There are sounds of people on the platform, departure announcements, livestock being loaded onto railway trucks, and the general hub-bub of early railway travel.

You are enveloped by the sounds but not invaded – you are simply at a train station . . . until you enter the Prison Van, the Mail Van, loco E18 or attempt to board the Governor General’s carriage.  Here you encounter close-up conversations: a murderer and his fellow prisoner, the Governor General’s valet and many more.  It is here that Trainworks, activated by you, becomes personal.

The ambient audio effects as you browse the collection are of an early railway station: steam locomotives leaving, arriving and whistling.  Baggage trolleys, porter’s voices and the station master’s whistle.







   Object Theatre

There is a small intimate theatre at Trainworks, which features a  shunting locomotive known as 1021.  First commissioned for the New South Wales Government Railway in 1916, it remained in service for 54 years. 


The multi-media story opens in 1916; the scene is a locomotive workshop and the 1021 is undergoing its pre-delivery service.  The two men working on her are talking about the Great War raging in France and the horrific loss of life; both Allied and German, in this war of attrition.


The show documents the working life of the little loco, and each time she returns to the grimy workshop a new generation of artisans attends to her, and a new chapter of Australian history unfolds.

The story is told mainly through dialogue with a linking narrator who sets the scene for each era in the life of 1021.  Choreographed lighting (Son et Lumiere) portrays the characters in the workshop either as shadows on the set or by the illumination of where they are working and objects they are using.

Life-size Peppers Ghosts in the locomotive’s cab and on the floor of the workshop are used periodically and sparingly to lift the visual impact and create an element of surprise.  A large Plasma screen set high up in the space and notionally divorced from the workshop scene, runs sequences of archival footage to illustrate significant events in this 54-year slice of 1021’s and Australia’s life.



Thirlmere NSW

The brief was to create a level of interactivity for this vast railway museum in Thirlmere, New South Wales, which has on display a large collection of meticulously conserved rolling stock dating back to the 19th Century.



The Shirley Spectra, along with its client HPA Projects, devised an interpretive strategy to bring the space and its superb artifacts to life.  Much of the interpretation is delivered as multi-layered audio that subtly fills the space.