I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published September 3rd 2012
Catch a ride into Western Australia's railway history
All aboard for a fascinating rail journey into the past at the Bassendean Railway Museum. Situated at 136 Railway Parade in Bassendean, the museum is a train lover's paradise with a wonderful assortment of rail engines (including a couple of genuine steam locomotives), vintage railway carriages dating back to the days when trains were the major form of transport throughout regional Western Australia, and all sorts of other miscellaneous railway memorabilia. With such a comprehensive collection, it's considered to be Western Australia's foremost museum of rail history.
The Bassendean Railway Museum was first opened in November, 1974, and has been a popular destination for history enthusiasts and railway buffs ever since, attracting not only local visitors but also those from interstate and overseas. Due to Western Australia's immense size and the logistical challenges of transporting people and resources throughout its hinterland, rail transport has played a pivotal role throughout the state's history. As early as the 1870s, private railways had transported timber felled in the forests south of Perth, while a line between Geraldton and Northampton, which transported lead and copper to port, was the first government railway.
In 1881, a line from Fremantle to Perth and on to Guildford, built by the Western Australian Government Railways, was the first passenger service in the Perth region. As European settlement expanded throughout the state during the years that followed, so too did the network of railway lines that served to connect remote rural areas with Perth and major regional centres. By the end of the nineteenth century, railway connections extended throughout the south-west of the state, and the discovery of gold in Southern Cross and later Coolgardie spurred on the construction of a line to these regions in 1894.
Unlike other museums which focus on particular regions or themes, the Bassendean Railway Museum houses a collection of displays which reflect the history of all aspects of rail transport in Western Australia, including the old timber and gold lines. Indoors, a comprehensive selection of historical photographs and rail paraphernalia is displayed, while outdoors there is an overwhelming collection of old engines, rail carriages and other artefacts which will interest everyone in the family, not only 'die-hard' train fanatics.
One of the most popular exhibits housed in the museum is 'Katie', a steam engine which was placed in service in 1881, when the Fremantle to Guildford line was constructed. Other steam locomotives, some of which also date back to the nineteenth century, are on display, as well as more modern diesel engines. In addition, the museum houses a wonderful collection of passenger carriages and freight wagons, including a gorgeous 1947 'Australind' buffet car, several vintage sleeper cars and even a Vice Regal carriage, which has been used by royalty. It's fascinating to see how rail travel has changed so dramatically over the last century, and I especially enjoyed marvelling at the style and comfort enjoyed by the first-class passengers in days gone by.
For families, it's possible to hire the 'Australind' buffet carriage for children's birthday parties. If you have a young train-lover in your family, this could be a great way to create a celebration which he or she will never forget. You can find out more by contacting the museum on 08 9279 7189. School groups are also warmly welcomed to the museum, and presentations and resources are available which tie in with various learning areas including Technology and Enterprise, and Society and Environment.
The Bassendean Railway museum is entirely staffed volunteers. However, due to its size, and the number of exhibits which it strives to preserve, more are always needed. Help is especially required to open the museum and welcome visitors, for restoration projects, general maintenance and administration. If you'd like more information about becoming a volunteer here, please email a query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the rear of the museum, the Western Australian Model Railway Club have their headquarters. As its name suggests, this is a place where model railway enthusiasts can meet and discuss their hobby. Public entry to the club is available on Sundays, during the museum's opening hours, and visitors can marvel at the various set-ups which are on display. Over the years I'm sure that these amazing scale models have inspired many people to join the club officially and learn a new hobby. Entry is included in the Museum's entrance fee. More information about what is available can be found at the Western Australian Model Railway Club website.
In conclusion, a visit to the Bassendean Railway Museum is a great day out for the whole family. Although train-lovers will be truly in their element here, other visitors won't be left out in the cold as there's so much to see and do for everyone. Personally, I loved looking inside the old carriages and appreciating the beautifully crafted wooden fittings, the elegance of the first class carriages and their groovy retro decor. For me, visiting the museum was also an opportunity to daydream about a simpler era, when an overnight rail journey had as much significance as a holiday to an international resort does today. Through presenting the history of rail transport in Western Australia, the Bassendean Railway Museum also documents the development of the state from its fledgling years as a small colonial outpost to its position today as a vibrant, dynamic state of Australia, and therefore will be fascinating for anyone with an interest in local history. Kids will love looking at the many amazing and huge steam engines, but if they start to get restless there is also a play area outside in the garden.
A special event which is held at the museum is the annual Railfest, which in 2012 is to be held on Sunday, 14th October, from 10.00am until 5.00pm. For this special event there will be a variety of special displays and events, including extra activities for children, as well as the museum's normal historical displays. Check out this Railfest poster to find out more.
The Bassendean Railway Museum is open on Sundays from 1.00pm until 5.00pm, and on Wednesdays from 1.00pm until 4.00pm. With prior arrangement, it can also be opened on Wednesday mornings, for school and other group visits. To find out more about group bookings, please contact email@example.com Admission is $9.00 for adults, $7.00 for concession card holders and $4.00 for children from 4 to 14 years old. For more information about this terrific local history centre, please check out the Bassendean Railway Museum website.
I especially love the carriage which was used by the Queen (about 30-40 years ago). It is surprising how unpretentious and simple it is, apart from the full bathroom!
This is a great place to have kids parties, but be warned - there is decades of train dirt - so don't wear your best party frock.