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Powerhouse Museum

Home > Sydney > Family | Museums | School Holidays | Technology | Tours
by Todd Newton (subscribe)
Published February 14th 2014
Twelve exhibits under one roof
Powerhouse Museum

It's very easy to be in awe walking through the Powerhouse Museum. After all, it's one of Australia's largest and most diverse museums with over 250 interactive exhibits.

There are 12 main exhibitions to see and they are just the permanent ones. Temporary exhibits are also regularly held through the year.

So let's take a journey through the museum and have a look around!

Locomotive No.1

Locomotive No.1
Locomotive No.1.

The first thing your eyes may notice when you enter is a large foyer with ceilings that seem mile high and a large locomotive sits right in the middle of it all.

This steam locomotive is known as Locomotive No.1 and it hauled NSW's first train in 1855 from Sydney to Parramatta. It was built in England by Robert Stephenson & Co, Newcastle On-Tyne and is one of the very few locomotives left since almost all locomotives were scrapped. Locomotive No.1 has been in possession of the museum for 120 years.

Locomotive No.1
A model of a Farming Family inside a Second Class carriage.

Visitors can peer into the carriages and overhear audio about the kinds of conversations that passengers would have had on a typical 19th century train.

Boulton & Watt Engine/Strasburg Clock

Boulton & Watt Engine
Boulton & Watt Engine.

When you move away from Locomotive No.1, you will notice behind it a large engine. This engine was built in England by engineer James Watt and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton.

It's one of the earliest rotating steam engines ever built and was used in London's Whitbread brewery in 1785 and worked for 102 years.

Strasburg Clock
Strasburg Clock.

Between 1887 and 1889, Richard Bartholomew Smith built a model of a famous clock in Strasbourg, France. But Richard never went to Strasburg to see the clock. In fact, he claimed that he based his design on an image he saw on postcards and in a book.

Engineering Excellence

See the Engineering Excellence exhibit and have a look at some of the innovative engineering projects produced in Australia during last year.

Powerhouse Museum
A Model of the Computer Aided Rover Management project.

The Computer Aided River Management project won the Bradfield Award this year where a panel of industry practitioners and academics dubbed it as the most outstanding project. In this project, Computers control water flow along the Murrumbidgee River which will significantly improve services for everyone in a region that was affected by drought.

Engineering Excellence
V30 Touchlook (on the left).

And see the V30 Touchlook which is a biometric finger scanner and glance at a range of other engineering projects such as a astronomy satellite project, a cordless wi-fi camera and scopes.

This exhibition lasts until the 11th of January 2015.

What's in Store

Once you travel down the escalators to Level Two, you will see the 'What's In Store' section. Learn about Australia's retail history between 1880- 1930 and examine collections of advertising and items that were on display during this period.

This exhibition is divided into three sections;

Selling In A Modern World- Learn about the rise of the department store and the impact of advertising on buyers in the late 19th century. For example, Bushell's Tea advertisements dominated Australian culture at the time.

Powerhouse Museum
The General Store.

The General Store- See a replica of the Wong Family General Store which is an example of the role that general stores had in rural communities during the late 19th century.

Powerhouse Museum
Delivery Wagon.

The wagon in the picture above belongs to Sat & Amelia Wong and was used to pick up goods from Goulburn and travel the two day journey back to their store in Crookwell (50km North-West of Goulburn). It was also used to make deliveries to nearby properties.

The Wong Family- Learn more about the Wong Family story. Sat and Amelia Wong migrated to Australia for the gold rush. Later, they opened the general store and traded with nearby farming families.

The Steam Revolution

Steam Revolution
'The city electric.'

For over two centuries, steam power was the backbone of wealthy societies. It pumped water, drove factories and powered ships across the expanse of the oceans.

Learn about the evolution of steam engines from the 1770s to the 1930s.

Steam Revolution
RS & J Portable Engine.

The RS & J portable engine is just one of twelve engines that are on display. It worked on farms in central NSW and was used to drive machinery like threshers and pumps.

As you will see in the video above, another engine display, known as Belliss and Morcom Engine, used steam. This engine used steam to make oats for Uncle Toby's.

A visit to this exhibition will also have you see old boilers, carousels, and videos about steam power.


Computing Technology.

See the very first computing machines, the latest designs and everything in-between.

Artificial intelligence is also a big theme in this exhibition which questions if robots and computers can have a conscious and if they could think like a human does.

Cyberworld Lost In Space
A replica of the Robot B-9 by Will Anderson.

An example of this can be seen in the display of a replica of the Robot B-9 from Lost In Space. On the show, B-9 was a processor but it also became a friend to the rest of the human cast. It's one of the first instances that a robot was portrayed as having a personality similar to a human.

Life on Mars

A exhibit on Mars is located next to Cyberworlds on the first floor. See why there might have been life on Mars early in its history.

Mars Yard
Mars Yard.

You might even see mini-rovers driving on the Mars Yard with researchers and students at their helm.


Ecologic seeks to inform of the challenges that the environment faces including how humans impact upon the natural world.

A model of a sustainable kitchen.

Visit an 'Ecohouse' and learn how how each decision made by humans is affecting the environment. A simulator and a ecological footprint game will suggest how we can lower the amount of energy that we use.

Interactive I-Pad games also test how much you would know about a city's water cycle.

And discover why scientists predict a warmer Earth in the near future with wild weather, more acidic oceans and rising water levels.

Powerhouse Museum
A model of a crushed car.

See how things can be recycled and reused for the future such as the rushed car in the image above. This car is being melted and reused to make reinforcing rods for the building industry.


Once you step out into the Transport exhibit, it looks like you're in a giant toy factory. Large planes hang overhead including The Catalina (which flew the first flight from Australia to South America) and the First Flying Doctor Service Plane.

Powerhouse Museum
A mock-up platform with the Governor's Carriage on the left and Steam Locomotive No. 1243 on the right.

Life-size trains sit idly by at a mock-up railway platform: The Steam Locomotive No. 1243 (which is the oldest contractor built locomotive in Australia and served for 87 years) and the Governor of NSW's railway carriage (which was used in the 1880's).

Central Station Destination Board
Central Station Destination Board.

Looming over everything is the giant Central Station Destination Board which was used in 1937. It displayed all station names, platform numbers and departure times for trains that travelled out to Country NSW.

A Horse Bus is also on display which was the first reliable form of public transport/ It appeared in the 1860s on the streets of Sydney. And see a 1913 Sheffield Simplex car: there are only eight of these vehicles left in the world.

Powerhouse Museum
A Horse Bus.


Once you move behind the Central Station Destination Board, you arrive in the Space exhibition. In 'The Space Lab', two Australian astronauts (Dr Andy Thomas and his wife) walk you through a visit to the International Space Station shown. Find out what's it like to live, sleep and eat in a environment where you don't have weight and see how astronauts use the bathroom in weightless conditions.

Powerhouse Museum
Habitation Module.

Experience the illusion of weightlessness in the Zero Gravity Space Lab. But here's a tip: if you get dizzy while walking through, just close your eyes for a couple of seconds.

See life-size models of Australian satellites, space-shuttle cockpits and rovers. Look at images of the space race between the U.S.A and the Soviet Union.

Lay your eyes upon a actual piece of rock from the moon that is also displayed (on loan by NASA).

Powerhouse Museum
A model of the Soviet Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled lunar rover.

A life-size replica of the Soviet Lunokhod 2 lunar rover in shown in the photo above. It operated on the moon and explored it's surface in 1973.


The sweet smell of perfume greets you when you enter Experimentations.

Experimentations Powerhouse Museum
A cabinet of scents seen when walking into the room.

Use your hands to become part of a battery. Put your hands on the zinc, copper and aluminum handprints to compare different levels of electric charge.

Plasma Ball
Plasma Ball.

Touch a plasma ball that charges to your fingerprint.

Watch how chocolate is made by a machine and taste each of the four stages of the chocolate in its building process.

Power a fire engine with foot pedals. When you pedal, the leg power converts to electric power which turns the radio, wipers, lights and sirens on.

Powerhouse Museum
Pedal operated Fire Engine.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There are plenty more interactive displays that you can try if you choose to visit this exhibition.

Nuclear Matters

Hear about the world of nuclear science, medicine and nuclear power. Nuclear technology is used for medical diagnosis and for treating cancer. It's also used to determine the material structures for generating power.

Nuclear Matters Powerhouse Museum
A 'patient' about to undergo a scan.

Find out why many things are radioactive including yourself and other people.

Nine interactive activities will await you in this exhibition. These include an activity where you do scans on 'patients' as shown in the video below:

Another activity allows you to control a small nuclear fission reaction. And you can even make your own isotope in another interactive activity.

Powerhouse Museum
Make an Isotope.

Understand how light works and how colours appear when sunlight passes through a glass prism according to Sir Issac Newton.

The Powerhouse Museum Cafe

Once you have finished exploring the museum, come and grab a coffee or a bite from the Cafe. For more information, read Wendy's WEN article.

Entry Prices

Adult- $12
Children (From 4-15 years)- $6
Children under Four- Free
Family (1 adult & up to 3 children, or 2 adults and up to 2 children)- $30
Pensioners, Seniors & Concessions- $8
Student card holders- $8

Parking and Transport

Street Parking is limited on adjacent streets around the Powerhouse Museum and it is metered.

If you can't find a spot, park your car at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Prices for Secure Parking are as follows;

1-2 Hours- $23
2-3 Hours- $29
3 Hours- $36
Early Bird Rate (Monday-Friday where you enter between 6:30 am and 9 am and exit between 3 pm and 7 pm)- $14

Other carparks nearby include the Harbourside Car Park and the Convention Centre Car Park.

But if you'd rather catch public transport, the 'How to get to the Powerhouse Museum' page will give you some information.
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Why? A Museum tour.
When: 10am- 5pm
Phone: (02) 9217 0111
Where: Ultimo
Cost: See 'Entry Prices' section.
Your Comment
I've been through one of those zero gravity tunnels before. They really are disorienting, aren't they?
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12630) 3275 days ago
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