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American suburban car CBA547, which began service in 1905, Bathurst Rail Museum, 6 June 2020.

Exhibits inside Bathurst Rail Museum, 6 June 2020.

Bathurst Rail Museum

David Matheson

7 June 2020

Bathurst Rail Museum

The Bathurst Rail Museum is Australia’s newest railway museum. It is located in the New South Wales central west city of Bathurst. The museum opened to the public on 22 February 2020, and is housed in the former Railway Institute building, which is next to Bathurst railway station. Prior to entering politics, Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley (1885–1951) lectured in the building as a train driving instructor.


The Railway Institute building was built in stages from 1909, and was a centre for vocational training for railway employees. Also, it provided a venue for social activities for railway employees and their families. The museum features permanent and temporary exhibitions regarding the development of railways in the region. It tells the social history of Bathurst as a railway town, including personal recollections and various items related to the railways.

The railway line to Bathurst was completed in 1876 and was a vital step in opening up the agricultural potential of New South Wales. It provided links that enabled development of the land and provided transport for goods and passengers. Bathurst developed into an important inland city and a centre for commerce, industry, education, as well as social, cultural and leisure activities.


A prominent exhibit outside the front of the Bathurst Rail Museum is historic passenger carriage CBA547. This carriage entered service in 1905 as one of many similar carriages built for Sydney suburban services. Following electrification of the Sydney railway network it operated in regional areas. In 2007 it was acquired by Dr D film animation studio, producers of movies such as Mad Max, Babe and Happy Feet, was renovated and placed at the studio’s office at the former Carriage Works site at Redfern. It remained there until 2013. After some time on display at the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre, it was moved to the new museum before its opening.


A time lapse video showing construction of the museum can be viewed on YouTube <>.


The museum has on display a range of exhibits relating the to railways in general, but particularly regarding Bathurst. They include staff instruments, cutlery and crockery used in railway refreshment rooms and on dining cars on trains, lamps, tools, maps and photographs. Audio visual presentations bring people’s stories of life on the railways to life. A timeline wall tells the history of railways in Bathurst from its construction to its changing impact on the town. Individual stories of people who worked on the railways and others who used the railway are told. An old weighbridge is located outside the building, near the exit.


Of interest to model railway enthusiasts and others is a 20 by 9 metre HO Scale model railway depicting the railway between Tarana and Bathurst during the 1950s and 1960s. It is housed within the museum and includes various operating trains.


Children are catered for with Kids Central, which features a cubby hose, reading nook and large BRIO train set.


The Bathurst Rail Museum is open from Mondays to Wednesdays and Fridays to Sundays, and also seven days a week during school holidays. More information can be found on its website <>.


Bathurst Railway Precinct

The Bathurst Rail Museum is located within Bathurst Railway Precinct. The Railway Precinct features a number of items of interest for railway enthusiasts, all located within the vicinity of Bathurst railway station. Then station opened on 4 April 1876 with the extension of the line from Kelso across the Macquarie River into Bathurst. The Sydney Railway Company had been formed in 1848 with a plan to link Sydney to Bathurst and Goulburn by railway. Although the Sydney Railway Company did not survive, the vision of its founders was finally fulfilled in 1876 when the railway between Sydney and Bathurst was completed. The station was opened by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Hercules Robinson, and celebrations included the arrival of a special train from Sydney, a procession, a ball, and a free dinner in the Market Square. A journey from Sydney that previously took four to five days by horse drawn coach was now reduced to seven hours and 20 minutes by train. Bathurst station is built in Victorian Tudor style and is listed by the National Trust.


A prominent item on display in the Bathurst railway station precinct is D50 Class 2-8-0 standard goods steam locomotive 5112. It is believed that Ben Chifley drove this locomotive while he worked as an engine driver at Bathurst. 5112 entered service as T Class member 756 on 6 July 1908. In 1924 it was renumbered 5112. It covered 1,914,194 km in service before being set aside on 14 December 1972. 5112 was purchased by Bathurst City Council and steamed to Bathurst on 14 March 1974.


Other items that can be seen within the Bathurst Railway Precinct are the two-storey former Station Master’s residence, which was built around 1880; the old Perway Stores Cottage; an old semaphore signal; and various interpretive signs.


Ben Chifley

Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley was born in Bathurst, on 22 September 1885. After leaving school he worked in a general store in the town, before commencing with the New South Wales railways as a shop boy at Bathurst locomotive depot on 15 September 1903. Bathurst was a busy depot, with around 70 steam engines on its allocation. As a shop boy Chifley was engaged in a range of basic tasks to keep the locomotive depot and its facilities clean and in order. Chifley later became a fireman and engine driver.


Chifley took part in a widespread strike starting during August 1917. During the strike Chifley was involved in the negotiations regarding a return to work, but was dismissed on 14 August, along with other strikers. Following the strike Chifley was re-employed as a fireman, at a lower grade and at a lower rate of pay. Chifley soon became a driver again, but his experience during the strike and afterwards became a major factor in his determination to enter politics.


Chifley won the seat of Macquarie at the Federal election held on 17 November 1928 and resigned from the railways. He lost the seat in 1931, but remained active in politics and regained Macquarie in 1940. Following the death of John Curtin, Chifley became Prime Minister on 13 July 1945. The Chifley Government was defeated in December 1949 and he then became Opposition Leader. Ben Chifley died in Canberra on 13 June 1951 and was buried in Bathurst.


The house where Chifley and his wife lived at 10 Busby Street, Bathurst, remains today with furniture dating from when they first moved there in 1914. It is open for guided tours on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays: Chifley Home & Education Centre <>.


Bathurst is located approximately 200 km by road west of Sydney. Infrequent train services also connect with Sydney.



Bathurst Rail Museum <>.

Bathurst Rail Museum, Facebook <>.

‘Australia’s Prime Ministers, Ben Chifley’ <>, accessed 16 June 2018.

Chifley Home & Education Centre <>

Day, D, Chifley: a life, Harper Perennial, Sydney, 2007.

Information signs, Bathurst Railway Precinct.

State Archives & Records, New South Wales, State Rail Authority Records, NRS 12922, Personal history card, ‘Joseph Chifley’.

State Archives & Records, New South Wales, State Rail Authority Records, NRS1525, Locomotive Location Registers, Item 3, State Records &

     Archives, New South Wales.

State Archives & Records, New South Wales, State Rail Authority Records, NRS 15245, Locomotive Stock Cards, 50 Class, State Records &

     Archives, New South Wales.

State Archives & Records, New South Wales, State Rail Authority Records, NRS 16406, Engine Mileage Record Cards, 50 Class, State Records

     & Archives, New South Wales.


Interpretive signs inside Bathurst Rail Museum, 6 June 2020.

D50 Class 2-8-0 standard goods steam locomotive 5112, the ‘Chifley engine’, Railway Precinct, Bathurst, 6 June 2020.

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