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Peterborough, South Australia – my hometown

A few facts about Peterborough South Australia – my hometown

Peterborough South Australia – is a town in the mid north of South Australia near the Flinders Ranges at an altitude of 1755ft 535m.  At the 2016 census, Peterborough had a population of 1,416, down from around 4,000 at its peak. It was originally named Petersburg and was one of 69 places in South Australia renamed in 1917 due to anti-German sentiments during World War I.

Peterborough is a rare railway town where, because state governments could not agree on a standardised railway gauge, three railway gauges once met. The town became hugely important as a railway hub. Since standardisation of the gauges and reduction in rail traffic (now approx. 8 freight trains a day plus the famous Indian Pacific pass through), it has become a heritage tourism town and service centre for the surrounding area.

The town and countryside around provides the inspiration for much of my work, especially my Artistree Series

The town now has a museum in a railway carriage and its prime tourist attraction is the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre: at the western end of town.

From the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre:

  • During the heyday of the 1950s and 60s, over 100 steam locomotives were being moved in and out of Peterborough – so many locos and so much steam that the local climate of the shallow valley was made slightly warmer.
  • Walk through the vast Roundhouse – a heritage-listed structure with an 85 foot turntable. Once housing 23 locos, it’s the only such three-gauge structure in the world.
  • Get hands-on with locos, diesels and rolling stock, all in their original setting.
  • Crouch beneath the wheels of a 102-tonne loco before sitting in the driver’s seat.
  • Tour the teak panelled interior of a 1923 1st Class lounge car (complete with piano!)
  • See the unique Motor Inspection Car, a Morris 25 on bogie wheel.
  • Hear poignant stories from the Peterborough men and women who lived the glory days of Steamtown – people with a special place in their hearts for the steam engine.
  • Enjoy the Sound and Light Show. Walk into the Roundhouse at night, with only the silent black locos and the gleaming Southern Cross for company. Then sit back in a reconditioned carriage and watch through the window as a movie retells a truly Australian story

Hot & Cold  – Peterborough has recorded some of the hottest and coldest days in South Australia: it’s not unusual to experience many days of 45 degrees in summer, and it can go to -5 degrees at night in winter.

The Town Carriage Museum  – is in the centre of town – open 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm, free entry!  It houses a time-line exhibit of Peterborough’s history, complete with an interesting and enjoyable ‘virtual’ steam train ride in the compartments.

Entry Signs  – There are four model trains located at the four entrances to the town. They were all made in steel by local blacksmith, Colin Campbell

Town Hall  – The Peterborough Town Hall is one of the largest town halls in South Australia. It stretches along the main street and dominates the streetscape. Built between 1926-1927 it originally had five shopfronts but they have all been converted into council offices. Enter the building to inspect the ornate staircases and the impressive Federation quilt, which was completed in 2001 after an estimated 2000 hours of labour, and which was donated by the Peterborough Patchworkers.

The Statue of Bob the Railway Dog  – Located in the small park in front of the Town Carriage Museum is a statue of Bob the Railway Dog. There is an entire website devoted to this dog – check out http://www.bobtherailwaydog.com with vast amounts of information (he really did become internationally famous during his life – 1882-1895)

Meldonfield Miniatures at the YMCA  – Located on Main Street between the Town Hall and the Town Carriage Museum, the YMCA Building now has the unusual Meldonfield Miniatures created by Eldon and Mary Zimmermann. The exhibits include a 1:12 scale model of the original Petersburg Railway Station (actually built from the old station).  There are also miniature Cobb & Co coaches with miniature people as well as a display of the huge number of tools and plans which have been used to create the miniatures. Upstairs the Peterborough Historic Group has housed artefacts associated with the history of “Petersburg to Peterborough” and the surrounding region.

Peterborough Printing Works  – Located at 7-9 Jervois St., this is a fascinating reminder of a world of printing and newspapers that is fast disappearing. The building was where the Petersburg Times was printed from 1891. It closed in the 1970s but it has been beautifully maintained.

The Burg’s Model Rail Yards – Come and see the latest addition at the The Burg in the Newsagency – a working 1:148 model scale of the Peterborough rail yards in the late 1960s, including 70 buildings, 50 lights over 15,000 hours construction time and much much more!

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