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Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published June 4th 2015
Learn about the Good Old Times
Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village

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Tailem Town, One of Many Tourist Attractions About South Australia


Old Tailem Town is a pioneer village - a town re-created to be a museum of life in the early years of the twentieth century.

It's a huge collection of over 100 buildings, filled with the sort of things you would expect to find in them, typically from 1920-1960.

The buildings are laid out into streets, and look very authentic indeed, transporting visitors into a past world that most if us would never have heard of.

There are also many other items on display - cars, trucks, farm implements, railway carriages and equipment, a tram, and even the original Adelaide Railway Station Pie Cart.

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A Street in Old Tailem Town, Tailem Bend


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.

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A Re-creation of a Hahndorf Fachwerk House


Shops and Utility Buildings

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Shops From All About South Australia


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.

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The Wonderview Cinema


Note that most of the buildings are old (typically early 1900's), but generally did not originally serve the purpose that they now portray.

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Ice cream Anyone?


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.

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The Wonderview Cinema Interior


The Police Station is recreated in a lifelike manner too, having once been the single men's quarters for the railways at Murray Bridge.

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The Police Station at Tailem Town


Inside I was surprised by a uniformed officer and period items of equipment.

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The Police Officer Would Like Your Licence


There was even a single bed which looked very much of the same period. I can well imagine scenes like this scattered about South Australia during the 1930's.

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Sleeping Quarters in the Police Station


Where would we be without the telephone? Of course Tailem Old Town has an authentic exchange, originally situated at Springton.

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Telephone Exchange


Off to one side you can see an example of a manual exchange, where the operator had to pull out a cord and pug it into another subscriber's socket to connect a call.

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Inside the Telephone Exchange


Finally, why not call in to the Bent Elbow Hotel for refreshments - it's apparently another of the ghost attractions too.

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Visit a Country Hotel on Your Next Holiday in SA


The Hotel comes complete with a front bar, lounge bar, dining room, and accommodation.

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The Country Hotel Front Bar, a Tourism Icon


Transport

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Fire Engines From All About South Australia


The Fire Brigade has always critical to urban life, and here we can find several examples of old fire trucks in the Fire Station.

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An FJ Holden, Part of the History of South Australia


Many old cars are on display, including what is probably an FJ Holden - one of the first models off the production line.

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Put the Cart After the Horse


You will also find many carts from the days when horses were an important form of transport.

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Vintage Trucks on Parade


As you arrive at Old Tailem Town, you will not fail to notice a large line-up of trucks near the entrance. Some of these are being restored by volunteers from the Enfield Historical Society.

Collections

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A Collection of Dog Registration Tags


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.

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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.

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Part of the Barbed Wire Collection


Presumably the barbed wire collection is at less risk of being stolen.

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Antique Spark Plugs


Similarly the spark plug collection should be safe from all but the most dedicated motor enthusiast.

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Biscuit Tins and Other Bric a Brac


If you're more domestically inclined, the collections of keys, biscuit tins, and ice cream containers may be of more interest.

Trains, Railway Carriages and Other Railway History

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Adelaide Railway Station Pie Cart, Once a Tourism Attraction


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.

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Railway Carriages for Goods


There are many railway carriages at Old Tailem Town, from goods transport carriages to an Accident Train from Mile End - presumably a carriage used as base to provide support during derailments.

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Accident Train Railway Carriage


Another carriage used by railways workers is the camp train sleeper.

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Permanent Way Camp Train Sleeper


Looking at the damaged interior, it seems to have been like a railway caravan with cooking and sleeping facilities. I believe this is planned to be restored at some stage in the future.

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Camp Train Sleeper Interior


And of course, what railway line would be complete without signals?

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Rail Signals Once Found All About South Australia. Now Railway History.


Ghost Tours and Related Ghost Adventures

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Ghost Adventures in a Former Methodist Church


While for many the main attraction of Old Tailem Town are the historical recreations, there are others who are attracted to a darker side.

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Paranormal Investigations in the Former Wolsely Methodist Church


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.

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Stained Glass Window in the Old Church


More information about the ghost tours can also be found on the The Ghosts Within Facebook group page.

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Take a Walk Among the Tombstones


The graveyard next to the church was made with old tombstones from the Payneham cemetery. The grave leases had expired and the tombstones would have been destroyed if not relocated here.

The Final Bit

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Vintage Tram No 374


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.

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An Early Settlers Cottage Now Attracts Tourism


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.

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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.

More information can be found on the Old Tailem Town Facebook page or their website.

Your visit is likely to take a minimum of two hours, and could take far more depending upon your interests.

For the admission fee it is tremendous value - check it out for yourself!

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Morphett Vale General Store


The writer received free entry for the purposes of writing this article.
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Why? Find out how people lived nearly 100 years ago.
When: 9am - 5pm Allow at least 2 hours for your visit.
Phone: (08) 8572 3838
Where: Old Tailem Town Historical Village, Princes Highway, Tailem Bend SA 5260
Cost: Adult: $22 Pensioner: $20 Children: $8 each. Family inc 2 adults and their own kids: $50
Your Comment
You`ve redeemed yourself Dave with this writeup on Tailem town! I hope you are still riding your bike- lycra optional. Brendan McGuire
by slogg (score: 1|62) 1779 days ago
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!
by koj77 (score: 2|151) 1784 days ago
Dave just your photos alone make me want to drive out to Old Tailem Town to see it. Am so pleasantly surprised there is so much to see there. Will not be ignoring it next time I'm on that route.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1590) 1783 days ago
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.
by madmo (score: 1|18) 1706 days ago
A man who lives / lived in Jabuk actually owns some of the old vehicles that are at Old Tailem Town. He also owns some very old military vehicles
by r.eng (score: 2|294) 304 days ago
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