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This Is Northern New South Wales

Railway Wonderland

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The last train left the platform of Lismore, north coast NSW, in May 2004. Like so many regional towns in Australia, the train station was a thriving centre of activity and the lifeline of the community. The history of the Northern Rivers region is written on its tracks – from the arrival of early settlers, the post-war immigrants, the Aquarius hippies, the returning soldiers and young people leaving the town in search of work and adventure in the big cities. Lismore’s train station is steeped in the stories of regional Australia.

Lismore’s iconic train station is being brought back to life with a spectacular outdoor theatre event, Railway Wonderland, created by NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts), an innovative theatre company that is shaping contemporary performance from regional Australia. Their most adventurous and ambitious work to date, Railway Wonderland was first put on the tracks of Lismore train station in 2012 and was a sell-out success. After much hard work, and repeated calls for its return, NORPA are now putting it back on the tracks for audiences to enjoy.

Combining drama, dance, live music and a choir, Railway Wonderland is a magical ride across time from the 1940s to the present day. The story unfolds on the station platform with the audience in specially constructed seating across the old railway tracks.

Railway Wonderland opens with four strangers taking shelter in the fluorescent glare of a railway waiting room. They are waiting for a bus as the trains don’t run any more. They have many reasons for leaving – love, fame, to run away, to just go home one more time. The distant sound of a train whistle announces the arrival of a mysterious old woman who has come to catch the train. Is she an apparition, an angel, or mad – or all three? The strangers are swept up into the old woman’s tale of arrival as a young Italian immigrant in a strange land and her search for belonging in a country town.

“Train stations are such evocative and romantic places where a thousand hellos and goodbyes resonate across time,” says the show’s director and NORPA’s Artistic Director Julian Louis. “Railway Wonderland continues NORPA’s strong tradition of creating dynamic, fun and highly entertaining works that take people out of the theatre and into the heart of our cities and towns. The disused Lismore train station is the perfect site for this production, it is a place that has deep connections in our community but the stories also reverberate across all of regional Australia.”


“When you stand on the no-longer-used train tracks at night and look back over the platform into the lit-up waiting room it is easy to imagine the romance of rail,” says writer and co-devisor Janis Balodis. “The hiss and pant of steam trains, the throb of giant diesel engines conjures up the wonder and promise of departures and arrivals, of journeys beginning and ending. This is the wonderland we create on the platform.”

Development for Railway Wonderland started in 2009 with a call out to local writers to submit short stories about train stations that were then performed at the 2010 Byron Bay Writers Festival . The stories, along with the region’s rich history of post-war migration act as inspiration points for Railway Wonderland. Local historians, Southern Cross University researchers, Rail Corp staff, the local community, train enthusiasts and lobby groups have all contributed to the show’s development.

“A spirit of exchange, collaboration and discovery has informed Railway Wonderland from the very beginning,” says Julian Louis “That feeling carries through to the audience when they experience it – it’s a celebratory event that resonates with people for many different reasons. We’re thrilled to be putting it back on the tracks.”

NORPA have created an entire experience around the show with an outdoor bar and street diner. To watch the video of the making of Railway Wonderland click here

Railway Wonderland pulls into Lismore train station in October 22 and departs on Nov 7. All aboard!

Presented by NORPA
A spectacular outdoor theatre event on the platform
of Lismore’s iconic train station
Oct 22 – November 7, 2015
Tickets: or 1300 066 772

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