Willans Hill Miniature Railway is located in Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens, Tom Woods Dr, Turvey Park in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia.
In 2018 we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the inception of the club, the 30th Anniversary of the Official Opening of Club (a Bi-centennial project) and on the first weekend in November, 2018 we held our 30th Invitation Run. For more than 34 years the Wagga Wagga Society of Model Engineering (WWSME) has operated a miniature railway under the title Willans Hill Miniature Railway, named after the hill adjacent to the club ground, which is part of the Botanic Gardens of Wagga Wagga.
Starting up with less than 100 metres of track length in 1983 the railway was expanded over the following years, and from 1988 to 2016 had a total track length of two kilometres consisting of a combined 7¼ inch and 5 inch track. The track runs through woodland and two tunnels, over several bridges into an authentic station. There is a second station next to the Museum of the Riverina which is used in conjunction with special events at the museum.
In September, 2016, the club finished the planned spiral extensions to the track. The railway spiral has added an additional 900 metres of track length. The spiral at the Willans Hill site is unique, as no other club in New South Wales has such a feature. The spiral was opened on the 22nd October, 2016 and since the opening The Willans Hill Miniature Railway has become a Mecca for the fans of miniature railways and for many other enthusiasts just wanting the experience given by riding this special railway.
Operating twice a month (1st & 3rd Sundays) The Willans Hill Miniature Railway attracts many people from near and far. The club uses the club and members owned locomotives and carriages on run days. The types of locomotives that run on the track are mainly steam, petrol and electric. The City of Wagga Wagga as a whole benefits from this tourist attraction nestled into the beautiful Botanic Gardens by the many visitors that come to ride the trains.
Following are some facts to show the value of The Willans Hill railway to the community.
Regular Runs (every first and third Sunday of each month, weather permitting)
On average more than 25,000 people (private runs are not included) a year are moved around the track. The track has an approximate length of three kilometres.
Invitation Run (first weekend in November each year)
On average 250 members of miniature railway clubs from NSW, ACT, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania and other guests turn up each invitation run.
Guests are staying at least two nights, some have booked in for up to one week
On average over 2,500 school children a year experience the Willans Hill Miniature Railway, some as a reward for merit.
Schools from as far as 250 kilometres come for a ride on The Willans Hill Miniature Railway.
Introductory courses have been held for students studying transport which include technology, mode of operations of steam locomotives, railway safety (e.g. signals and points control).
Senior children studying industrial design (building to scale) when requested get detailed information about locomotive design (original manufacturing drawings are used).
During the year The Willans Hill Miniature Railway has at least one, often two charity runs. Over the past ten years the club has raised more than $55,000 through charity runs for the community. Charity runs have been held to give financial support to the following organisations or institutions:
Wagga Base Hospital Auxiliary (x2)
Riverina Cancer Care Centre
Men's Cancer Research
The Red Cross
Mayor Flood Appeal
Miss Wagga Wagga Quest
Wagga Historic Engine Club to restore a Robey Traction Engine which is of historic value for Wagga Wagga and the Riverina
Ronald McDonald House, Wagga Wagga.
Easter twilight 2018 for Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA)
Free rides on the Willans Hill Miniature Railway are given to organisations like:
The club has provided Gold Passes to Ronald McDonald House, Wagga Wagga to give their guests (mainly out-of-town children being in Wagga Wagga for medical treatment) so that they have the opportunity of free rides on The Willans Hill Miniature Railway.
On various occasions the club has welcomed special guests to the city, through the Wagga Wagga City Council and other avenues. They include:
Two State Governors
One Governor General
Delegations from Wagga Wagga's sister’s cities
Ambassadors and members from various Embassies in Canberra.
The Willans Hill railway also offers private runs, e.g. children's birthday parties, entertaining guests of functions held in the Botanic Gardens, guests of weddings parties.
Beside the public runs the club offers its members fun run days on the Second Saturday of the month. Members can test their own trains or can experience other locomotives. A barbecue lunch is provided for the members that attend the fun runs.
Access for elderly persons or people with reduced mobility.
Access ramp to the station and safe parking area for wheel chairs and scooters.
Two railway carriages are available for easy seating of elderly persons or people with reduced mobility.
Price for a ride
The price for a ride is only $4
There are many regular visitors from out of town and visitors from overseas who turn up to experience The Willans Hill Miniature Railway.
When the out of town visitors come from far away they often stay overnight and plan to explore other attractions in Wagga Wagga and the surrounding area.
The club is introducing interested visitors to other attractions in Wagga Wagga and surrounding areas by handing out respective attraction flyers at the ticket office (Currently flyers for four different attractions are distributed).
The Wagga Tourist Information is supportive in marketing The Willans Hill Miniature Railway.
After experiencing the fun of train rides through the natural scenery these people market the Willans Hill Miniature Railway, the Botanic Gardens and the City of Wagga Wagga by word of mouth and social media advertising. This is confirmed by conversations held on The Willans Hill Miniature Railway Station and from people who have ridden the trains.
Occasionally major city based bus companies have had an overnight stop in Wagga Wagga with touring groups and offer them a ride on The Willans Hill Miniature Railway as part of their travel experience.
Permanent maintenance and upgrading the appearance of the club's ground using mainly native plants.
Controlling weeds on regular basis.
Using water saving methods to water plants, bushes and lawns.
All club members are volunteers. Currently more than 50 members keep the club running.
Most of the members are skilled in different professions and their skills are shared between the members, e.g. at the engineering meeting (see Groups inside the club).
Over a year the members of the WWSME spend approximately 45,000 hours in running and maintaining the miniature railway.
Groups within the club
HO Group - using the club's own track layout in the club room.
Engineering Group - studying and discussing different technical fields, sometimes having invited guest speakers to speak on specific topics or visit local specialized manufactures.
Attraction for Wagga Wagga and the Region
The Willans Hill Miniature Railway in the Botanic Gardens is a main attraction for the city of Wagga Wagga and the region. Many visitors plan their visit to Wagga Wagga to coincide with a run day.
Quite often visitors come to The Willans Hill Miniature Railway and combine this visit with a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Garden, a break in the playgrounds or at the barbecue facility.
Many visitors get their lunch or drinks from the Cafe adjacent to The Willans Hill Miniature Railway.
The special effort of the club to support schools and other local organisations has been recognized by a number of Certificates of Appreciation presented to the Wagga Wagga Society of Model Engineers over the years and are proudly displayed in our club house.
Mailing Address: PO Box 7119, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650