On wet and wild Sunday 30 October The Old Wool and Grain Store Beachport Museum welcomed around 100 people to the launch of a new exhibit about the Rivoli Bay railway line. The museum was supported at the launch by the National Trust Council President, Professor Norman Etherington, the Wattle Range Mayor, Peter Gandolfi, Kalangadoo Railway Station Museum Manager, Peter Savage, and all the museum volunteers. Part funding for the project cam from the History Trust of South Australia.
Over 3 years, a team of 2 museum volunteers researched and produced the 77 year history of this narrow-gauge railway line (3ft 6 ins ) from Mt Gambier to Beachport, with much of the information gathered relating to Beachport. With an avid interest in trains form their childhood, researchers Rhonda Burleigh and Kerry Oschar set off to visit the lines’ railway stations, train museums, interview locals who grew up with the steam and diesel trains and gather information from all sources available. There was a marvellous collection of photos within our museum and these have been incorporated into the panel work along with the researchers own photographs. The panel work required the information gathered to be graphically illustrated and Leah Hamilton of Beachport was employed for this job. She produced the nine panels on display.
This project has been incorporated into an area of the museum that still has the railway track entering from the spur line built in 1879 and there are relics from the train era on display. The original train smoke is still aloft and the two original jetty trolleys display trunks and cases that were used for travelling on ships, steamers and the train. The jetty trade relied on the daily train as did the passengers going to and from Adelaide .The train era opened up the lower South East to settlers, businesses and farmers and it was also the beginning of the township of Beachport.
The official opening was conducted within the museum and Chairperson Lorraine Williams welcomed Norman Etherington to ring the original Beachport railway station bell three times. Guest speakers included Frank Corigliano who discussed the Beachport trains during the 1940s and Yvonne Sargeant who talked about her childhood memories in early 1950 in Beachport. Peter Savage displayed some of his railway collection just for the day and relayed some stories of his job as a S.A.R. employee at Kalangadoo. His surprise donation of the original Beachport railway station stamp was gratefully accepted by the museum where it will be placed in the railway glass cabinet display.
The mayor, representing the Wattle Range Council also spoke a few words in support of the museum’s innovative progress and after all the formalities, the public were invited to view the museum at their leisure and participate in the afternoon tea in the old cinema which was provided by the museum volunteers. The visitors were able to view a before and after 1900 plan of the Beachport railway yard, along with observing and using the new audio/visual touch screen unit contained within an original travelling trunk. The four components on the screen offer other interesting train information that is not on the display panels.
The museum members were just overwhelmed by the support of the public and would like to say thank you. Your local history will be recorded for the future at our historic 138 year old building.
Story contributed by Rhonda Burleigh, Beachport Museum.