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Thirlmere is a small semi-rural town in the Macarthur Region of New South Walesmarker, Australia, in Wollondilly Shiremarker. Popularly known for its railway origins, the town is located 89 km south west of Sydney (about a 60 minute drive), one third of the distance from Sydney to Canberra.

Thirlmere was previously known as Village of Thirlmere and was originally named after Lake Thirlmeremarker in England.


The area was first traversed by Europeans as early as 1798, whose attention was focussed more on the Thirlmere Lakes area and finding an alternate route north towards Bathurstmarker.

Thirlmere boomed with the creation of the Great Southern Railway in 1863 to 1867, when the area was blanketed in tents to house the many railway workers that came to the area to work. Thirlmere was valued mostly for the proximity of the Thirlmere Lakes (then called Picton Lakes) which were used to provide water for the steam trains. During this period Thirlmere was also the home for a number of timber mills, whose main product was the milling of sleepers for the railway line.

The Thirlmere section of the Main Southern Railway was deviated in 1919 to a less steep alignment with easier grades, and the original line became the Picton Loop Line. This transformed the village from a hive of steam train activity to a quiet farming region, mainly supplying the surrounding villages with foods and goods.

Many Estonianmarker immigrants settled in Thirlmere during and after the Second World War in an attempt to avoid conscription by the invading German and Russian armies in Estonia. They were assisted by the Commonwealth Government's offer of small plots of land. Estonians are largely responsible for the development of the relatively large and successful poultry industry (at one stage being the largest egg producers in the state), that still provides a great majority of NSW's poultry produce. The younger generations of Estonians have left the area and moved closer to the city, however many of the original immigrants remain in the area courtesy of an Estonian Retirement Village.

In the 1960s and 1970's nearby coal mines provided a boost in employment and also drew more people into the area to work and live. A few operational coal mines are still operating today, however these do not employ as many people as they once did.


the 2006 Census showed Thirlmere's population to be 3854, with a gender split of roughly 50%. 82% of the population is Australian born, 3.6% England, 2.3% Estonian, with approximately 1% born in New Zealand, Lebanon and Scotland.

The predominant age group is 25-54 year olds (41% of population), followed by 5-14 year olds (17%), and 15-24 year olds (14%).


The area's highest recorded temperature is 42.8°C. Its lowest recorded temperature is -10.0°C. The area receives an average of 812.6mm of annual rainfall, with the highest recorded rainfall being 245.9mm in one day. The area, part of Sydney's water catchment area, experiences most of its rainfall during the months from January to March.

Thirlmere Lakes National Park is an important environmental area - it is a series of lakes which have a sandstone bed. The lakes area is generally sheltered, providing an ideal home to many freshwater inhabitants such as platypuses, mussels, jellyfish, and a wide variety of water birds. The parks is also host to a significant wombat population.

The area's dense bushland surroundings make the town vulnerable to bushfires, with fires recently destroying a house in 2006.


NSW Rail Transport Museum

The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum is Australia's largest and oldest railway museum with over 125 railway exhibits. It is the home to many steam and diesel locomotives, the most popular of which is the famous 3801. Steam train rides are available during the winter months. Each year on the first Sunday in March, the town's population grows to over 15,000 as tourists flock to the "Thirlmere Festival of Steam" - NSW's premier annual steam event featuring the state's biggest gathering of main line steam locos and all the fun of the fair and markets. The museum also provides many trips from Sydney to Thirlmere on a steam locomotive.

Steam Train ride and attraction at Thirlmere in 2007

Thirlmere Lakes National Park

As well as being an important environment ecosystem, Thirlmere Lakes (managed by the NSW Parks & Wildlife Service)is a popular picnic spot for locals and day trippers from Sydney, who take advantage of the free electric barbecues. Covering an area of 627 hectares (1,550 acres), there are several sand beaches, with the lakes (with a maximum depth of 6m) being popular for kayaking and canoing.

There are a few bush walking trails with the longest being a 16 km return trip. Camping is not allowed.

Craft Markets

Thirlmere Craft Markets are held on the third Sunday of each month, outside the Rail Transport Museum.

Film and Television

Due to the easy access to working steam trains, Thirlmere has been the scene for a number of television commercials and television shows.

Perhaps the most popular television series filmed at Thirlmere was the Channel Seven series Always Greener, from 2001 to 2003. This prominently featured the main street of Thirlmere, including many shots of the pub, local stores, railway station, and surrounding countryside.

See also


  1. Centenary of the opening of the Southern Line to Mittagong Singleton, C.C. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin March, 1967 pp49-68
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census Data
  3. Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Bureau of Meteorology
  4. Wild weather claims life, homes,, September 24, 2006

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