The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM), located in Thirlmere, New South Wales, is a museum dedicated to displaying locomotives and passenger and freight rolling stock formerly operated by the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) and various private operators. The collection features steam, diesel and electric locomotives and other rolling stock. A large proportion of the collection is owned by RailCorp. The Blue Mountains division of the museum is located at the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum in Valley Heights, New South Wales.
The museum operates steam heritage trains on the Picton to Mittagong railway line between Picton, Thirlmere and Buxton. It also hosts the Thirlmere Festival of Steam in March each year. In addition to this, the museum operates mainline tours under the Heritage Express branding. These can consist of day or extended tours, usually over a weekend. Heritage Express has an office on the main concourse at Central Station in Sydney.
The NSWRTM was established in October 1962 at the former NSWGR Enfield Locomotive Depot in Sydney. By 1973 the Public Transport Commission wanted to demolish the depot to make way for a container terminal and offered the museum a site at Thirlmere on the then lightly used Picton to Mittagong loop line. Site clearing began in late 1974 and works were sufficiently advanced for the transfer of stock to begin in June 1975. While some trains were hauled by diesel locomotives, most were worked by the museum's own steam locomotives.
The NSWRTM opened at its current location in on 1 June 1976. Services on the loop line between Thirlmere and Buxton began on 13 June 1976. Initially uncovered, the first section of roofing was completed in 1979, but it would be over a decade before the whole site was covered.
In 1984 the NSWRTM became a founding member of the 3801 Limited managerial board that was created to oversee the operation of the locomotive 3801.
The famous British railway locomotive 4472 Flying Scotsman visited Thirlmere in March 1989 as part of its tour around Australia.
In 1993 the museum concluded a lease for the 14km Picton to Buxton railway line following its closure by the State Rail Authority.
The NSWRTM was removed as a board member of 3801 Limited in November 2006 after the 20-year lease of 3801 was not renewed with the locomotive returning to the NSWRTM.
In 2006 the Government of New South Wales endorsed the Sustainable Rail Heritage Asset Management Strategy to ensure the collection of the State’s rail heritage assets are maintained and conserved by dedicated volunteers and shared with the public for current and future generations to appreciate and enjoy. In 2007 RailCorp’s Office of Rail Heritage commissioned the development of a concept design for the NSWRTM’s upgrade. This saw ownership in the NSWRTM vested in Trainworks Limited, a 100% subsidiary of RailCorp.
A major redevelopment saw the locomotive depot relocated to a roundhouse built at the Southern end of the site opening in November 2009.
To create room for stage two of the development of the museum, some of the exhibits were moved to Broadmeadow and Goulburn in 2009. Work on stage two began in December 2009, which included demolition of the existing locomotive maintenance building, construction of a new major exhibits building and other works. The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum re-opened in April 2011.
The museum has over 2,000 members, including an active volunteer workforce of over 300 and a small number of full-time staff. It is administered by a voluntary Board and a Management Committee.
The museum is accredited as a rail operator under the NSW Rail Safety Act 2002 meaning it has network access rights on the NSW main line rail network. It also has accreditation to operate in Victoria.