Sharne is the feature writer for www.ellaslist.com.au - Sydney's FREE local guide to the best things to do with kids every day. Sharne has 2 active preschoolers and loves to explore and share their adventures in Sydney every day.
Published June 1st 2012
Kids love trains! Boys and girls alike are entranced by the clickety clack and chugga chug of engines from the time they are tots. Trains on the telly have always been on high rotation at my house, starting with Thomas and Friends moving on to Driver Dan's Story Train and Dinosaur Train. Moving on, of course, to the famous Hogwarts Express featured in Harry Potter. So I've been doing a bit of digging to find Sydney's Best Train Activities for Kids, so my kids can experience the real deal. Here's a list of my favourites: Powerhouse Museum
500 Harris Street, Ultimo Call 02 9217 0111 Cost: Adults $12, Children $6, Under 4's free Suitable for ages 2 and up
For a warm-up, check out the fabulous Powerhouse Museum. A visit to Australia's most popular museum is one of our all time favourite low cost activities for kids in Sydney. It is the perfect rainy day destination and best of all, the Museum is suitable for toddlers right through to young adults. The first exhibition you'll come to is Locomotive No. 1. My son was literally speechless and completely awestruck the first time he clapped eyes on this magnificent old engine. On permanent display, Locomotive No. 1 hauled NSW's first passenger train. Peek through the train's window and see characters from the 1800's and listen to snippets of their conversation.
This locomotive is one of the most important objects in the Museum's collection, and has been in the Museum's possession for more than 120 years. Make your way to the Transport exhibition on level 2 which features trains and trams as well as cars, space craft and horse and carriage. Here you'll find Locomotive 1243, one of the few surviving 19th century passenger locomotives built in NSW. Kids can step on board and blow the whistle and hear characters from the 1800's discussing their roles on board the great trains in days gone by. You can also visit the Steam Revolution exhibition-it's not just about trains as 200 hundred years ago, steam did just about everything from pumping water, to powered ships. But with 12 working steam engines, 'hands-on' displays, old boilers, there is still plenty on offer to feed the train mania.
Cost: Adults return $29, Children return $15, Under 4's free
Suitable for ages 2 and up
The Zig Zag Railway lies on the western side of the Blue Mountains and runs between Clarence Station at the highest point and Bottom Points Station at the lowest point. Step back in time and discover more about the history and workings of an old fashioned railway. The steam trains are sadly out of operation for the time being but your little ones won't be disappointed with a 90 minute round trip on the diesel rail motor train. There is a live commentary and guided tours of the Top Points Signal Box and Zig Zag maintenance workshop. But the main attractions for my kids are the amazing kids activities running every school holiday:
Day Out With Thomas: This is the ultimate treat for any child who loves Thomas the Tank Engine and a fabulous day out for the whole family. This event runs every school holiday but make sure you book ahead-tickets sell out fast. Setting off from Clarence Station you board a train behind Thomas the Tank Engine and travel down to Bottom Points Station. You are greeted by the Fat Controller who directs you to the workshops, which have been cleared and filled with Thomas rides and amusements, miniature railway displays, tattoos and face painting. The Thomas train will pick you up and "chuff" up the steep climb, back to Clarence Station.
Harry Potter fans also have their turn on the Zig Zag railway. This exciting journey on the Wizards Express is two hours of magical fun and laughter combined with a train ride, departing Platform 9 3/4, Clarence Station, Blue Mountains NSW. Before boarding the train, prospective house members will be put under the sorting hat for carriage selection prior to Hagrid checking and seeing the train away on its journey. Food, such as lizards, worms, frogs, sows ears etc. will be served on the move. Ride with dragons, magical brooms, wizards, be entranced and intrigued by professional magicians and try your own hand at wizardry.
Open every day - 9.00am to 5.00pm (last rides 4.50pm).
Cnr Violet Street & Cliff Drive, Katoomba NSW
Call: 02 4780 0200 / 1300 SKYWAY
Cost: Adults from $16, Children (4-13) from $6, Under 4's free
Suitable for all ages
Also in the Blue Mountains is Scenic World. It offers 4 different experiences and they are all spectacular. For the train mad, the Scenic Railway is the main attraction. It's the steepest incline railway in the world- with a 415m descent which takes you through a cliff side tunnel down into an ancient rainforest. The ride itself is quite short but from here, you can explore the Scenic Walkway, 2.8kms of boardwalk through the ancient rainforest, including 380 metres of wheel chair and pram accessible walkway. The scenery is amazing, with plenty of great family photo opportunities. Catch the Scenic Cableway back up the incline-it's the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere.
If you have time, check out the Scenic Skyway- it takes you on a 720 metre journey, 270m above ancient ravines and dazzling waterfalls, over Jurassic rainforests. You'll get 360 degree views of the iconic Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, the Jamison Valley and best of all, the floor slides away to reveal a glass bottom so you really do feel as if you're floating on air!
Scenic World is very family friendly and all experiences are suitable for children of any age. There are 2 restaurants, a revolving restaurant which is a bit pricey, though kids under 4 eat free and 4-12's are offered special children's rates and the Cable Way Cafe which offers snacks and light meals. You can also pack a lunch and picnic in the spectacular surrounds.
The Train Shed www.thetrainshed.com.au
Open every Saturday & Sunday 10am - 4pm, but not weekdays or most Public Holidays.
Vicary's Winery, The Northern Rd, 2km south of Luddenham, NSW.Call: 02 4739 0199
Cost: Free Admission: 1 ticket $6, 6 tickets $30, Unlimited Ride Pass $35 per child, per day.
Suitable for all ages
The Train Shed is THE destination for little Thomas fans. This is the home of a whole army of mini trains-take a ride on Thomas The Tank Engine, and his carriages Annie & Clarabel, Toby the Tram Engine, and his carriage Henrietta, James the Red Engine, and the Express Coaches, Percy the Small Engine, and the Sodor Mail Vans, and Mavis the Quarry Engine, and the Ffarquhar Quarry Wagons.
Check website for special event details-around the middle of every year, The Train Shed also holds special Fairy Lights Nights. It sounds magical- chains of Fairy Lights surround the track and scenery, and the family can enjoy unlimited twilight train rides until it's time for everyone to go home. And Santa visits The Train Shed on some evenings in November and December.
There is also a cute little shop which carries all things Thomas. Kids (and dad, too, in our case!) can drive the Model Train Layout, taking Thomas, Toby, James or Percy on a tour of the Isle of Sodor. The Train Shed's Railway Refreshment Room serves Tea & Coffee and Devonshire Teas as well as a selection of fairly standard tuck shop fare. We'll bring a picnic and snags for our visit-there are scenic picnic area and bbqs on site.
Open Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am - 5pm
10 Barbour Road, Thirlmere
Call: 02 4681 8001
Cost: Adults $19-$26, Children $11-$21
Suitable for ages 2 and up
Head to historic Thirlmere for one of NSW's top train spots. Trainworks is one of the biggest train and rail attractions in the southern hemisphere! There is plenty of history on offer you can see some magnificent old steam engines and carriages and learn about the history of train travel, building and industry in NSW. Kids will find plenty to do at Trainworks - there's a train inspired playground and a locomotive, steam machine, special-purpose carriages such as the mail van, sleeping and dining cars that kids can climb in and explore. There are interactive displays and behind the scene behind-the-scenes views of maintenance and conservation of the heritage fleet in the roundhouse.
One of Trainworks major special events is their Day Out With Thomas: Thomas and his friends visit on selected weekends during school holidays. Meet the full-sized Thomas the Tank Engine and take a genuine steam train ride from Sodor Island Railway Station pulled by Donald the black engine, see Toby, Henry and the Fat Controller as he oversees all of the exciting activities on offer. The day includes mini train rides, Thomas movie, jumping castles, inflatable slide, face painting and story telling.
Other regular events include Steam Train Rides, Vintage Train Days, and Santa's Steam Train at Christmas.
Heritage Railway Discovery Tour @ Olympic Park
Every Sunday @ 10:30am & 12pm
Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park
Call 02 9714 7888
Cost: Adult $15, 5yrs $7.50,under 5 free on adult lap
Suitable for all ages
Every Sunday you can visit Newington Armoury in Sydney Olympic Park for a Heritage Railway Discovery Tour. Get on board the Heritage Train and enjoy an explosive trip around the historic Armory Buildings. Newington Armory was once the Royal Australian Navy Armament Depot, storing volatile ammunition. This informative tour on board the heritage-listed electric railway shows how wartime workers moved bombs, bullets and armament around the historic site. The kids will learn plenty of facts about the various building designs and usage, during this guided tour and will have the chance to explore the armament display up close, in what is still a restricted-access building.
The family can easily send the day at Olympic Park-there is a great choice of parks, playgrounds and picnic areas to explore and make sure you check out our favourite aquatic centre and water playground, Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Family Fun Sundays: For a super easy way to please your train crazy kids, you don't have to spend a lot or travel too far for a fun day out for the whole family on Sundays. For $2.50 per person, your family can spend a whole day on the trains, zipping around anywhere in Greater Sydney from Bathhurst to Bomaderry and everywhere in between (see website for details). Unlimited travel is also included on buses, ferries and light rail.