Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ghan Preservation Museum Alice Springs

I have been a bit busy of late, but finally got some time together to cover the Ghan Preservation Museum in Alice Springs, which I visited in late December 2015 as part of my Ghan trip.

The Ghan preservation museum is located on the site of the MacDonnell railway siding, which was part of the original narrow gauge railway line from Adelaide to Alice Springs, which was operational until 1980 when it was replaced by the rerouted standard gauge line via Tarcoola.

A few years ago now I travelled on the Pichi Richi railway from Port Augusta to Quorn in South Australia's Flinders ranges area, which is the southern preserved section of the original Ghan narrow gauge railway line to Alice Springs. In between this museum line and the pichi richi railway line terminating station, the narrow gauge line has been ripped up.

An old narrow gauge Commonwealth railways locomotive is used to point the way to the museum on the Stuart Highway heading south from Alice Springs.

Here we are at the entrance.

The narrow gauge railway line is still here, disconnected from the standard gauge railway line that runs nearby. You walk over the line to enter the museum.

Interestingly the narrow gauge line exists from the station for around 40 kms to the south of here, and terminates at a small siding. For a while after the museum opened, they used to run short train trips on the original narrow gauge line using the original narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock.

Unfortunately due to lack of funding and volunteers to maintain the track, the original line is no longer able to be used for this purpose and the rolling stock is displayed statically these days. Maybe one day it can run again? I would love to see it.

As mentioned, the museum exists on the original MacDonnell siding on the narrow gauge railway line.

The impressive railway station built here was not originally at this location. In fact, this building is the original Alice Springs (Stuart) railway station that was never actually built in Alice Springs!

When this museum started they decided to build it here exactly to the original plans for the railway station to recreate the narrow gauge era. Great idea!

No. 58 Narrow gauge Diesel Locomotive in front of the Stuart railway station:

When entering the museum you can turn left for the railway museum or turn right for the truck museum. There is an entrance fee to go into the museum - I only went into the train museum so it was cheaper!

Here is the entrance to the Stuart Railway museum building, which contains a lot of memorabilia from the narrow gauge railway days of the Ghan. Note that Alice Springs was originally called Stuart.

Here are some photos from the inside of the railway station museum, showing some very interesting artifacts:

This map shows the original narrow gauge line through to Alice Springs (then called the Central Australia Railway), and the proposed extension to connect to the North Australia Railway (isolated line from Darwin).

Finally in 2004 it was all connected via standard gauge line from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs! The Commonwelath Railways to Australia National / National Rail era is also covered in this museum. It covers the period after the transition to standard gauge on the Ghan railway line occurred in 1980.

More Ghan memorabilia, and some Trans Australia railway posters (later called the Indian Pacific):

Not shown in my pictures, but there is also a browsable library of rare train books you can pull up a chair and read while at the museum!

Moving outside now onto the MacDonnell siding railway side, I took some more pictures:

Some of the signboards for long disused sidings are included on the building:

Interestingly enough, Marla is still used by the Ghan today on the standard gauge, as I found out in December when we stopped there to view a beautiful sunrise in the desert.

Here are some close ups photos of the NSU58 Diesel Locomotive used for many years as the Ghan on the narrow gauge, actually on the narrow gauge line itself:

As you can see these locomotives were made in England:

You can also see above their is a small kids railway line alongside the narrow gauge, which is used for kids small train rides - unfortunately it was not running when we were there.

Behind the NSU58 was an original Commonwealth Railways Lounge carriage:

Love the stained glass window:

Behind this is some open air rolling stock (presumably used for freight) which have had seats installed (I assume for when the museum ran trips on the narrow gauge):

I could also see a carriage I hadn't seen before in other museums:

You can go inside these carriages too - here is a view towards the Stuart railway station building, showing a commonwealth railways dining car closest to us:

Here is the inside of the dining car:

Moving down the carriage:

There is also a full kitchen in here:

Original air conditioning system built in London. How times change.

Moving to the next carriage is the lounge car:

You can see there is a small cafe in the car, the original fans and a more modern air conditioner too - definitely travelling in these cars in the desert heat back in the day must have been horrible:

Also in the car is a toilet, with what looks like most of the original fittings:

Having reached the end of the carriages, I worked my way back towards the other end, and that curious carriage I hadn't seen before:

Turns out this carriage was originally an Employee Van, NEA Class car called "Marree". Marree was one of the towns on the Ghan narrow gauge line in remote northern South Australia.

A plaque explains this and shows the original layout. Very interesting!

These days though this carriage has been setup as a sort of dining car:

Seems from the poster in here that the old train was still running from the museum in 1993. Heh, I lived in Alice Springs back then and didn't even know you could ride it!

View from the carriage window, looking south towards Adelaide.

Walking further around the museum there are plenty of older freight carriages on display, not on the main narrow gauge line - just on static display:

I also found the W924 Steam locomotive on one of the siding lines - I gather it used to be used as the Ghan in the steam days:

More CR passenger cars, but unfortunately could not go into these ones:

There are various other carriages and locomotives dotted around the place, outside the area that can be viewed directly by the public - such as these ones, which I used a zoom lens to capture - clearly in various states of disrepair:

Continuing around the museum are some interesting maintenance railway vehicles:

And even older horse drawn carriages too:

The small kids railway line moves around throughout the museum, with some nice train themed Ghan displays:

Interestingly you can also stay at the museum - there are powered caravan sites, and also some guest only carriages you can enjoy:

As usual when I finished looking around I went a little crazy on the train souvenirs in the gift shop:

I have to say I really enjoyed going to the Ghan preservation museum in Alice Springs - it was definitely worth the trip! I hope one day they can run the locomotives again on the narrow gauge - that would be fantastic!


  1. Great article and photos! Very interesting so please keep in up!

  2. Great article and photos! Very interesting so please keep in up!

    1. Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I try to travel on trains as much as I can and share the experiences as it is a lot of fun - the last few months has been quiet but it will pick up soon and I expect to be writing more blog posts soon!

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