17 October 2023

Yass railway museum on track for a new visitor market

| Sally Hopman
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Man and woman in front of train

Tony Hawker with his daughter Samantha Mernagh in front of the mighty 1307, one of the treasures of the Yass Railway Museum – the new home for a monthly artisan market. Photo: Supplied.

When Tony Hawker bought the station master’s cottage at the old Yass Town Railway Station, living so close to such an important piece of Yass history was destined to play a part in his family’s life.

The station, not used since 1988, was deemed surplus with the creation of the line out of town at Yass Junction. But with such an historic piece of real estate just off the main street of the town, and a team of volunteer rail history enthusiasts, it’s now steaming back to life.

Tony’s daughter Samantha Mernagh wants to see the town station and surrounds returned to their former glory, and she reckons the past has much to do with the site having a productive future.

The family and a team of volunteers run the site as the Yass Railway Museum which was established in 2001.

“About five years ago when my parents bought the cottage, Dad said because the station was just over the back fence, we should join up,” Samantha said.

“Kids are invariably interested in trains, so we got involved too.”

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Today, Tony is president and Samantha treasurer – and plans have already begun to make it the place to visit in Yass.

The family has started organising artisan markets for the last Sunday of the month. No mass-produced overseas goods allowed here, only produce made locally by locals – or others from throughout the Yass Valley.

The local Lions Club stages markets in the Memorial Hall every third Saturday, but Samantha said there was not a lot to do for locals and visitors on a Sunday, so they came up with the idea of artisan markets – in the grounds of the old railway station.

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“Because Dad has always been around in Yass for so long and everyone knows him, people were happy to help set things up.

“We want people to think of it as a community space, to just come and enjoy it. The museum is not very big but it’s on a big block of land, so we’ve got room to do things in the yard – like the markets.”

What they want to do, Samantha said, is keep the place alive. But they want to do it by providing the community and the thousands of visitors who drive out to Yass on Sundays, with something a little different.

The new Yass artisan markets are held on the last Sunday of the month. The first markets were held on 26 February with about 20 stalls – the second are on next Sunday 26 March with that many vendors and so much more, according to Samantha. “It works both ways,” she said. “The markets provide an outlet for producers to sell what they make and it’s great for locals and visitors to be able to buy unique goods and produce.”

Yass Railway Museum

Inside, experience the early days of railways in Yass, courtesy of the Yass Railway Museum. Outside, on the last Sunday of the month, try some of the best from local producers when the museum hosts the new artisan markets. Photo: Supplied.

Samantha has already booked in a wide range of stallholders for the March market, including local honey, craftwork, homemade pet treats, handmade cards and gift boxes, earrings, cakes, bread, Middle Eastern foods, trees, wooden signs, candles and locally grown trees.

So far, artisan producers have come from Yass out to Harden, Canberra and out to Cowra. One vendor will be showcased each month, with information on what and how they produce their wares.

Samantha said they were always on the lookout for new stallholders, particularly of local fruit and vegetables as well as cheese, cured meats, wine and oil.

She said she hoped once the markets became a regular Sunday monthly must, money raised from them would help the Yass Railway Museum with much-needed refurbishment.

Potential new Yass artisan market stallholders should check the Visit Yass Valley website for more information.

New volunteers are always welcome at the Yass Railway Museum.

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