Newcastle Museum was originally founded in 1988 as a major Bicentennial project and has been located in the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops since 4 August 2011.
The former Castlemaine Brewery
The original idea for a Museum in Newcastle was developed by a consortium of interested parties, including the institution of Engineers and Supernova Inc. who worked hard to promote the idea of a regional Museum in the 1980s.
The site originally selected by this group was the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops, then still in the hands of the State Rail Authority. Moves to acquire that site failed and a decision was made to acquire and restore the former Castlemaine Brewery in Hunter Street, Newcastle West.
The Castlemaine Brewery was home to the former Museum from 1988 until 2008 when it closed to allow for the new Museum in Honeysuckle to be built.
The Museum in the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops
The Honeysuckle Railway Workshops are unique pieces of classic railway architecture. There are three buildings listed with the National Trust:
- Locomotive Boiler Shop
- New Erecting Shop
- Blacksmith and Wheel Shop
Locomotive Boiler Shop
The former Locomotive Boiler Shop is an example of Victorian Romanesque Architecture and was constructed between 1882 – 1887. Original plans for the building were changed to fit in a large overhead ‘Craven’ crane, the only one in the southern hemisphere.
The Boiler Shop operated for 42 years until 1929 when the work was taken over by the new Cardiff Locomotive Workshop. The Boiler Shop was later used as a timber mill (1937 – 1940) and then as a Locomotive Machine Shop. It became Elcom’s first diesel operated power station in 1951 and from 1957 served as a motor vehicles garage for NSW State rail Authority.
It is now permanent home to Supernova, the interactive science exhibit.
New Erecting Shop
The New Erecting Shop was constructed in 1920 as an adjunct to the Old Erecting Shop which was demolished. Locomotive engines or rolling stock due for repair went to the New Erecting Shop where they were dismantled, sent for repair and returned for re-assembly.
The sawtooth roof contrasts with the style of other buildings, reflecting changes that occurred in building technology and architecture since the 1880s. The building was extensively damaged in the 1989 earthquake and now includes a substantial concrete structure to stiffen the building in case of another earthquake.
The building is now home to Fire and Earth, including the BHP story and an exhibition on coal mining.
Blacksmith’s and Wheel Shop
The Blacksmith’s shop is one of the oldest of the three buildings and was built in 1880 out of local bricks. The Blacksmith’s and Wheel Shop was responsible for all the wheel shop and smithing work required by other workshops on the site. It continued its role for 55 years up to 1937.
The Blacksmiths shop is now home to enclosed exhibition spaces.
The Wheel Shop now includes a theatrette available for venue hire.