Sunday, 15 August 2021

Stepping Back in Time

18 March

Junee Railway Museum 

A late catch up this one. My husband and I were returning to Queensland after my 70th birthday climb of Australia's top ten peaks. We had planned to spend more time exploring the Snowy Mountain area, but discovered accommodation was all but non existant. 

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme 1947 - 1972, is expanding. The first workers lived in 100's of temporary camps. The accommodation for the Snowy 2 workers is still being built, so all the 'tourist' accommodation is booked out. The result was that we ended up getting a bed at Gundagai, well on the way to our road home. This turned out to be a positive. Gundagai was a beautiful historic town and we stayed 3 nights. 

On day 2, we drove the short distance to explore Junee, a town serving an area of wheat, sheep and vineyards. Whilst the town's historic buidings didn't have the wow factor of those in Gundagai, we were thrilled by the town's rail history and especially its Roundhouse Museum.

The Great Southern Railway, Sydney to Albury was built in the 1870's, through Junee. Many branch lines were built from here, making it the hub for workshops. The elegant, station refreshment room was essential for the long distance traveller.

The station - opened March 1885. The original wooden station had burnt down.

Station Square

The beautifully restored refreshment room. 

In January 1947 a 42 road, fully covered roundhouse was completed on the outskirts of Junee. On reading of the existance of this building, it was a must to find and visit. Several wonderful hours were spent exploring the museum and watching the work of the active section. 

It was to be the last depot built by New South Wales Government Railways, but at that time, it was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It was closed in 1993, but thankfully in 1994, half was created into a museum and half leased to Austrac a private rail operator.

The original plan and an old aerial view.

Southern train entrance.

The museum - Its memorabilia was quite familiar to me, as Mooloolah, the country town near my parent's dairy farm, had a railway station. During my high school years, I cycled several kilometres to it, to take the 45 minute train ride to Nambour and high school. 

The Roundhouse had 42 bays. Half of these were filled with engines and carriages of  bygone years. I was again filled with nostalgia.

The mail sorting carriage.

Several, wonderful hours were spent enjoying the roundhouse, reliving memories of our train experiences of the 50's and 60's - the chugging of the engine, smoke filling the sky, coal grit in the eyes, the rythmn of the clicketty clack on the rails, wooden panels and leather seats, snap shots of life slowly passing by and  the excitement of the journey.

This was interrupted on several occasions by activity in the workshop half of the Roundhouse. An engine pulling another engine arrived.

They crossed the turntable and exited.

Another engine entered from the north.

It broke down, and its drivers had to wait for the work crew to return from lunch.

The train was unable to be fixed. Engine 4532 had to be woken, turned round on the turntable and linked.

The recovery engine driver had a lot of time to fill in!

Finally, both engines left!

A wonderful, wonderful visit. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I hope our Ben will enjoy it, through his visit via this book I made for him.

I would love to read your comment.


  1. Replies
    1. I thought you would enjoy this one, Bill.

  2. What a wonderful place to visit! I would love to see all those old trains now restored.

  3. You obviously had a great time there, Helen, and the fact it activated memories is a bonus. Sometimes it works out well when things don't go quite as planned.

    1. I agree David. Sometimes plans don't live up to expectations.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this post about the old railway. There were several railway engineers in my father’s family and I always loved the connection to that means of transport. The old cars are beautifully preserved.

    That was quite a trip you had to high school! It would be unimaginable today I suspect.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Marie. It was a pretty special morning.
      Re high school - I just checked on google the number of high schools now in the area and although the towns / villages have grown considerably, the number of HS's haven't so I think students are still taking the train.

      I will add that it was a 10 min walk to and from the station to school. Throughout summer, thunderstorms would invariably soak us as we made the dash to catch our train.

  5. When you rode the train to school, did you go daily or did you stay in the town where the school was located for the week? Back when Randy's grandparents were young, the farm children often stayed with relatives during the school week. Some families had a house in town for the mom and children for during the week. Multiple trips back and forth to town were nonexistent for farm families back in the 1910s, 1920s, etc. (Now we think nothing of it.)It looks like your misfortune of not having a hotel where you initially had hoped turned out to be a serendipitous bonus with that museum.

    1. It was a daily ride, catching the train at 8am and 3pm. My father had to be billeted when he went to high school. Many of our rural, western students have to go to boarding school for high school. School of the air and distance education sees them through the primary years.
      Jenny, one of the Hungry Hikers, had to live in town and then boarding school and only lived an hour or so from Brisbane.

    2. Thanks for the information. I was just curious how the two compared.

  6. And I think Ben will love the book!

  7. Thank you, Kim. Once Ben finds Pops in the photos, his enjoyment is assured.