Category Archives: The Workshops Rail Museum

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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The Restoration of Hunslet 327

The Workshops Rail Museum has installed a new exhibit 12 years in the making: Hunslet locomotive 327.

In 2005 the Museum was donated a 2 foot gauge tank locomotive that had operated between the early 1920s and the mid-1960s at the North Eton Mill, in Mackay, Queensland, hauling sugar cane. However, the locomotive was originally built in England in 1916 for use on the Western Front during the First World War.

Continue reading The Restoration of Hunslet 327

Meaning in Maps

Written by Dr Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, Industry, History and Technology.

It’s a nerdy boast, I know, but I love maps! Colourful touristy maps, contour maps, historic maps with wheat, sugar and gold country blithely shaded out, hand-drawn maps with names of people as important as names of places, and even the busy cadastral maps – dimensioned and officially (officiously?) denoting gazetted reserves, roadways, property boundaries and survey points. They all somehow convey a little bit about the landscape they depict. So what do maps have to do with archaeology?
Continue reading Meaning in Maps

Remembrance Day… Ipswich Railway Workshops Memorial

Written by: Geraldine Mate, Senior Curator, The Workshops Rail Museum

In the last two months, the grounds at The Workshops Rail Museum have been reminiscent of scenes almost 100 years ago. Our heritage listed War Memorial has been undergoing a face-lift, with the installation of new paving and walkways. Watching the transformation, the busyness of the construction workers has evoked the activities that would have surrounded the construction of the Memorial in 1919.

The monument was conceived of in 1915 and from there plans were put in place to raise funds for the memorial. The collection of monies was overseen by management at the site and, from the outset, the plan was to make a memorial for “shop-mates” who had gone to the front from the Workshops. In order to give it due importance, the memorial was to be placed in a prominent position outside the Dining Hall[i].  By 1917 the fund was well advanced, and on the 15th of July 1919, construction commenced[ii].

Queensland Railway Architect Vincent Price designed the monument and the memorial itself was made by several firms. The base and column were made by Andrew Petrie of Toowong, the commemorative plaques, including the railway coat of arms, were cast by Charles Handford of Brisbane, and the statue was sculpted by John Whitehead and Sons, London.

On the 27th of September 1919, a crowd of over 2000 people assembled at the Ipswich Railway Workshops in North Ipswich to witness the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to “the Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men who left these Works to fight for King and Empire” in World War 1. There were over three hundred names on the memorial, including the thirty-one men who did not return. The Memorial was unveiled by the then Governor of Queensland, Major Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams and his wife, with other guests including Mrs Lily Ryan, the wife of Premier T.J. Ryan, the Mayor of Ipswich Alderman Easton, Archbishop Donaldson, the first Archbishop of Brisbane, and the Commissioner of Railways J.W. Davidson. The Governor’s wife, Lady Goold-Adams, was presented a posy by Bella Martin, the daughter of one of the men from the Workshops, Private Martin, who had lost his life in the war. Along with a day of speeches and activities, the event was also marked by a printed program given to attendees.

Unveiling Ceremony of the Memorial at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, September 1919.
Unveiling Ceremony of the Memorial at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, September 1919.
Official Souvenir Programme of the unveiling of the Memorial.
Official Souvenir Programme of the unveiling of the Memorial.

In itself, the erection of a war memorial in 1919 was not a particularly unusual event. Over 280 similarly styled memorials with obelisks, plinths and/or statues were constructed to mark the Great War, and opened with attendant ceremony. What made this memorial important at the Railway Workshops was the commitment of workers from the Workshops to the erection of the monument. In 2016, workers at the Ipswich Railway Workshops continue to mark the contributions of their predecessors with Queensland Rail workshops staff restoring the commemorative plaque as part of the work being conducted on the Memorial.

This week another Remembrance Day is commemorated. As we stand in the shadow of the “Digger” statue at the Workshops, it is worth reflecting on the strong public sentiment that surrounded the efforts of those that went to war. In 1915 that public view was strong enough to encourage railway families in Ipswich to contribute to a memorial when they had little to spare, and in 1919 enough to see a remarkable unveiling ceremony to commemorate their sacrifice.

Memorial at The Workshops Rail Museum.
Memorial at The Workshops Rail Museum.

[i] Queensland Times 16 June 1915, p 7 “Ipswich Railway Workshops: Memorial for Fallen Soldiers”.

[ii] Queensland Times 15 July 1919, p 5 “Ipswich Workshops: memorial”.

Pompey’s next chapter

Written by: Rob Shiels, Assistant Collection Manager, The Workshops Rail Museum

In July 2016, Pompey, the black locomotive in the grounds at The Workshops Rail Museum will be moved to an undercover area at the Museum.

Pompey has been a popular display item since the Museum opened in 2002 and has been climbed on by thousands of adults and children alike in the last 14 years. Pompey has also held pride of place at the front of the Ipswich Railway Workshops complex since the early 1970s (only periodically being removed for restoration work).

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Pompey out the front at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, 1985. Collection of The Workshops Rail Museum/Queensland Rail.

However, 14 years in the Queensland weather will have an impact on even the sturdiest of objects. Therefore in the best interests of preserving Pompey, the locomotive will be moved from the grounds and put undercover. Eventually a full cosmetic restoration on Pompey will be completed but in the meantime the locomotive will be housed in the 8-9-10 road section of the Museum where visitors will be able to see it on display (and Pompey will remain an active participant in the Day Out with Thomas events).

Pompey is a very significant object to the Ipswich Railway Workshops site as it was used as The Workshops shunter between 1953 and the early 1970s. We believe it was affectionately named ‘Pompey’ because it threw sparks when shunting, reminding the men of a volcano, and the locomotive was thus named after the site of the famous volcano Mount Vesuvius that erupted in Ancient Roman times at Pompeii.

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Pompey shunting at the Ipswich Railway Workshops May 1970. Photographer Brian Martin.

Museum practice has changed since Pompey was last restored and installed in front of the Museum in 2002. In more recent times Museums aim to display and store objects in areas that have some environmental controls. The Museum is dedicated to restoring Pompey and when this work is completed Pompey will likely remain inside the Museum rather than return to the grounds. As a Museum it is our job to protect and care for Queensland’s treasures and by restoring and caring for Pompey inside will help us to preserve this very significant locomotive so future generations can continue to enjoy its story.

See Pompey’s record on the Queensland Museum’s online collections here.

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Pompey being installed in the grounds of The Workshops Rail Museum, 2002. Photographer David Mewes.

See a snapshot of Pompey being moved:


 

Anticipation in Ipswich

Written by: David Mews, Curator, The Workshops Rail Museum

Whenever I drive over the Bremer River bridge on the Warrego Highway, I imagine the little paddle steamers as they chugged their way to Ipswich or back to Brisbane. This year celebrates the 150 years of Queensland Rail and my imagination takes me back in time trying to picture what it must have been like.

Ipswich residents had witnessed the turning of the first sod on 1 February 1864 at North Ipswich to mark the beginning of construction of a railway from Ipswich to the Darling Downs. Regular updates on construction progress would appear in the local newspaper, the Queensland Times.

There was a significant increase in traffic on the Bremer River as the many paddle steamers busily plied back and forth between Brisbane and Ipswich transporting the material and equipment necessary to build a railway and the hundreds of migrant workers from Ireland and Britain to act as navvies to build the railway. Skilled engineers were also to be found amongst those coming from the Mother Country.

A busy industrial complex appeared almost overnight during 1864 as the first railway workshops were built on the north bank of the Bremer River where the Riverlink shopping centre now stands. It would have been a hive of activity with the paddle steamers arriving at the Railway Wharf to unload their cargo of railway material. Buildings were erected while workmen assembled the locomotives and rolling stock needed for the railway. The first of the four locomotives had arrived from England in November 1864 aboard the Black Ball Line ship Queen of the South. This locomotive was first placed in steam on 11 January 1865.

The Queensland Times for 17 January 1865 reported on construction progress for a number of bridges including the major bridge over the Bremer River which would create a rail and road link between the Ipswich central business district, North Ipswich, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.

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Paddle steamer, ‘Emu’, docked at the wharves at Ipswich around 1870. Image sourced from Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland.

The regular steam whistles of the paddle boats had by now been joined by the whistles of the four small A Class locomotives as they were tested and placed in service to transport track and bridge material from the Railway Wharf at North Ipswich to the head of track construction as well as the many navvies working on the new railway.

The anticipation of the Ipswich population must have been building by May 1865 as the time was approaching when the first section of railway in Queensland was expected to be opened. The public must have been disappointed when the Queensland Times on the 29 June 1865 announced that the railway would not be ready for the proposed opening date of 11 July as had been previously announced. The reason given was the rate of progress was slower than expected. Construction continued with the local population keen to be present on the opening day.

During those early years of railway construction, the ceaseless journeys of those paddle steamers between Brisbane and Ipswich and the toil of the navvies and early railway engineers live on only in my imagination. The opening of the first railway was to be a major event for Queensland.

Behind the scenes of exhibition development: In three dimensions and full colour

Written by: Geraldine Mate, Senior Curator, The Workshops Rail Museum

One of the most exciting parts of pulling an exhibition together is seeing an idea that has been in your head turn into a full colour, three-dimensional solid entity.  A lot of time goes into the writing of text for labels and panels, the identification and selection of objects and choosing from the myriad of photographs available.

Continue reading Behind the scenes of exhibition development: In three dimensions and full colour