museums of australia: national steam centre


A bazillion festivals and fairs on the weekend, and the one I chose was the Scoresby Steamfest, held at the National Steam Centre in Scoresby.


The space at the National Steam Centre is giant, I needed a nap after walking around. There’s 12 sheds split up into types of engine/machine. The best shed is obviously Shed 1, with the steam engines, and they’re a great way to look at moments in Victorian and Australian history. I especially enjoyed checking out the gauges that used to sit in the Heinz factory in Victoria. They’re no longer in use but I enjoyed thinking about pounds per inch and the idea of thousand pounds per hour of BEANZ.


The next most fun thing was watching the dragline walk! A dragline is an excavator, it looks kind of like a house with a big crane arm, and it walks by using “feet” on either side that are attached to a rotating mechanism in combination with a large single foot underneath in the centre. (For an explanation, you can watch this video of a Rapier Dragline. I watched it on silent cos I’m at work but it’s got some visual and then some understandable explanatory closeups.) It’s like a techno Baba Yaga house, pulling itself up and dropping itself down and moving across the landscape with a morbid, fascinating inexorability. I’ve spent some time since yesterday thinking about the repurposing of mining equipment in Australia for our climate change future; as our mines become less used, much like our weapons and tools of war, what other uses will we find for them?

Speaking of, my biggest problem with visiting places such as the National Steam Museum is that, even as they’re fascinating and interesting and a good time for me to learn more about pulleys and cogs and steam and technology, they’re also a clear timeline of our history of conflict, and a chance for (usually white, middle-aged to older men) people to glorify warfare. My dad engaged a bit in this sort of behaviour, being from the RAAF and instilling in me a love of trains and steam and automobile tech, so I’m familiar with it. It causes conflict within me, because I LOVE this stuff.

Being a tiny, volunteer outfit in woop woop (when we got off the train at Mitcham I said “well, here we are in the country,”), there’s no shop. There was a stall of fashionable hi-vis, which we have failed you in inspecting. There was also, in Shed 8, “Plough Books,” where I purchased a book on the golden age of Dorset Steam for my father, and spent some time fondling some very hilarious books. (I want Life on the Victorian Railways quite badly.)

steam2Museum: National Steam Centre

Layout: Giant paddock with large sheds. Claims to be wheelchair accessible. I mean, kind of.

Day and time visited: public holiday Monday, 1000 – 1300

Purchases: Random book for Steph’s dad

Rating: 4 steam engines out of 5

Location: 12000 Ferntree Gully Rd, Scoresby. Get there by an automobile. There’s a bike path but it’s a lie.