Category Archives: Collection

National Reconciliation Week

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories.

National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) celebrates the shared histories, cultures and accomplishments of Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders and the broader Australian community. It urges all Australians to learn how we each can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. National Reconciliation Week commemorates two significant milestones: the date of the successful 1967 Referendum, and the date of the Mabo decision.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week in 2019 – GROUNDED IN TRUTH – recognises that to strengthen Australia’s race relations, the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all other Australians must be built on truth. The theme encourages all Australians to come to terms with our shared history, to unify the country and continue to create a culture of respect and understanding.

THE 1967 REFERENDUM

The 27th of May, 1967, marks the date of the Australian Referendum, in which over 90% of Australian voters said ‘YES’ to amending the 1901 Constitution in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The overwhelmingly successful vote meant that Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders would now be included in the census, and allowed the Commonwealth, rather than each individual state government, to create laws for them. This addressed the inequalities within the legal system from state to state. The Referendum became a key symbol for the equal rights movement of the 1970s.

THE MABO DECISION

Eddie Koiki Mabo was from Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. Mabo famously challenged the Australian legal system and won his people’s case for land ownership. The case, Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992) made its landmark decision on 3 June 1992, granting recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as traditional owners of the land of their ancestors. The Mabo decision was a turning point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the fight for native title.

The Mabo decision abolished the doctrine of terra nullius, which was put in place by British invaders in 1788, meaning the land belonged to nobody. The Mabo decision identified that terra nullius should never have been applied to Australian land, instead recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had occupied the land for 40 000 – 60 000 years before the British arrived.

In honour of National Reconciliation Week, have a look below at a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts from the Townsville region, that represent the Aboriginal communities from this part of the state.

Shield

This shield was made by the Rainforest people situated between the Townsville and Mossman Regions. This community is best known for their swords and shields, which distinguish them from other Indigenous language groups. Shields such as this one were shaped and then painted with rich ochre colours, creating abstract designs that represented both animal and plant totems.

Axe

A hafted stone axe, made by Russell Butler in 1998.

Digging Stick

This digging stick was found by the Environmental Protection Agency during field work at Ross Creek, Townsville in 1998.

Necklace

This necklace was made using echidna quills and red sandalwood seeds, threaded onto a nylon line with a gold plated catch. It was made in Townsville by Dot Prior in 1998.

Basket

This woven Pandanus basket was made by Sarah Wapau in 1990. Ms Wapau was born on Thursday Island, and was a prominent member of the Torres Strait Island community in Townsville when this item was purchased by the Museum in 1991.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

Celebrating women’s history

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories.

At the Museum of Tropical Queensland, we have a team of incredible women who look after our collections, our research, our visitors, and our galleries. Behind closed doors, much of our collection was also built on the travels and research of women in both the past and present.

This hidden gem has been pulled from the collections to highlight the input of two women who have helped make our collections what they are today, and who are representative of the many women who have made valuable contributions to our collections over the years. In a sense, this object is but one that represents a tribute to women as makers, as creators, as artists, and as collectors.

This beautiful cushion cover was collected in the Torres Strait Islands by Pamela Brodie. During mid-1979, Pamela travelled around the Islands, collecting over 180 items such as this for the James Cook University Material Culture unit, which was later donated to the Queensland Museum Network. Some of the objects collected by Brodie are now stored in Brisbane at the Queensland Museum, and the rest are kept here in Townsville, at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

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This particular item was collected from Medigee Village on Erub (Darnley) Island, and was made by an artist by the name of Pamela Gela. The cushion cover was displayed at the Museum of Tropical Queensland from 2000-2005. Pamela Gela’s artistic design and innovative use of materials and colour has given us an insight into the diversity of Torres Strait material culture.

The input of both Pamela Gela and Pamela Brodie to the Museum’s collection has assisted us in building a diverse, valuable collection of material culture from the Torres Strait, and helps us to further understand, appreciate and showcase the significant heritage of Torres Strait Islander people through our work at the Museum. These two women represent some of the many incredible contributors that have helped shape the Queensland Museum’s collection today.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

GEORGE RANDALL’S SOUVENIR UMBRELLA

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the craftsmanship of a good quality umbrella?  In Queensland where the weather is usually fine and sunny, most of us these days tend to wear hats to keep the sun off our heads which leaves our beloved umbrellas safely tucked away for those occasional – yet not uncommon – heavy rainfall seasons.

The Queensland Museum recently acquired this old umbrella which was manufactured in c. 1901 by Reid & Todd; a travel and leather goods store located in Glasgow, Scotland. It is an earlier example of what we today regard as a ‘modern day’ umbrella. Prior to the mid nineteenth century, ‘brollies’ were traditionally crafted from whalebone and/or wood, and silk was commonly used for the canopy. This resulted in them being a tad on the heavy side and somewhat delicate – probably a bit of a nuisance if you’re getting about in heavy rain all the time.

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Image of H49762, George Randall’s souvenir umbrella, c.1901.

The clever design of the modern day umbrella frame is owed to Mr Samuel Fox who was an industrialist and steelworker from Sheffield, England.  In 1851, he developed “U-shaped” stainless steel ribs which gave form to the famous ‘Paragon’ frame – that lovely rounded “U” shape we are all familiar with when we think of umbrellas.  The design became superior to anything available on the market resulting in a unique, stronger and lighter umbrella.  During the turn of the nineteenth century, Samuel Fox became the largest umbrella frame maker in the world.

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Image of H49762, George Randall’s souvenir umbrella – open, c.1901.

This particular umbrella in the museum’s collection belonged to Mr George Randall who was Immigration Officer for the Queensland government from 1881 until 1902. Mr Randall frequently travelled abroad on long stints to Britain on recruiting campaigns with a view to attracting new settlers to the colony. He became very well known for his lectures which promoted Queensland.  In 1901, towards the end of his career, he took up the position of Court Manager for the Queensland section of the Glasgow International Exhibition. The umbrella was either purchased or given to Mr Randall as a souvenir while he was in Glasgow for this momentous event. The umbrella is made of a wood stick, a rounded ivory handle and dons the famous ‘Paragon’ steel frame. It has a brass collar fixed to the stick with ‘Reid & Todd Glasgow’ engraved onto it. The ivory handle contains George Randall’s initials inscribed in black indicating the personal aspect of the object.

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Detail view of H49762, souvenir umbrella, c.1901. Image shows George Randall’s initials inscribed into the ivory handle.

This umbrella is a great addition to the social history collection here at Queensland Museum. It allows us to explore the individual story of George Randall and to understand his contributions both personal and professional to building a colony of people who would come to work, live and love Queensland as he so did. George Randall was an avid lover of literature and took to poetry as a way of appealing to his fellow countrymen. In a pamphlet that he published titled The Emigrant: his Thoughts, Feelings and Aspirations, he writes in the very first verse:

I am going, I am going to a land beyond the sea,
And I ask my fellow-countrymen, “Will any follow me?”
I am going – not in search of gold, or buoyed by hopes of wealth,
But where maybe hard toil there’ll be, though toil that belongs to good health.
No fairy-dreams of fortune won to give luxurious ease,
No castles in the air are mine, I harbour none of these;
But what I long for is a home – my own, my own, and free –
And I feel that I shall gain it in in the land beyond the sea.

This poem which goes on for another seven pages demonstrates Randall’s enthusiasm and passion for newcomers to consider Queensland as their new home. The pamphlet is one of a small group of items held in the museum’s collection relating to George Randall. The other items include a business card for George Randall’s son, Richard Randall who was a painter, a black and white printed photographic portrait of George Randall taken by the world famous Lafayette Ltd. photographic studio, a copy of the ‘Scottish Trader’ Vol. V., No.34, September 21, 1901, Glasgow which was a registered Glasgow newspaper with a focus on grocery and allied trades, containing mostly advertisements for various foods as well as a feature article on page 11 about Queensland and it’s food products and a highlight on George Randall and his role as Manager of the Queensland Court at the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1901. Alongside these items are three small printed souvenir pictures showing exterior scenes of the Glasgow International Exhibition buildings and an official invitation to George Randall to attend the Reception of the same event.

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H49763.2 Printed photographic portrait of Mr George Randall, taken by Lafayette Ltd. The world famous Lafayette photographic studio was founded in Dublin in 1880, by James Stack Lauder. The firm very quickly established itself as the premier portrait studio in Ireland and it wasn’t long until it began taking portraits for members of the Royal family including of Princess Alexandra to mark her visit to Ireland in 1885. During the 1890s, the business expanded with studios established in Glasgow, Manchester and London. It’s possible the portrait of Mr George Randall was taken while he was working in Glasgow for the International Exhibition in 1901.

 

Carmen Burton, Assistant Curator Queensland Stories

The Myth of the Mermaid

This blog post is the first in an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories.

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Everyone knows the myth of the mermaid – the half woman, half fish, who is sometimes kind and at other times a source of evil who lures unassuming sailors to their deaths. But where did the legend come from?

The myth can be traced to cultures all over the world. One of the earliest versions of the tale speaks of the Sirens of Greek mythology, who show many similarities with the modern day mermaid. In Assyrian mythology, dating to c. 1000 BC, it is said that the goddess Atargatis took the form of the half woman, half fish creature during her life. Another legend speaks of Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonike, becoming a mermaid after her death.

In Irish mythology, there is the Merrow. In Scotland, the Ceasg or Selkie. In Western Europe, the Melusine, and in Slavic folklore, the Rusalka. Parts of Africa hold belief in Mami Wata, Cameroon calls their mermaid the Jengu, and in Maori culture, Pania of the reef. Chinese, Korean, and Thai cultures all have their own variations, and in many Western cultures, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid has immortalised the image of the mermaid that we know today.

In Papua New Guinea, there is a legend about the mythical Ri or Ilkai, sometimes known as a Pishmary (meaning fish woman): a human-like sea creature that resembles the European mermaid. The creature long thought to be this mythological being, with sightings stretching back several decades, has since been proven to be the Indo-Pacific dugong, ‘Dugong dugon’. Regardless of this, there are many locals who still believe that a mysterious being lives in the waters of Papua New Guinea, with the tail of a fish, and the features of a woman.

This sculpture was donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland by Peter Watt. Mr Watt worked as an engineer on the Melanesian Discovery tourist-ship which travelled around the Trobriand Islands and Sepik River regions of Papua New Guinea in 1990, during which time he collected several items that would later become part of the Museum’s collection. The sculpture allows us to see how different people experience and visually interpret certain myths, like that of the mermaid.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

International Women’s Day: women in Australian history

Today is International Women’s Day and we’re highlighting some of our favourite females in Australian history, shared through the lens of the incredible women who are part of the Queensland Museum Network team. Our collections are full of amazing stories and we’re thrilled to be able to share them with you to celebrate this special day. 

Jennifer Wilson, Senior Curator, Transport Energy and Science
Favourite piece of history: Lores Bonney, who is featured in the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum, was a pioneering aviatrix who dodged death on a number of record-breaking solo flights across the globe during the First World War. During her aviation career, Lores completed the longest one-day flight by an airwoman (Brisbane to Wangaratta), was the first woman to circumnavigate Australia by air, the first woman to fly from Australia to England, and the first to fly from Australia to South Africa. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1991. The Bonney Trophy, which she presented in England, is still awarded annually to an outstanding female British pilot.

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Lores Bonney during her flight from Australia to South Africa, 1937.
Image courtesy of National Library of Australia. 
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Pith helmet worn by Lores Bonney during her flight to South Africa in the 1930s, on display at the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum.

Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, History, Industry and Technology
Favourite piece of history:  This microscope belonged to Professor Dorothy Hill, renowned palaeontologist and geologist from Taringa, Brisbane. Her approach to scientific inquiry, particularly her research on fossil corals, led to a long and successful career. In one of many firsts, she was the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Dorothy became Australia’s first female professor in 1959 when she became Professor of Geology at the University of Queensland. She also became the first Australian woman Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1956), the Royal Society of London (1965), and the first female president of the Australian Academy of Science (1970). The Dorothy Hill Medal honours her contributions to Australian Earth science and her work in opening up tertiary science education to women.

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Dorothy Hill in academic dress. Image courtesy of Fryer Library, University of Queensland.
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Carl Zeiss Jena Photographic Stereo Microscope. Image courtesy of Fryer Library, University of Queensland.

Judith Hickson, Curator, Social History
Favourite piece of history: In 2017 it was the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which saw Australians uniting to vote 90.77% ‘yes’ to changing the constitution to include Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in the population count. Commissioned by Australia Post to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the historic date, a commemorative stamp was launched in Canberra on 24 May 2017 by then Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion. The commissioning and unveiling of the stamp was a historic occasion, bring together representatives of younger generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, surviving campaigners, their families and Government representatives. The chosen stamp design was by Rachael Sarra, a Goreng Goreng woman, artist and designer at Brisbane-based creative agency Gilimbaa

“… without the courage and determination of the original campaigners, all our lives could have been so different” – Rachael Sarra

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Designer Rachael Sarra with the with the artistic display of the commemorative stamp.

Barbara Baehr, Arachnologist and ABRS Research Fellow
Favourite piece of history:  In 2014, Queensland Museum scientists honoured wildlife warrior and conservation icon Terri Irwin by naming a new species of spider after her. The spider, Leichhardteus terriirwinae, was discovered by Dr Barbara Baehr and senior curator Dr Robert Raven in the Mt Aberdeen region in North East Queensland. The tiny spider is predominantly brown, with white legs and three white stripes…but don’t expect to easily find it as it’s less than seven millimetres long. The tenacity of the small spider was what led Barbara to name it in honour of Terri Irwin.

“We named this specific swift spider after Terri Irwin because Terri is a fast and straight thinking woman and we could not think of a more appropriate name for this slender and fast moving spider” Barbara Baehr

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Terri Irwin holding the Leichhardteus terriirwinae specimen.
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Australia Zoo Owner Terri Irwin, Queensland Museum Scientist Barbara Baehr and Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ian Walker MP.

Candice Badinski, Communications Coordinator
Favourite piece of history: Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher AO (1937-2011), best known simply as Thancoupie, was a leading figure in the Indigenous ceramic movement in Australia, and one of North Queensland’s foremost contemporary artists. In a career spanning four decades, she held over fifteen solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally, became Australia’s first Indigenous solo ceramic artist, and was the first Indigenous Australian to complete a tertiary degree in the arts.  Today Thancoupie’s sculptures are represented in a number of major institutions across the country, and she is remembered as a pioneer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. In 2014, Queensland Museum curators purchased The Legends of Albatross Bay (Weipa Story) – a cast aluminium sculpture that narrates the history and legends of the artist’s home at Napranum in Weipa, Western Cape York.  The sculpture was an exciting acquisition, as the work represents not only one of the final chapters in Thancoupie’s career but also offers added depth to the museum’s existing collection of the artist’s work.

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Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher with some of her artwork in which she used incised lines to convey the history and legends of Weipa.
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Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher’s sculpture, The Legends of Albatross Bay (Weipa Story), acquired by Queensland Museum in 2014.

Karen Kindt, Collection Manager, Anthropology
Favourite piece of history: Irene Longman, who in 1929 became our first female sitting member in the Queensland Parliament.  Irene was married to one of our very own at the museum, Heber A. Longman, the longest serving Queensland Museum Director (1918 to 1945).  For over thirty years, Irene involved herself in public life, in a professional and voluntary capacity, working on issues relating to the welfare of women and children, town planning and the preservation of flora and fauna. Queensland Museum holds correspondence dated 20 March 1928 from Dr de Rautenfeld in which he gifted two brooches, one for the museum’s collection and one as a personal gift for Irene. On display in Anzac Legacy Gallerywe also have a tablecloth used as a fundraiser for peace that Irene was instrumental in implementing. 

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Irene Longman. Image courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
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Brooch gifted to Irene Longman.

Celebrating women in science

We celebrate the achievements of women, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, who have forged the way for those of us in science today, and to give an opportunity for children: girls and boys, to choose role models in science – Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite, BSc MSc MD PhD

This coming 11 February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science and to celebrate we’re featuring some of the incredible scientists and staff involved in the scientific field across the Queensland Museum Network. Their hard work and excellent contributions often help inspire women and young girls who are interested in following a path in science. We delve into why they chose to get involved in science and what they’ve found most rewarding.

#goals #inspo

Marissa McNamara
Lab Manager and Collection Manager (marine for crustacea)

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I work with preserved crabs, prawns, lobsters and other amazing creatures from around Australia, and I get to see the incredible diversity and beauty of life every day. I also help members of the public identify crustaceans they find (often on the beach or the reef), and it’s fantastic to see what people discover. I feel like I learn something new every day! As an added bonus, for Halloween I get to dress up and show off our ‘creepiest’ looking specimens!

Rebekah Collins
Manager, SparkLab and Discovery Centre

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It is really rewarding to create experiences that support visitor learning, hearing people share their memories, stories and connections with the Museum and the Sciencentre, and seeing how much it means to them, especially those who later go on to study or be involved with science.

Joanne Wilkinson
Senior Fossil Preparator and Geosciences Volunteer Coordinator

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At age 9 I asked for a Chemistry set for Christmas. That’s when my love of litmus paper and the test tubes began. Many years later, combining my interest in fossils and my love of test tubes and laboratories, I find myself Senior Fossil Preparator at Queensland Museum. The most rewarding part of working in the fossil scientific community is the discovery of new sites and new species which add to fossil record of Australia and ultimately to the fossil record of the planet.

Susan Wright
Collection Manager, Terrestrial Environments (Entomology)

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The best part of my job as a Collection Manager is that I get to help a wide range of people, from scientists to artists, to conduct fascinating (sometimes bizarre) research regarding insects, our collections and the people that contribute to them. I learn something new every day.

Chae Swindell
Learning Officer, Future Makers

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The most rewarding part of my role is using our collections and research to develop resources that inspire and excite students, teachers and the community about science!

Christine Lambkin
Curator of Entomology

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I became an entomologist and evolutionary biologist because I am fascinated by the interaction between the incredible beauty and unbelievable diversity of insects, and our attempts to mathematically estimate the relationships between species based on morphology and genetics.

Rochelle Lawrence
Research Assistant and Honorary, Vertebrate Palaeontology

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I chose to get involved in science because of my fascination with the natural world, especially our unique fossil fauna and how they can help us better understand the present and impacts or future environmental change.

Kristen Spring
Collection Manager, Geosciences

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I got into science because although there is too much to discover in one lifetime, I was certainly determined to try!

Susan Turner
DAAD Professor and Honorary Research Fellow, Geosciences

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I got hooked at around eight years old by reading a book on dinosaurs – the joy of finding the right mentor led me into vertebrate palaeontology in my twenties. Five decades on I still get excited knowing I am the first person to see a new fossil specimen, and sometimes have the joy of identifying and naming it for posterity.

Jessica Worthington Wilmer 
Research Fellow and Molecular Identities Lab Manager

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I became a biologist (evolutionary geneticist) to better understand the world I live in and to use that knowledge to help save threatened and endangered species.

Carole J Burrow
Honorary Research Fellow

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The most rewarding aspect of my work in vertebrate palaeontology is working out new information about very old things (300 to 400 million year old fossils) to help our understanding of how the earliest back-boned animals with jaws are related to each other.

Amy Boulding
Head, Lifelong Learning 

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Amy (back) and Rebekah officially opening the doors to SparkLab

I originally got into science because I loved that I could ask lots of questions and go find the answers by getting my hands dirty and exploring the natural world. I’m super proud of now leading the Lifelong Learning team, and seeing all of the ways that my team create and facilitate those life-changing, enlightening, inspiring moments with people on all different themes and stories within the Museum.

Sue-Ann Watson
Senior Curator (Marine Invertebrates)

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Making new discoveries is the most rewarding part of science. Being the first to know something is really exciting.

Barbara Baehr
Arachnologist and “Australian Spider Lady”

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Barbara with her daughter

I chose to get involved in science because it’s great to be at the forefront of discoveries and I love to be a role model for my daughters.

Jessica Johnson 
Learning Officer, SparkLab, and Forensic Scientist

Jessica Johnson

I chose science when I held a real human brain in my hands and realised that this was a person, that 1.5kgs was everything that made someone them, and there’s nothing more rewarding then seeing the look on a child’s face when they understand something new and exciting about science.

Claire Chakrabarti
Learning Officer, SparkLab

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I was the child that always asked why and I chose to pursue a career in science as it provided the answers.

Susan Wightley 
Information Officer, Discovery Centre 

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I have always been fascinated by the huge variety of animals, the adaptations to their environment and how they interact with it and each other. I am in my dream job helping people understand and appreciate the complexity and awesomeness of the natural environment around them.

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A Toy Train for Christmas

“I remember clearly the Christmas my parents decided I was old enough to have a model railway all of my own. Saturday mornings were spent in the local hobby shop. I was awe struck by the rows of gleaming model locomotives in glass display cabinets, with little handwritten price tags propped up neatly next to each engine. The present I opened up on Christmas day was a complete surprise, I missed the Hornby Train set high up on a shelf in the shop containing a little blue steam engine (that I named Bob) a few goods wagons and a circle of track. It was magic and the start of something much bigger” – David Hampton, Curator of Transport, The Workshops Rail Museum.

For many train travel and Christmas are closely linked. The excitement of train trips home to spend the holidays with family and friends conjure up fond memories. For more than a century trains were the way most people completed long distance travel. Letters, cards and gifts also crossed the country by rail, connecting people across vast distances and communicating love and well wishes between those that couldn’t be together for Christmas.

For others, like myself, the origins of a lifelong passion for railways began with the gift of a toy train for Christmas. The tradition of giving toy and model trains as Christmas presents is almost as old as the railways themselves, tracing the advance of technology and changing tastes in leisure activities. Originally marketed as toys for boys, today model railways are a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages the world over. The trains themselves, once robust and simple caricatures are now delicate and detailed scale models representing as accurately as possible the real thing.

The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich is home to hundreds of model and toy trains, most of which are held safely in the museum’s collection store. However, as Christmas treat I’ve gone through the collection and picked out some of my favourites to share with you.

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Until the First World War toy trains were large, expensive and exclusive. Most were made in Germany and were play things for the rich. They were mostly powered by clockwork mechanisms or live steam.

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Things changed after the war. German made goods fell from favour and mass production made toy trains more affordable. A demand for British made products inspired Frank Hornby –creator of Meccano – to branch out into toy trains in the early 1920s.

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Hornby became one of the most popular toy train brands in the world.  Produced in O Gauge the range developed into a comprehensive toy railway system that included locomotives (available with either electric or clockwork mechanisms), rolling stock, track, signals, buildings, figures and scenery.

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But even in the 1920s people were running out of room as houses and living spaces became smaller. The toy trains available took up the floor of a room for even a basic railway set up. An early attempt to make a more compact railway system was the Bing Table Top Railway, which as its name suggests could be set up and played with on the dining room table.

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After the war toys were still scarce. In Australia brothers George and Bill Ferris couldn’t find train sets to buy their children for Christmas 1946. They decided instead that their car radio business would start manufacturing their own range of O gauge trains. Ferris Electric Trains was one of a number of small ventures that made toy trains in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s. These toys were based largely on Australian trains – the first time models of trains running on Australian tracks were made in commercial quantities.

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As technologies and manufacturing techniques changed in the 1950s, so too did model railways. Trains were being made in plastic rather than tin, smaller scales like HO/OO became more popular and the old O gauge trains fell from favour.

By the 1960s model trains were struggling to adapt to changing tastes and interests. The influence of television, cheap imported toys and declining interest in railways contributed to companies like Hornby suffering financial difficulties and eventually closing down.

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Despite this decline in popularity model trains endured. Marketing shifted from toys for children to accurate and detailed models for serious collectors. Models Railways became a pass time for model builders, researchers and enthusiasts.

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Model train collections come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most remarkable collections in Australia is that of business man Marsden Williams. Mr Williams amassed a collection of 20,000 individual pieces of rolling stock in various scales from across the world between the 1970s and 1990s. After Mr Marsden passed away half of this collection was donated to the Workshops Rail Museum.

Until the 28th of January 2019 visitors to Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba can see a small display of Marsden’s collection including locomotives from Europe, America and Japan. Out at the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich the process of researching and conserving the various collections of model and toy trains in the museum’s care continues behind the scenes. Out on the museum floor an enormous model based on the railways of Queensland operates every day, capturing the imagination of visitors young and old. I wonder if there is a future Curator of Transport amongst them.

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