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Published December 12th 2016
Drive the train yourself
Port Milang Historic Railway Museum on the Shores of Lake Alexandrina
The Port Milang Historic Railway Museum is one of the major Milang attractions, showcasing the original South Australian Railways history of the town and surrounding districts. First opened in 1992, the Milang Railway Museum offers fun things to do which appeal to all the family.
The railway museum is based in the old Milang railway station, which contains many of the original South Australian Railways fittings. The railway station ticket and station master's office and have been re-created to look much as they did before the Milang railway line closed in 1968.
Paddle Steamers on the River Murray at Milang Jetty
The river boats brought wheat to Milang, which a light railway carried carried from the jetty to Landseer's flour mill located where the shopping centre stands now. Other goods from Adelaide were brought to Milang by bullock cart, and then shipped upriver from Port Milang. River boat trade to Milang peaked between 1860 and 1880, but dramatically reduced when a railway line was built to Morgan. It was not until years later that Milang was connected to the Victor Harbor railway line through Sandergrove.
Landseer's Flour Mill 1895 (Image: State Library of SA B-71978)
There are many old photos and railway memorabilia in the Milang railway museum which tell the story of how the South Australian Railways connection to this port nurtured and sustained the town. Landseer's flour mill, the River Murray shipping trade, and the Milang railway must have all helped to make Milang a busy and prosperous town.
Several old South Australian Railways carriages make the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum look busy, and they have been put to good use. One houses the Alexandrina Craft Shop, selling handmade jewellery, clothing and knitwear. Also on sale are a tasty range of locally produced foods including honey, jams and preserves. Rest your legs in the Milang railway museum dining car, serving cool refreshments and also Devonshire tea.
Alexandrina Crafts on Sale in Old Railway Carriage
Fans of Milang railway history will also take a short walk down the road to look at the disused railway turntable opposite the Milang Lakes Motel. But before you leave the Milang railway museum be sure to head to the recently repainted diesel electric locomotive 351 from National Railway Museum. Loco 351 has now been fitted with a state-of-the-art driving simulator which is fantastic fun for kids - and adults.
Hop into the driver's seat of locomotive 351 and follow the simple instructions to start the train. The driving simulator produces eerily realistic sound effects, and you can watch your progress on a screen as you "drive" the train. Of course you will want to use the train horn and bell to ensure that they work correctly - one of the best fun things to do that I have seen at a museum recently.
The newest addition to the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum is the South Australian Light Railway Centre, opened recently by National Railway Museum's Bob Sampson with support from the Light Railway Research Society of Australia and the History Trust of South Australia.
Milang is a little out of the way from your usual River Murray destinations, but is well worth a visit. There are many Milang attractions including fishing from the state heritage listed Milang jetty, the Milang Historical Society Museum, and following the Milang Historical Walk. Of course recreational watersports are huge Milang attractions, with boating, swimming, and jet skiing all popular, and the lake breezes are welcome in summer.
Finding Milang accommodation is easy: the Milang Lakes Motel is not far from Lake Alexandrina, while the Milang Pier Hotel is just a short walk from the lake. Camping and caravans are a welcome at the Milang Caravan Park, and there are many shacks along the waters edge at Lake Alexandrina. You can then use the town as a base to explore the nearby wineries, or wander in to Strathalbyn for some antiques shopping.
It is pleasing to see this small historic town continuing to develop the Railway Station area overlooking the jetty and lake.Back in the 1940s and fifties the jetty had bathing sheds and children would have a lot of fun diving / jumping off the jetty.Where the jetty met the grassed area on the eastern side,there was a stretch of sandy beach for children to play.Must revisit next year and Merry Xmas.Thanks Dave for your wonderful coverage of places to visit in S.A. on this site...hope you can continue next year!