Old Tailem Town is the life work of Peter Squires, and an assortment of unpaid volunteers who contribute in many ways to make visitors' experiences enjoyable. The town is situated just outside Tailem Bend, about an hour's drive from Adelaide and has done wonders for local tourism - it is now Australia's largest pioneer village and a much sought after place for ghost tours and other ghost adventures.
It was used as the setting for South Australian film Twin Rivers because of the authenticity of the period setting.
For people on holiday in SA, visiting Old Tailem Town is a wonderful way to learn more about the history of South Australia. Similarly countless school children have found that Tailem Old Town tours are an easy way to find out how their ancestors might have lived.
Because of the enormous variety of things to see in Old Tailem Town, I have selected just a few popular themes to show you from the massive display.
There are a great number of shops and other buildings in Old Tailem Town depicting the history of South Australia. A hospital, a cinema, police station and fire station are just a few of the utility buildings that you will find here.
For example the Wonderview Cinema was a former railway goods office on Murray Bridge wharf. But it now has been recreated as a fully working cinema, with projectors and other equipment salvaged from the Robe Institute and restored by volunteers.
Old Tailem Town is all about the history of South Australia, and as such it contains a number of historical collections. The collection of dog registration discs starts from 1885 and covers pretty well to the present day.
Oil Lamps Used in the Early History of South Australia
While most of the exhibits are able to be easily viewed and even touched in many cases, a few of the more fragile collections are screened off by a wire lattice. The collection of oil lamps is one of those, as they are obviously valuable. Another that is screened off is a collection of Jim Beam bottles and memorabilia.
It's appropriate to give pride of place in this section to the original Adelaide Railway Station Pie Cart. Many will remember desperately trying to counter the effects of too much alcohol with a pie floater. Many people lost that battle, and their meals.
For those who never enjoyed the experience, a pie floater was a meat pie served floating in a bowl of bright green pea soup.
It is said that there are ghost attractions - the old Methodist Church is claimed to be haunted, and Adelaide's Haunted Horizons conduct regular Ghost Tours and other paranormal tours. Tailem Town has certainly contributed to a boost in paranormal tourism and ghost adventures in South Australia.
Some might say that it's easy to collect a pile of old things and put them together in the shape of a town. But they would be totally wrong.
What Peter Squires and his band of volunteers have achieved over many years is little short of amazing.
They have curated a disparate collection of buildings and household goods, and created a lifelike past. An insight into an Australia that children today have never seen, and would even struggle to imagine.
It really is a work of art - the buildings look totally authentic for what they are supposed to be, right down to peeling paint and dust on fixtures. Because they are old buildings.
A few visitors have commented negatively on the dust, and the occasional smell of mothballs near old clothing. I did not find it unpleasant, objectionable or inappropriate. You may differ in your opinion, but I doubt it.
A Settlers' Cottage - Lost History of South Australia
Every school child (and new Australians) should have the opportunity to visit this place and learn more about South Australia and its history.
The only minor downside for me is that Old Tailem Town does not serve much in the way of meals. Drinks, scones, ice creams, and microwaved pies and pasties are available, but no sandwiches or the like. Variations in visitor numbers, and the lack of paid staff make catering difficult here.
But for any visitors this should not be a problem. Pack a picnic basket before you come, or just visit the bakery in Tailem Bend before you visit if you are likely to be hungry.
Ship engines, golden oldy victa mowers, a recreation of every type of old town enterprise I could think of (well, there was only one solicitor), what looked like every type of barbed wire making implement and product known to man, the Shepherd family's collection of goodies over generations, a big model trainset (not operating at the time), an old world pub with no beer (unfortunately), a herd of bedfords.... it's hard to stop listing stuff! A great place, incredible work by Peter and Co, friendly volunteers and a great writeup!
Very expensive, inconsistent "facts" on the buildings. Kids were more interested in the whispering wall things in the front car park, creepy overall feeling. Not at all worth the drive or the money. And the one eyed horse scared the crap out of me and the kids, poor thing.