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Published May 11th 2015
Not just for rail fans
AS Garratt 301 Locomotive & T Class Steam Engine 197 at Peterborough 1951 (State Library SA)
Peterborough in the mid north of South Australia has a long railway history. Within a few years of the town being settled the railway arrived to link Peterborough with Port Pire, Jamestown and Terowie.
The success of mining at Broken Hill was the impetus for a railway line to be laid through Peterborough to Port Pirie where the ore was smelted. Even in 1898 there were 70 trains daily transporting ore, and by 1923 over a hundred trains passed through Peterborough in one day.
Snow at Peterborough SA Railway Yards in 1895 (State Library SA)
In 1927 the workforce of the Peterborough Division of the South Australian Railways was 1800 with two thirds of them living in the town. The South Australian Railways brought a century of prosperity for Peterborough at the crossroads of major railway lines. Today the grand built heritage of the city such as the town hall reflects the town's success in those times.
In 1970 the east-west line was converted to broad gauge, making Peterborough one of only three triple gauge junctions in Australia. The 1980's saw services to Adelaide on the broad gauge line close down, and the narrow gauge line to Quorn no longer carried freight. The town almost disappeared into railway history.
The Diesel Shed at Steamtown Railway Museum in Peterborough SA
In 2009 the Steamtown railway museum was created on the site of the former South Australian Railways yards. Centred on the original triple gauge roundhouse and turntable, the diesel sheds also house many items from Peterborough's proud railway history. Steamtown is highly rated by its visitors and now has become one of the most popular Peterborough attractions.
Pick up a Memento of Steamtown Peterborough at the Souvenir Shop
The entrance to Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre holds a souvenir shop where visitors can browse books about trains, shop for model trains and other railways themed goodies, or learn about other Peterborough attractions.
The Diesel Shed is the first part of the original workshops on display to visitors, home to the classic 1912 T-class steam engine locomotive T199. The sleek machine looks ready to take off any time with its light illuminated and a cloud of steam pouring out. Railway enthusiasts will also find plenty of other things to see in the bogie exchange workshop.
The Triple Gauge Roundhouse at Steamtown, Peterborough SA
Leaving the Diesel Shed you begin to understand the scale of these former SAR workshops. Every bay of the huge roundhouse has either a locomotive or railway carriage parked at the entrance, with many more on display behind them.
A W Class Steam Engine Locomotive at Steamtown Peterborough
Many periods of railway history are represented. An accident van built in 1881 sits comfortably near a 1952 steam locomotive and a 1954 diesel/electric locomotive. Visitors are free to wander and browse at their leisure, or a 1.5 hour tour is available from knowledgeable guides.
Baby Health Carriage Operated by Mothers and Babies Health Association
A couple of railway carriages particularly caught my attention. I wondered whether a Baby Health carriage once operated by the Mother' and Babies' Health Association to help young mothers was responsible for creating a generation of railway enthusiasts.
Some of the rolling stock are maintenance vehicles, including the Morris MIC-127 which apparently had a Holden motor for improved reliability. Section cars are present in force, and an Accident Van which once provided a temporary base for railway workers.
There are just too many things on display at Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre to cover all that this amazing railway museum has to offer. If you can, stay for the evening sound and light show. Guests sitting in the railway carriage on the turntable for the display rate it highly as one of the best Peterborough attractions.
See the Sound and Light Show in This Heritage Railway Carriage
Peterborough is one of the places in SA's mid north that has adapted to change in railway history. Towns like Terowie were less fortunate. There are many abandoned railway stations in South Australia, but some have been restored. Read their fascinating story here.
I keep hearing so many good reports about this rail museum.Have passed through this town several times over the last few years,but only stopped fro a pastie.Perhaps your "reminder",will get mein the car and take a trip there to view the museum.Thanks for your constant efforts in promoting this fine state of ours!