Frequently Asked Questions

For those of you who have a more specific interest in the endeavours of the Museum, here we present a range of commonly asked questions and answers about the Museum, itís collection and our future direction. These answers are, of necessity, quite brief. For a more in-depth view of the Museum, nothing can beat becoming a member, and working with other members of the Museum towards these goals.

When will the Museum open to the public?

The million dollar question, frequently asked. First of all, the Museum intends to open in a number of stages. The first stage will be as a static museum, on the site at Dorrigo. Even this is an expensive operation,  as there are a number of tasks which must be done before opening. Some of these are detailed later. Once the static museum is established and running, attention will be turned towards the tourist railway aspect. This will require even more effort, and money, in order to ensure a safe, reliable, ongoing service that can be marketed in the tourism sector.

No date has yet been set for either of these openings as we are unable to predict the flow of funds or volunteer labour required to achieve these ends. 

Will a static Museum attract visitors?

We believe it will. Dorrigo is situated in a popular tourist area, and has a number of other attractions, not least of which is the Dorrigo National Park. Although some may consider a static museum lifeless and boring, it does allow visitors access to areas which would be far too dangerous on a working, tourist railway. For instance, the workshops and running sheds  on the tourist railway will, more than likely, be "off limits" to the general public, purely on safety grounds. A static museum will allow our visitors to get close to the exhibits, and to see them in a more leisurely fashion, to better appreciate the sheer size and presence of these machines.

In addition, modern exhibition techniques, such as audio visual displays will allow us to explain aspects of railways, both from the technical and social viewpoint, in more detail than would be possible in an operational railway.

In Great Britain, the National Railway Museum at York is a static museum, and is consistently ranked towards the top of the "league table" of tourist destinations, when measured by visitor numbers.

What needs to be done so you can open to the public?

In accordance with Bellingen Council requirements, we are required to provide sealed car parks and public toilets, the street access needs to be widened and a turning lane provided on the main road intersection (this alone costed at over $100,000, at our expense). This is the bare minimum and does not include pathways or undercover shelter, kiosks and other facilities that tourists would expect.

Ultimately, the majority of the collection will need to be under cover, both for the preservation of the collection itself, and for the comfort of the visiting public, given Dorrigo's unpredictable weather patterns. In addition, the Museum building will allow the display of many of the smaller items in the collection as well as the installation of much interpretive material, audio visual displays and library and research facilities.

So far the Museum has not restored anything, why is that?

The Museum does not intend to fully restore any exhibits until they are undercover and protected from the weather, however there is constant progress in conservation of these exhibits. For example carriages are having interim weatherproofing in the form of Ormonoid sheeting applied to their roofs to prevent any further deterioration, at a cost of around $300 per roof, as well as patching and painting of external surfaces, repair of windows, etc.

The locomotive collection is also being conserved by applying anti-rust materials to steel surfaces, covering of openings, repair of windows and so on.

How will train operations be financed?

It has always been the Museumís intention to open the static display first to provide a constant source of income for the development of the Museum and the restoration of the line. As we already own the collection and the land on which it will be housed, we have no overheads so any income is basically pure profit and will be poured back into restoration.

What work needs to be done to reopen the line for train operations?

Firstly, the static display area must be extended to allow sufficient space to move the collection out of Dorrigo station yard. Once this is done, the line will need to be restored to comply with accreditation standards under the Rail Safety Act. This will involve, at the very least, replacement of sleepers, repairs to culverts and bridge timbers, and many similar tasks.

Suitable locomotives and rolling stock will be prepared and accredited for public operations, as well as the establishment of the necessary rolling stock maintenance facilities.

But if you start running trains won't you make lots of money?

No. Almost all steam tourist railways, worldwide, run on a shoestring budget. For instance, Puffing Billy in Victoria, undoubtedly the most patronised tourist railway in Australia, estimates that the value of it's volunteer effort is worth over one million dollars per year, and would not be able to operate at all were it not for this input.

Why are you still buying so much stuff?

The Museum's collection philosophy is to display railways in NSW in their historical context. As such, it is not necessarily seen as useful to preserve, say, a particular freight wagon without also considering it's role in the development of the railways, and also, possibly, acquiring suitable items to act as a historically accurate load. It must also be remembered that today's run of the mill item is tomorrow's historical artefact. What we don't buy now may simply not be available if required in the future to complete the historical context of a display.