Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c




8-10 June 2015
Peterborough - Steamtown


As the era of the steam engine faded the Steamtown Peterborough Railway Preservation Society was founded in 1977 specifically to run a tourist service between Peterborough and Euralia; the first train ran on 17 April 1981. Operations ceased in June 2002. A series of obstacles to continued operation had arisen but the final straw was a very large increase in public liability insurance premiums which were impossible to meet. The society was dissolved in January 2005.

Assets of the Railway Preservation Society were taken over by the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre based at the unused railway workshops on the edge of Peterborough. This is a static display based on the Roundhouse and Turntable with a collection of locomotives (steam and diesel), passenger carriages and special purpose carriages on display. Steamtown is the premier tourist attraction in Peterborough; the District Council supported the formation financially (it opened in 2009) and expected to continue supporting it for seven years; visitor numbers are high enough (there is an entry fee) to raise expectation that Steamtown will become financially independent before 2016

Visitors to Steamtown join a continuously rotating escorted tour, lasting an hour and a half, through carriages (passenger and special purpose such as child health) in the roundhouse, into the diesel workshops, around the turntable then back to the other end of the roundhouse for a fascinating visit to several steam and diesel locomotives. This tour is particularly well done. Even non-rail enthusiasts are impressed by the collection and the presentation.

The roundhouse is the major feature of Steamtown. In a working steam maintenance workshop the roundhouse provides shelter for locomotives being repaired or serviced. As the name indicates, the roundhouse is semi-circular (very large ones are circular in plan) containing short lengths of railway track, each on the radius of the circular plan. The turntable at the centre of the circle can be aligned with any of the radius tracks or on a section of track linking with the workshop network. In use, a locomotive to be worked on is moved onto the turntable from workshop tracks, then the turntable is rotated to align with an empty radius track and the locomotive moved into the roundhouse to be worked on. The reverse process is used to move a repaired locomotive out of the roundhouse.


First Class lounge car. Note the piano available for passenger use. Having a competent pianist among the passengers was said to make all the difference to enjoying a train journey.

8-10 June 2015 - Peterborough Steamtown, page 2

T199 steam locomotive

T199 steam locomotive

T199 steam locomotive. This locomotive was built at Gawler, SA and entered service with South Australian Railways in 1912. It was one of 78 of the class built between 1903 and 1917 for use on narrow gauge lines throughout the state. The locomotive is on display in the diesel workshop and was the centrepiece for a celebratory dinner (hence the table and chairs). The cloud of artificial steam was part of this celebration.


Turntable associated with the roundhouse.

8-10 June 2015 - Peterborough Steamtown, page 3

500 shunting locomotive

500 Class shunting locomotive. Built at Islington, this locomotive entered service in April 1964. A total of 34 of this successful locally designed locomotive were built ending in 1969.

W class

Driver and fireman's control of a W-class locomotive which served successfully hauling freight on narrow-gauge lines. This one (W 901) was built in England and entered service in South Australia in 1951.


A mainline freight train passing Steamtown on the Adelaide-Sydney line provides a contrast with the Steamtown's steam emphasis.