Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum


On my recent visit to Dorrigo I expected that the National Parks would be my focus, world heritage sites and waterfalls totally unexpecting the discovery of the as yet unopened railway museum. I had met some friends in Dorrigo and whilst some chose to visit Bellingen luckily, due to an irrational phobia about steep, winding roads, I went with a friend, who had heard some vague rumours that a  museum of railway memorabilia existed in the area. We went in search and came across a display which far exceeded our expectations.

Our first sight was of many railway carriages.  We took the first road along side it but did not find an entry to the museum.


We could see the enormity of the collection (we thought) until we took the road on the other side. Here were over 5o locomotives, oiled to prevent rusting, sitting on the tracks.


Then further up the road on the other side we saw hundreds of carriage roofs.


Then due to a chance meeting with the Managing Director we learnt about the huge collection.  A full list of the collection and other information is found at

Briefly they have 74 locomotives of which 44 are steam dating from 1877 to 1956 including the BEYER GARRATT type (largest in the southern hemisphere 260 ton, 32 wheels) to the 27 ton 4 wheel saddle tank. Oiled four times a year to prevent rust they look black and dirty whilst the working parts are in pristine condition.(below photo) Keith explained the workings of each model to us and I learnt that


the brass whistles and numbers are removed for safe keeping  The numbers e.g. 5026  is pronounced 50 (standing for 50 class) 26 (meaning the 26th loco made in the 50 class).

There are 280 passenger carriages and freight wagons including prison vans, travelling post office, horse boxes, fruit wagon (photograph the slatted carriage at rear. This allows air circulation to prevent fruit sweating and going rotten).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey also have rolling stock to haul almost every commodity and the appropriate freight for each carriages. e.g. for the 1953 double-decker car-carrier they have purchased the first 6 models produced in 1953 to put in it and a tank for the military freight wagon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe museum will eventually be under cover on 53 acres. This will open first and the entry fee will fund the start-up of steam train rides on the 35 kilometres of the Dorrigo branch line, one of the most scenic routes in the state.

This has all been done with a group of enthusiasts amassing the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere. The members have outlaid over 7 million dollars for the purchase of the items and volunteer their time oiling the locomotives and other preparation to make them ready for display. You can become a member of the museum for $50 (go to website above). I am not a train enthusiast but I was overwhelmed by the passion and hope that they get the $330,000 in the near future that Keith believes would get them up and running.  Entry at the moment (without permission) is prohibited as this would affect their State Govt accreditation to run trains.

The township of Dorrigo would benefit from the museum it seems to have suffered the way many rural towns have, with the loss of timber, dairy and other rural activities and lack of employment for local youth. The tourism this museum would generate would be massive and could only benefit the town and supply jobs.


About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
This entry was posted in 2013, Historical Perspective, musings, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum

  1. markbialczak says:

    That tank-and-car is quite a shot, Irene.


  2. Thanks. The whole place was amazing.


  3. Sam says:

    Go to Canberra and see the dedicated folk there rebuilding to running condition a BEYER GARRATT (6029) Well worth it.


    • Where abouts in Canberra. I was so impressed with the Dorrigo locos (not knowing a thing about trains prior) that I wouldn’t mind seeing more. Mind you I don’t get to Canberra that often but if there is a really good exhibition on at the art gallery … you never know. Thanks for commenting.


  4. lubkin2013 says:

    Irene, lovely post! You must have heard of that say; ‘I’m an analogue lad living in a digital age’! Well I much preferred living in an age when you could take something apart in order to learn how it worked. Living in the digital age I can’t do that!


    • Thanks and Yes. Cars are a good example. If it didn’t start there were basically three things to check (fuel, spark and compression), and most were able to be easily solved by the home mechanic. Now there is nothing you can do but take it to the computer man at the autoshop.
      Have to admit though, I love my digital camera.


  5. Lovely set of trains, I never realised that these trains were used in Australia.
    Fantastic article and thanks for sharing!



  6. litadoolan says:

    I love steam engines. These photographs are a great resource. Looks like the day was lots of fun 😉


  7. Is there a steam train that is running the 35km journey? Would appreciate feedback.
    Thanks Anna


    • Hi Anna, It isn’t running yet but they have plans to in the future. It all depends on getting the money. Once it is operating they believe it will be self sustaining but they need a bit of money to actually get there. I’ll certainly be visiting and travelling when they do as it is the most scenic countryside.


  8. Pingback: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Black and White: Mainly Defunct modes of transport | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  9. Reblogged this on Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) and commented:

    New Years Day slowly wakes and I discovered as I checked out some sites that WP has kindly compiled a summary of the year. This gives me my most viewed site in the year and as it is Thursday – Throwback Thursday – where I reblog something from the archives I have decided that my most looked at post of the year would also be my first post of the year.


  10. Great pictures, informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TanGental says:

    I weep. I love trains, I love train journeys. I have plans to do as many of the greats as possible. I’ve done the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, the Ghan in Oz, the trans Alpine in NZ, the Orient Express in Europe… This is nirvana. Thank you for adding a smile to New year!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    Railroads and trains fascinate me! I live along the train tracks and enjoy seeing the trains every day.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. ChristineR says:

    Thanks for reblogging this Irene. Very interesting and worth seeing, even from the other side of the fence for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Sunday Stills the Next Challenge: Beginning with L | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  15. I saw the Dorrigo track on weekend magazine (ABC) many, many years ago when it was still working, I think at that time it was about to close down I never made it to ride on it and don’t think I ever will, because at the time I think they said it was a very costly line to maintain so I can’t see a volunteer group ever getting it running again , dam shame….

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would hve been interesting to see that programme. The chap in charge is quite convinced that with a small infusion of funds it can be self sustaining. I think he is struggling to get that small amount. Certainly what they have there is mind boggling and it will be a shame if they can’t get it up and running.


  16. Pingback: Tracks (train/rail): Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  17. Jen says:

    Any news on the opening of this awesome place
    I need to go their tmw Friday 12th April in the morning for a special viewing as my friends & my hubbys 70th bday celebration
    If anyone can help me please

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Train to Winton: Railway and Trains: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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