Harry Potter event will not come to NSW Rail Museum

Two bold ideas proposed to boost tourism at the NSW Rail Museum and in the shire have come to a halt.

Wollondilly Council released its draft Wollondilly Destination Management Plan recently which identified potential ideas to encourage tourists to visit and stay in the shire.

Consultant company Stafford Strategy suggested one option was to diversify the NSW Rail Museum experience.

The strategy said there was potential to create a Harry Potter themed event.

However, Transport Heritage NSW executive officer Andrew Moritz said the option had no legs.

“While a Harry Potter [event] is a nice idea, we feel this would be a very short term solution to a longer term challenge and does little to tell our unique stories and the history of the NSW railways,” he said.

“We have previously looked into licencing for a Harry Potter event and it is not something that can be licensed or is possible at this time.”

Mr Moritz said he was pleased the NSW Rail Museum had been identified in the strategy as an area of interest in helping to encourage tourists to come to the shire.

“Over the past four years we have doubled visitation to the museum by increasing our on-site events, our steam train operating days and investing in our brand,” he said.

“What we’re seeking from the destination management plan is the council’s support to continue doing more of what we do best.

“This could include expanding our once per week 45-minute steam train rides to other days of the week; introducing new ‘driver for a day’ experiences; supporting new events; and really getting behind what is one of the shire’s biggest annual events – the Thirlmere Festival of Steam.”

David Thurlow is the last train driver from the loop line and would love to see the track opened as a tourist attraction. Picture: Simon Bennett

David Thurlow is the last train driver from the loop line and would love to see the track opened as a tourist attraction. Picture: Simon Bennett

The strategy also suggests the NSW Rail Museum help create a rail trail from Thirlmere to Mittagong, which would offer heritage train rides and a bicycle or walking experience along a disused track.

A Wingecarribee councillor raised the idea last year.

Mr Moritz said the Museum used a section of the line from Picton to Thirlmere and onto Buxton for access to the main line and for weekly heritage train rides.

“From our perspective, this section of the line must remain for heritage train operations,” he said.

“What is potentially up for discussion is the remaining section of the line from Buxton to Mittagong.

“We obviously would like to see this section eventually reactivated once again for use by heritage trains, but the cost and potential benefits need to be assessed in light of all the options.

“Wingecarribee Council approached the museum some time back seeking support for a feasibility study into developing a rail trail.

“This did not progress further at that time.

“We have no plans to undertake a feasibility study on our own accord, however would be willing to partner with both the local and state governments as a major stakeholder should there be interest in doing so.”

The NSW Rail Museum is currently the lease holder of the line between Picton and Braemar near Mittagong. The state government owns the line. 

Last financial year about 60,000 people passed through the gates of the museum and rode on the heritage trains.

“This demonstrates there is clearly an appetite for our core offer which with the council’s support could potentially be expanded over time,” Mr Moritz said.

The strategy is a “wishlist” created for council and details its vision for the shire.

The council will use it to lobby prospective companies.

The plan does not suggest the council will fund the projects, rather private enterprise would be encouraged to invest and deliver projects in the shire. 

To provide feedback on the draft proposal, visit the council’s website.