Peterborough, SA

What an interesting town is Peterborough, South Australia. Peterborough began as a private subdivision in the late 1800’s. The land was owned by a Heinrich Koch and after he heard that the railways would be coming through he subdivided his land into town allotments. The town was named Petersburg after the land’s original owner Peter Doeke however the name was changed in 1917 due to anti-German feeling due to WWI. Many of the town’s German street names were also anglicised.

With the discovery of silver and other minerals in Silverton and Broken Hill and the development of agriculture in the area a more efficient mode of transport than bullock drays was needed to transfer produce to the harbour at Port Pirie. Bullock drays did the job but they took a long time and it was very hard work.

Peterborough is at the point that surveyors decided would be the meeting place of rail lines coming from Silverton/Broken Hill to Port Pirie and from Burra via Teworie and from Peterborough to Alice Springs.

These lines were all completed in the late 1880’s. The town grew and pretty soon a passenger stations, good shed, post office and the Petersburg Hotel (the first of four) were built. These were followed by a school and several churches. Shops were built and small industries started to appear. These included a butter factory, an ice works, brick kilns and a cordial maker.

The town became the largest rail depot outside Adelaide with workshops, a 23 bay roundhouse and a three gauge turntable.

We drove right through the Main Street to get to the Tourist Information Centre which is housed at the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre. We called in to collect our tickets for their Sound N Light Show we’d booked the day before. I’d seen the entry for their RV Park on WikiCamps and it showed a large sign that said Self-contained vehicles only, no tents or swags so I thought I’d better ask if our boys were OK to sleep in their swags beside our two self-contained vehicles. Sadly the answer was no. What to do?

After a bit of chat we all decided that the RV Park was so convenient, being walking distance, that the boys could sleep inside for the one night. Riley slept in the motorhome and Ben slept on the lounge in the van.

We got our camp set up with our RV’s facing each other. There were about 20 or so other RV’s already parked up. The RV Park is a very large grassy and flat area just on the edge of town. You can stay for free for 72 hours. There are lots of rubbish bins but the dump point and potable water are back in town.

Peterborough RV Park

The kids got out their scooters and, with helmets on, we set off to walk to town. We followed the pathway from Steamtown to the Main Street. It’s only about six blocks long. Along the way we stopped off at the Newsagency as I’d read that they have a model train set up that was worth a look. Katie stayed outside with the scooters whil Rich and I took the kids inside. Wow what an impressive model railway. It is a model of Petersburg in all its railway finest in the 1960’s. The detail is amazing. The kids were happy to watch it for a good half an hour.

We continued on and found the sculpture of Bob the Railway Dog. The story of Bob could fill an entire post on its own. Suffice to say that Bob was a much loved character on the railways and was know far and wide. He would ride the trains wherever and whenever he felt like it and was know to travel to Broken Hill, Oodnadatta, Mt Gambier, Melbourne and Sydney. He even took the tram in Melbourne and rode on a Murray River paddle steamer. Apparently when Bob heard the whistle of a train he was off! Bob was adopted by the Enginemen (train drivers) of the SA Railways who paid his annual registration. Bob died in 1895 and was mourned by many.

Behind Bob the Dog is the Town Carriage Museum. This is a 1916 first-class sleeper car which was used on the very first train across the Nullarbor from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Inside are displays of the history of Peterborough as well as artifacts and other memorabilia. The best part though is to sit in one of the sleeper compartments, press the button and all of a sudden you are on your way to Broken Hill. The windows have been turned into screens and you really feel you are on the train watching the scenery go by. This was an excellent museum and the best part….it’s free.

We walked back past the new Town Hall built in 1927 and I just had to have a peek inside at it’s gorgeous interior. Check out the photos below!

The kids enjoyed a fun time at the Skate Park amongst some local kids. I love watching the kids at the skate park. They love it!

Back at camp we ate our Shepherds Pie that had been cooking while we were out walking. We rugged up against the cold night and set off to walk back to Steamtown for the Sound n Light show.

All rugged up for the Sound n Light Show

Wow, it did not disappoint. You enter through the Tourist Information Centre into a huge shed with a glowing T Class Locomotive belching out steam. You feel like the train has just pulled up a few minutes ago. Then the guide shows you outside, in the dark, to a beautifully restored carriage that is sitting on the turntable. You sit inside the carriage facing the roundhouse and then the show starts. A very professionally made movie shows the story of Peterborough and the railways. At various times the locos and carriages in the roundhouse are lit up.

It was very well done. The most dramatic part was the description of the only head on crash on the northern lines. It was quite scary and had a very sad ending with the Engineman and Fireman losing their lives. The poor Fireman had his leg severed at the thigh and, although he was rescued, succumbed to his injuries. Maddie doesn’t remember that bit as she fell asleep.

We all loved the show! Do this one if you are in Peterborough but it pays to book as seats are limited.

We walked back to the RV Park guided by our headlamp torch and it was not very long before everyone was sound asleep.


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