Midland Railway Workshops

Midland Railway Workshops in 2005

The Midland Railway Workshops in Midland, Western Australia were the main workshops for the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) for over 80 years.


The first railway workshops in Western Australia were located at Fremantle[1] and shifted to Midland in 1904.[2]

The Midland railway workshops were involved with all WAGR rolling stock and engine construction and maintenance. Steam engines continued to operate on mainline service until 1971, and the workshops were where all major maintenance occurred.


Generations of workers at the workshops had considerable numbers of European migrants who arrived in Australia with limited English language, and there were significant groups of Italian migrants in the workforce.

The workforce of the workshops had a rich history and, since closing, there have been projects to record oral history and collect information about the place and people involved.


In April 1993, and then Richard Court Liberal State Government announced that the Workshops would be eventually closed. Despite a number of protests and rallies to save the Workshops, the call to save the Workshops was completely ignored by the Government. On 4 March 1994, the remaining workers assembled at the traditional Workshops meeting area, the flagpole. Longtime employee and timekeeper, Kevin Mountain was given the task of lowering the Australian flag for the last time ending not only his career but 90 years of Western Australian railway history.

Coal dam

Midland Workshops Coal Dam

Located at the far western end of the Workshops site is a 200 m by 50 m dam. Initially created as a storage dam for water supplies in the late 1890s, it was increased in size in 1947 for coal storage. A treatment plant built on the site in 1974 used the dam to discharge wastewater.

Development of the Woodbridge Lakes housing estate near the site prompted environmental studies of the heavy metals and sludge within the dam. The dam has been retained for its heritage value as a water feature, with some of the area comprising public open space.

Memorial to Fallen Soldiers

Memorial to Fallen Soldiers

At the courtyard entrance to the Workshops is a Memorial to Fallen Soldiers. The memorial commemorates the 70 railway workers who enlisted from the workshops and died in World War I. A further 25 men who lost their lives in World War II were later added to the memorial. The figure of Peace atop the memorial was the work of Pietro Porcelli.

The memorial reads "In enduring commemoration of the loyalty devotion and sacrifice of workshop comrades who fell in the Great War 1914-1918. These our glorious dead. Erected by their fellow employees."


Recent years saw use of the workshops for a very limited period of time - narrow gauge access to the workshops from the main railway line was re-instated in mid-2004, and effectively ceased in late 2007. The Midland Redevelopment Authority appears to have removed the workshops from any significant working rail heritage status by an abiding interest in residential purposes above other interests.

Until late 2007 the Australian Railway Historical Society had performed restoration work and housed part of their collection in the workshops.

South Spur Rail Services used to occupy several roads, in part due to their association with the Spirit of the West restaurant train that was stabled in the workshops, they have since moved to an area closer to Bellevue and the Roe Highway overpass.

Transwa used the workshops for storage of the new Prospector and Avonlink railcars during their trials. Transperth used the workshops for storage of the new B series railcars upon delivery from Queensland, until bogie exchanges from standard gauge to narrow gauge could take place, then the cars were moved to either the Claisebrook or Nowergup depots.

Midland Railway Workshops yard model

Despite its disinterest in supporting working rail heritage to continue at the workshops, the MRA has produced an undated pamphlet that gives an excellent but brief overview of the workshops history - which is derived from various sources including the Midland Railway Workshops Site Conservation Policy of 1994 produced by Heritage and Conservation Professionals [3]

The eastern end of the Workshops site has already been developed in a bulky goods retail area and the Western Australian Police Operations Centre which has incorporated the former Flanging Shop into their centre. While a new major government hospital will also be constructed in the future.

The section of the workshop area to the east of the main railway buildings has been demolished to make way for projects which the Midland Redevelopment Authority has earmarked for further development. The main buildings in the middle of the workshop area remain.

Midland Railway Worshops from Greenmount Hill

Heritage Strategy

In 2001 and 2004 the Heritage Strategy for the 'Midland Central Redevelopment Area' was produced by the Midland Redevelopment Authority.[4] It identified the railway workshops 'zones of significance' - more than 40 structures or areas that have been assessed and considered important heritage items :

Rail Heritage Centre

In 2004, the possibility of a Railway Heritage Centre based in part of the workshops was investigated by the Midland Redevelopment Authority, following public meetings and consultation. However, the possibility of the Centre was not followed.[5]


George Alfred Julius, inventor of the automatic totalisator, was a premium apprentice here in the early years of the C20, before removing to Sydney and co-founding his own engineering partnership.


  1. Hutchison, David (2004) The Railway Workshops in Fremantle pp 75 - 87 in Fremantle Studies Volume 3, Fremantle History Society (1999), Fremantle studies : journal of the Fremantle History Society, The Society, ISSN 1443-0800
  2. Editorial on the decision by Parliament to remove the railway workshops from Fremantle to Midland The West Australian, 6 Sept. 1895, p.4,
  3. 'The History and Heritage of the Midland Railway Workshops(unpaginated, undated, published by the Midland Redevelopment Authority
  4. Western Australia. Midland Redevelopment Authority; Heritage and Conservation Professionals (2004), Heritage strategy for the Midland Central redevelopment area, Midland Redevelopment Authority, retrieved 12 July 2013
  5. A Rail Heritage Centre at the Midland Railway Workshops, Proposal summary prepared by Midland Redevelopment Authority. Midland, W.A. Circa 2004. The Steering Committee included members from the MRA, City of Swan, Swan Chamber of Commerce, and rail and heritage groups.

External links

Further reading

Coordinates: 31°53′41″S 116°00′18″E / 31.8947°S 116.0051°E / -31.8947; 116.0051

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