top of page
Anchor 1

Steam locomotive 1905, NSW Rail Museum, Thirlmere, 5 October 2017.

Silver City Comet with power car DP104 at the front, NSW Rail Museum, Thirlmere, 5 October 2017.

NSW Rail Museum

David Matheson

 21 June 2022

The NSW Rail Museum is a large railway heritage museum located in the town of Thirlmere, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. The collection includes over 100 railway vehicles that operated in New South Wales, and is the largest collection of historic rolling stock on public display in Australia. Displays include historic steam, diesel and electric locomotives, railcars, electric train carriages, passenger, freight and special use carriages, exhibits regarding life on the railways, and the historic railway station precinct. Steam locomotives include New South Wales railways locomotives of the X10, Z17, Z20, Z25, Z27, C30, C30T, C32, C35, C36, C38, D55, D59 and AD60 Classes. Diesel locomotives include members of the 40, 42, 43, 44 and 79 Classes.


The Thirlmere precinct includes the museum and historic railway station. Located within the museum is a roundhouse and workshop used to maintain and restore locomotives. Visitors are able to access a viewing area to see inside the roundhouse. Facilities at the museum include a café, barbecue and picnic area, souvenir shop and a theatrette. Parking is available outside the museum on Barbour Road or nearby streets.


Heritage train rides usually operate from Thirlmere to Buxton and return on Sundays, a round trip of 14 km. Thirlmere hosts the Festival of Steam on the first weekend of March every year. This event includes several steam engines in operation, as well as special exhibits and market stalls.


The NSW Rail Museum is open every day of the year except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Thirlmere is located approximately 90 km south-west Sydney.


Some exhibits of particular interest at the NSW Rail Museum are:

  • Steam locomotive E18, the oldest locomotive in the collection. It entered service in September 1866 as a member of the E17 Class 0-6-0 goods engines. They were designed to meet the need for more powerful engines to cope with the steep grades that were encountered on some lines as the New South Wales railway system expanded. E18 remained in service with the New South Wales Railways until it was sold to the Southern Coal Company in 1897, and was then in operation at Corrimal until 1953.

  • Steam locomotive 1905, which hauled the first train to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Locomotive 1905 entered service in 1877 as 93 Class 0-6-0 locomotive No.  97. It was renumbered as Z19 Class engine number 1905 in 1924. On 19 January 1932 locomotive 1905 hauled two vans across the Sydney Harbour Bridge from north to south, and then returned. On board were various engineers and officials who had been involved with the design and construction of the bridge, including Dr John Bradfield. Extensive testing of the bridge followed before its opening on 20 March 1932. After a long working life of 91 years, 1905 was withdrawn from service in 1968.

  • Three 38 Class 4-6-2 passenger steam locomotives: 3801, 3820 and 3830. The 38 Class comprised 30 members and they were mainly used for hauling express passenger trains, such as the Newcastle Express, Southern Highlands Express, Central West Express, Melbourne Express and Melbourne Limited Express. They gained a reputation for speed and reliability. After its withdrawal from regular service, 3801 operated numerous tour trains and has visited every state and territory of mainland Australia. It returned to working order in 2020 following a lengthy restoration.

  • 60 Class Beyer-Garratt locomotives 6029 and 6040. With a total of 32 wheels (4-8-4+4-8-4), the giant 60 Class engines had a length of 108 feet 8 inches (33.1 m) and a weight of 260 tons (264.2 tonnes) when they entered service. They were used for heavy goods train haulage. The Garratt design combined high power with light axle load, enabling them to operate over a number of secondary lines in addition to main lines. The final 60 class engine to begin service was 6040, which had the distinction of being the last steam locomotive to enter service in New South Wales when it was ready for traffic on 2 January 1957. The 60 class were impressive engines, but the progress of dieselisation and electrification of locomotive-hauled train services throughout New South Wales led to their early demise. None reached the age of 20 years from the date of entry into service until the date of withdrawal. 6040 is a static exhibit at Thirlmere, while 6029 is operational.

  • 32 Class 4-6-0 steam locomotive 3265. Introduced as the P Class in 1892 and renumbered as the C32 Class in 1924, 191 engines entered service, making them the most numerous type of passenger locomotive in New South Wales. Designed by Chief Mechanical Engineer William Thow, they were assigned to the important mail and express trains throughout the state and were one of the most successful types of steam locomotive in New South Wales. 3265 entered service on 6 January 1902 and continued in operation until January 1968. It is preserved in operational condition at Thirlmere.

  • 35 Class 4-6-0 steam locomotive 3526. The NN Class locomotives began service in 1914 and were numbered as the C35 Class in 1924. Designed under the direction of Chief Mechanical Engineer E E Lucy, they were introduced with the objective of reducing double-heading that had become necessary with the P Class on mainline express trains following increased carriage weights. 3526 commenced service on 29 March 1917. It continues to be operational.

  • 36 Class 4-6-0 steam locomotives 3616 and 3642. The C36 Class express passenger locomotives were designed for lengthy journeys of up to 160 km without the need for locomotives to be changed. The first ten were built at Eveleigh Workshops while a further 65 were built by the Clyde Engineering Company. They were capable of speeds in excess of 100 km/h and provided excellent service. A Giesl Oblong Ejector was fitted to 3616 in 1957. This device improved suction draught, resulting in savings in coal and water consumption. 3642 was a favourite tour train engine for many years, introducing the love of steam to a new generation.

  • 55 Class 2-8-0 standard goods locomotive 5595. The ‘standard goods engines’ were three classes of steam locomotives: T Class (D50 Class from 1924), TF Class (D53 Class from 1924) and K Class (D55 Class from 1924). A total of 590 of these engines entered service and they hauled the majority of goods trains in New South Wales for many decades. The arrival of diesel motive power impacted significantly on the standard goods engine fleet from the middle of the 1950s and large numbers were withdrawn from service. 70 members of the 55 class had been converted to oil-burners following extended coal strikes in 1946 and 1949, and when the crisis was over and coal supplies became reliable, the oil-burning 55s began to be withdrawn. 5595 entered service on 3 July 1924 and remained a coal burner throughout its life, being withdrawn in 1966.

  • 7921, one of the first diesel locomotives to operate in New South Wales. Four 380 horse power (279 kilowatt) diesel-electric locomotives numbered 7920–7923 arrived in Sydney from the United States in late 1943 for service at the munitions factory at St Marys, and later operated as shunters in Sydney Yard. 7921 and 7922 began service with Commonwealth Railways in 1949, where they also became the first diesels in use on that system. They were renumbered DE90 and DE91, being used for shunting duties at Port Pirie. After lengthy service, DE90 was acquired by the museum in 1986 and returned to New South Wales and renumbered 7921.

  • 4001, one of the first two mainline diesel-electric locomotives to enter service in New South Wales. Manufactured by the American Locomotive Company in Montreal, Canada, the first two 40 Class units, 4001 and 4002, commenced service on 30 November 1951. Their initial duties involved working freight trains between Enfield and Broadmeadow. Later they operated as far as South Brisbane, Armidale, Parkes, Dubbo, Albury, Canberra and Port Kembla. Although most of the work of the 40 Class was in freight service, they were also used on long-distance passenger trains.

  • Silver City Comet, Australia’s first fully air-conditioned train. With a diesel power van that had been built at the Carriage Works at Eveleigh providing the motive power, it commenced running between Parkes and Broken Hill in September 1937. Diesel-powered trains and air-conditioning were innovations that aimed to lift train travel in New South Wales to a high standard. The Silver City Comet achieved high-speed running on the generally flat and straight track in the state’s outback, and continued in service until 1989.

  • Electric carriage C3045, one of the first carriages to service Sydney’s electrified rail network. It was built at the Carriage Works at Eveleigh in 1919 with a timber body constructed on a steel frame, and commenced service in January 1923 as EBB2212. A further 100 carriages were constructed by private companies. All began operating as locomotive-hauled cars while electrification work proceeded. The first electric trains running in 1926 between Central and Oatley, and in December 1927 the carriage was converted to become a first class electric power car and renumbered CB3045. When first class was removed from Sydney suburban trains in 1945 it was reclassified as second class carriage C3045. It remained in service until the 1973 and is the only electric carriage that was built by the New South Wales Railways.

  • Governor-General’s car GG, which was used by the Governor-General and Royal visitors to Australia. It was built at Eveleigh Carriage Workshops, commencing service in May 1901. Upon entry into service it was the longest passenger carriage in Australia, with a length over headstocks of 21.48 m. Included were three sleeping suites, a dining room, galley, quarters for attendants and an observation platform. Bedrooms featured brass bedsteads, dressing tables, built-in wardrobes, toilets and showers. The interior contained individually hand-carved panels of English oak and Australian cedar, etched glass panels, fine carpets, silk drapes, oak furniture, Moroccan leather upholstery and various gold-plated fittings.

  • Prison van BKD711. This vehicle was in service from 1915 to 1975. Prison vans were used to transfer prisoners between courts and gaols. BKD711 was able to accommodate up to fourteen male prisoners and eight female prisoners, along with five wardens.

  • CPH rail motor No. 18. The CPH Class were timber-bodied rail motors that commenced service in 1923 and continued to operate more than 60 years later. They were mostly used on country branch lines, but also operated Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong suburban services. Originally built with petrol engines, they were later converted to diesel power. A total of 37 CPH rail motors entered service with No. 18 beginning to operate on 18 March 1926. It remains operational for loop line services at Thirlmere.


The NSW Rail Museum also operates a range of short and extended tours in the Sydney area and rural New South Wales. These tours feature various heritage trains, including steam and historic diesel locomotives. Details of tours and special events are updated on the NSW Rail Museum website.



Cooke, D, Estell, D, Seckold, K & Beckhaus, J, Coaching stock of the NSW Railways, Volume 2, Eveleigh Press, Sydney, 2003

Cooke, D, Estell, D, Seckold, K & Halgren, S, Coaching stock of the NSW Railways, Volume 3, Eveleigh Press, Sydney, 2012.

Cooke, D, Railmotors and XPTs, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, Sydney, 1984.

‘First train crosses the bridge’, The Sun, 19 January 1932, p. 18.

Forsyth, JH, Steam locomotive data, Public Transport Commission of New South Wales, Sydney, 1974.

Grunbach, A, A compendium of New South Wales steam locomotives, Australian Railway Historical Society, NSW Division, Sydney, 1989.

‘Harbour Bridge: pilot engine crosses’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 1932, p. 11.

NSW Rail Museum, <>.

Transport Heritage NSW, <>.


Prison van BKD711, NSW Rail Museum, Thirlmere, 5 October 2017.


Electric power car C3045, NSW Rail Museum, Thirlmere, Saturday, 2 March 2019.

bottom of page