
We happened to be there in April and managed to have a look around at the stalls, with a mix of arts and crafts, local goods, fruit and veges, plants and more.
The markets are there in February, April, June, August, October, and December.
To get there:
From the New England Hwy, the main street in Tenterfield, turn into Douglas St at the brown sign for Railway Museum. Follow Douglas St for 1.2km and turn right into Railway Ave with another brown sign. The entrance to Tenterfield Railway Museum is about 300m on the left.
Cost: Adult $7.50, Child (5-16) $4.00
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Wheelchair accessible: Yes, with assistance. Access is limited to the platform area