All Aboard! Do you have a mini (or full-sized) train enthusiast in your family? The Workshops Rail Museum is a colourful and exciting outing for children, and it’s only a 40 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD (it’s located in Ipswich, view map here). I love this place. It’s one of the BEST outings we’ve taken our family on in South East Queensland.
Cost: please check website
We have visited the museum several times, and it’s always a hit with our pre-school-aged kids. The museum staff have succeeded in ensuring that there’s plenty for little ones to do, as well as catering to school-aged kids and adults alike. We’ve been in January 2012 and 2014, when the Day Out With Thomas exhibition has been running, so some of our photos reflect that particular theme, whilst others show activities that operate year-round.
Word of warning: Ipswich in the middle of summer (and at other times) is really hot. Pack lots of water and dress your kids and babies in cool clothes and hats because a lot of the activities here are outdoors, or inside great big sheds. No aircon, large tin shed. Ever been to Bunnings in the middle of summer? It’s a bit like that.
We decided to go for the afternoon (after naps were done and dusted).
What’s in a name? The Workshops is actually still a functional railway workshop, and even prior to its rebirth as a museum in 2002, the site was an important part of Queensland’s locomotive history. Entering through the old-fashioned timber ticket office, it’s evident that the curators of the museum placed value in maintaining that rich history and origins of the location during the restoration and transformation.
But the museum is also a place where children are encouraged to play – in such a participation-rich, inclusive kind of way. As soon as we exited that beautiful old ticket office, my two boys
gravitated ran toward an old steam engine wearing a Donald-from-Thomas-and-Friends mask. It’s an ingenious idea – decorating the museum’s artefacts with a popular children’s theme.
There’s no stopping them when they spot a familiar and friendly face!
It wasn’t long before the kids spotted the little train ride doing the rounds, and if your kids are like mine, you’ll know a mini train ride is impossible to resist. You do have to purchase tickets for the rides separately (inside the museum gift shop). There’s plenty of space to leave prams and the children had a ball viewing the workshops, without wearing out their little legs. Again, very clever. Props to you, staff.
After the train ride it was time for the Fat Controller’s show, so we grabbed a spot in the colourful stage area, and I ducked off to the adjacent cafe to collect a coffee and a gluten-free biscuit. I want to mention here another great thing about this venue: visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic and snacks. As a mummy this is seen as a great benefit (I personally really dislike places that don’t let you take in food, especially since our family became gluten-free. But that’s another post for another day). Another tick for you, Workshops!
The show was interactive, and featured a charismatic Fat Controller with a pretty convincing Yorkshire accent. His show involved a story, some dancing and some singing too (Mummies of Thomas-lovers will sing along with the theme song, having stored it somewhere deep in their subconscious).
From here it was a quick pose for a family photo with the Fat Controller (becoming a bit of a tradition), before heading inside to the main museum building.
Once inside, there’s heaps for kids and parents to check out. Here are some of our favourite parts of the museum itself:
There’s a huge model train set, complete with iconic Queensland scenery and surrounded by interactive information boards. We stayed here quite a while!
We escaped the heat in a blissful, air-conditioned space full of train sets for kids to play with! Here’s where I gave the baby a quick feed. There was also a great little area with toys and books, all railway-themed and age-appropriate for toddlers-to-preschoolers. I didn’t want to leave this area; it was fab. But it was time to go have a good play, and there was no holding them back.
“Look at this cool old stuff!” said my preschooler, and raced toward a child-height touch-table. We had a turn at guessing what each thing was, and what it’s purpose was, and got a few funny surprises!
By now Baby had a full tummy and was ready for a sleep in her pram, so it was a perfect time for Daddy (a bit of a train buff, himself) to push her around and check out the “grown up” exhibits. The boys and I sat in the colourful craft area and they enjoyed some making time. Remember to wear enclosed footwear if you want to check out the workshops!
Next we all headed to the Nippers area, where there’s a track, and plenty of little trikes to ride on the track. Imagine a kid-sized village with a train station, workshop, bridges and signs. There are even dress-ups! Fun!
This was a thoroughly enjoyable excursion for our little family of five, and our little boys showed their appreciation for busy, fun-filled day out by promptly falling asleep in the air-conditioned car before we even left the City of Ipswich.
Resources and planning your trip information on The Workshops website.