ThirlmereLocation: South West - Wollondilly
Thirlmere, like many towns and villages in regional New South Wales, was born with the coming of the Great Southern Railway in 1863 to 1867, when a large temporary tent city grew up to house the railway workers. It was valued for its proximity to Thirlmere Lakes which provided water for the steam trains. The water was pumped to a siding at the nearby town of Couridjah.
The Thirlmere section of the Main Southern Railway was deviated in 1919 to a less steep alignment with easier grades, and the original line became the Picton Loop Line. Today, the Loop Line provides a link to the main line which enables heritage trains to operate beyond the local area and to run on a line clear of other working trains. Each year on the first Sunday in March, the town s population grows to over 15,000 as visitors flock to the Thirlmere Festival of Steam NSW s premier annual steam event featuring the state s biggest gathering of main-line steam locos and all the fun of the fair and markets.
Thirlmere Creative Traders Markets are held on the third Sunday of each month, outside the Rail Transport Museum. Produce on offer includes fruit and vegetable, honey, homemade jams and chutneys, lavender, olive products, breads and more. Artworks, predominantly by locals, include jewellery, quilting, glass art, paintings, woodwork and more.
Transport: Thirlmere is within easy reach of Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong and the South Coast by motor vehicle. If you are travelling by public transport from Sydney, take a CityRail Southern Highlands Line train to Picton and catch a Picton Buslines bus from the station to Thirlmere (Mon-Sat). To plan your public transport trip, visit the Transport Info website.
The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum has long been Australia s largest and oldest railway museum with over 125 railway exhibits. The museum has been extend to include other railway related buildings of the town such as the Station Masters Cottage (1891) and Thirlmere Railway Station (1885) and Roundhouse and is now known as Trainworks. It is the home to many steam and diesel locomotives. Steam train rides are available on Sundays except where there is a declared total fire ban, when trains are hauled by diesel locomotives. Rides depart 10.30am, 11.45am, 1.15pm, 2.30pm. Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends regularly visit Trainworks. The Museum also operates excursion trains from Sydney to Thirlmere hauled by steam and/or diesel locomotives.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am 4pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am 5pm; Closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day
Entry fees apply. Museum Tickets, Sunday Steam Train Tickets and Combination Museum + Steam Train Tickets available on the day from Trainworks Reception.
Location: 10 Barbour Street, Thirlmere.
As well as being an important environment ecosystem, Thirlmere Lakes (managed by the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service) is a popular picnic spot for locals and day trippers from Sydney, who take advantage of the free electric barbecues. Covering an area of 627 hectares (1,550 acres), there are several sand beaches, with the lakes (with a maximum depth of 6m) being popular for kayaking and canoeing. Thirlmere Lakes was also a popular location for locals to swim. There are a few bush walking trails with the longest being a 16 km return trip. Camping is not allowed.
Thirlmere Lakes National Park is an important environmental area it is a series of lakes which have a sandstone bed. The lakes area is generally sheltered, providing an ideal home to many freshwater inhabitants such as platypuses, mussels, jellyfish, and a wide variety of water birds. The parks is also host to a significant wombat population.
The Thirlmere area was first explored by British settlers in 1798, whose attention was focussed more on the Thirlmere Lakes area and finding an alternate route north towards Bathurst. Thirlmere boomed with the creation of the Great Southern Railway in 1863 to 1867, when the area was blanketed in tents to house the many railway workers that came to the area to work. Thirlmere was valued mostly for the proximity of the Thirlmere Lakes (then called Picton Lakes) which were used to provide water for the steam trains. During this period Thirlmere was also the home for a number of timber mills, whose main product was the milling of sleepers for the railway line.
The Thirlmere section of the Main Southern Railway was deviated in 1919 to a less steep alignment with easier grades, and the original line became the Picton Loop Line. This transformed the village from a hive of steam train activity to a quiet farming region, mainly supplying the surrounding villages with foods and goods.
Many Estonian immigrants settled in Thirlmere from 1924 onwards, especially after the Second World War when tens of thousand had fled to avoid being sent to Siberia for alleged political and economic crimes. Estonians are largely responsible for the development of the successful poultry industry, which at one stage was the largest egg producer in the state and still provides the great majority of NSW s poultry produce. Many of the younger generations of Estonians have left the area and moved closer to the city but other original immigrants and newcomers live there still in Australia s only Estonian Retirement Village.
In the 1960s and 1970s nearby coal mines provided a boost in employment and also drew more people into the area to work and live. A few coal mines are still operating today but these do not employ as many people as they once did.