Isaac Tanioria, 4, gives his stamp of approval to Ipswich tourist attraction The Workshops Rail Museum.
Isaac Tanioria, 4, gives his stamp of approval to Ipswich tourist attraction The Workshops Rail Museum. David Nielsen

On track for interactive fun

PART of the Queensland Museum, the Workshops Rail Museum is a $20million wholly interactive, authentic heritage and cultural experience at Australia's oldest operating railway workshop.

The museum tells the story of rail in Queensland, spanning enormous technological and social change, through 15 interactive exhibition zones, temporary exhibitions, education programs and events.

Affectionately known as The Workshops, the site for decades was the centre of rail construction, maintenance and technology for Queensland's burgeoning rail industry

In its time, more than 200 steam locomotives were constructed there.

Thousands of workers have called The Workshops their home over the years.

During its peak in World War II, more than 3000 people worked on-site, making it the state's largest employer at that time.

But The Workshops is not just for adult train lovers.

Kids can build their own railway empire in the colourful and interactive Nippers Railway or take in Queensland's largest model railway set.

Among its attractions is the ever-popular little blue engine, Thomas the Tank Engine, and his friend The Fat Controller.

A fixture at the North Ipswich museum since 2004, the yearly exhibition regularly attracts thousands of visitors from across South-East Queensland.

Typically running for a month from December, the Thomas and friends exhibition will return for a special season in autumn this year as the summer season was interrupted by the city's floods.

Thomas will return from April 16 until May 2, bringing a variety of interactive games and activities.

Before the little train makes his welcome reappearance, the workshops bunny will help people get into the Easter spirit as part of Bunny Eggventures.

Held on April 9 and 10, the exhibition will feature appearances by the workshops bunny every hour, a baby animal farm and the chance to sing along to some favourite Aussie songs at the interactive Bush Galah Easter Show.

An Australian Tourism Award winner, the museum also offers a glimpse into the city's past for history and train enthusiasts.

Visitors can wander among the beautifully restored engines and carriages including the A10 No 6: the oldest working steam locomotive in Australia still in operation.

The locomotive has a special place in the history of rail in Queensland, as one of four similar locomotives imported from Scotland.

These locomotives began operating between Ipswich and Helidon in 1866 and then to Toowoomba in 1867.

Visitors can also live out their childhood dreams as they test their skills driving the 1700 Class simulator diesel train around Queensland.

Or get a birds-eye view of the track at the helm of Queensland Rail's Tilt Train, the world's fastest narrow gauge train, as it speeds up the Queensland coast.

Visit Platform 9 and hear the sound of a steam engine and the bustle of a busy station. Or step inside the immaculate interior of a grand old railway carriage.

The facility runs two different tours, offering people the opportunity to go into the blacksmiths' shop and watch sparks fly as they transform steel into rail components.

The Workshops Rail Museum is in North Street in North Ipswich.

It is open 9.30am to 5pm daily (except Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day).

Entry is $19 for adults or $16 concession, $11 for children aged three to 15, with children under three free.

A family pass (two adults and up to four children) is $57.

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