Things to do
Ipswich Rail Experiences
Ipswich is well known in South East Queensland for its rail heritage, and rightly so – it was the birthplace of rail in Queensland! Due to this heritage it’s perhaps of little surprise that Ipswich has some excellent rail experiences and so we just had to head west from Brisbane to Ipswich to check them out!
We planned to visit four rail experiences – and found that they were all different and fun outings that offer something for everyone! The hardest part is deciding which experience to head along to!
Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway
A surprisingly easy to access experience is the Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway (QPSR) which runs its heritage rail from Bundamba Racecourse – right in Ipswich! QPSR runs their vintage steam an diesel locomotives, pulling retired Queensland Rail carriages generally once a month. They also do longer special trips at times, best to check out their website for more information, along a short section of track, before looping back and returning from the original departure point. That takes about half an hour to complete the trip.
There’s no stopping or hopping off on the journey, so we think the half an hour is a good length for little kids. The train leaves every hour.
While the ride on the old carriages was fun and well worth taking, for us we probably enjoyed being on the platform more! Seeing the old steam train up close while it’s operating is truly impressive, and it’s something that is a little hard to appreciate when you are sitting on the train. The volunteers are also really friendly and passionate about the train, and more than happy to have a chat and provide some more information about the train.
Be sure to check out their market day train which coincides with the Handmade Expo Markets. The products on offer are simply gorgeous, you can grab a bite to eat, there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained and of course you can check out the trains across the road every hour!
The Rosewood Railway
The next place on our list was The Rosewood Railway, just 20kms west of Ipswich! The Railway’s Kunkala Station is open on Sundays; however the last Sunday of each month is the day to visit as they have a restored train running between two stations on their very own piece of track! Set amongst some lovely scenery of rolling hills and farmland, these small stations have been authentically and lovingly maintained.
Normally running the close-to-100 year old steam train or an 80 year old diesel rail motor, you can purchase return fares or the great value multi-trip where you can ride the train all day long! The Railway houses a number of other locomotives, retired carriages and other rail memorabilia. It’s a lovely, relaxed setting and it’s all very rustic and authentic.
You can wander around and check it all out at your own pace. There are some limited refreshments available as well as a few souvenirs, and there’s some nice and shady lawn to set up a picnic on!
Grandchester Model Live Steam Train and Station
A slightly different experience was in store at Grandchester, a tiny little town about half an hours’ drive from Ipswich. It might be tiny, but it has a very special place in the history of Queensland, as it was the last stop on the (then) new Queensland Rail which provided a huge impetus to the development of this great state! As a reminder of the importance of the town’s rail heritage, Grandchester Model Live Steam Train runs on the first Sunday of every month and we have to say that it is heaps of fun!
The detail on the trains is simply amazing – you will find both steam trains and faithful replicas of Queensland Rail diesel locomotives! They pull specially built wagons that can carry around 6 – 8 people per wagon and the ride is surprisingly smooth and lots of fun! There’s a canteen on site for food and refreshments or bring a picnic as there’s heaps of lawn and shade.
Grandchester is also home to the historic Grandchester Station. The heritage listed building is only a two minute drive from the Model Live Steam tracks and is a lovely and faithfully maintained old station, which holds some intriguing memorabilia from days gone by!
The Workshops Rail Museum
And finally, we come to the last stop on our rail experience journey of Ipswich, fittingly from where the first rail journey in Queensland originated from – The Workshops Rail Museum! Part of the Queensland Museums Network, this museum is very well presented and has heaps of significant pieces. The museum is situated in the actual workshops and rail yards that constructed and maintained much of Queensland’s early rail network, and there are a number of actual trains that you can get up close to, heaps of historical artefacts and lots of memorabilia.
The Workshops often runs special programs and more often than not these are aimed at the kids, so you can be assured that it’s a great place to visit for families! One of the most popular is Day out with Thomas, where Thomas the Tank Engine is proudly on display, there are lots of Thomas-themed activities and many of the other trains join in on the fun. They also have special school holiday activities, Easter and Christmas events and many more throughout the year! The kids will love the dedicated play areas, and the whole museum is really spread out so you can relax as you wander around at your own pace.
These four rail experiences were all very worthwhile visits for families, so it would be hard to recommend one over the other. We’re sure that if you were to visit any of these experiences you would come away satisfied, they are all slightly different in the experience that they offer, but are all very enjoyable. We recommend doing them all!