National Railway Museum Ghosts – Haunted Port Adelaide


National Railway Museum Ghosts - Haunted Port Adelaide


National Railway Museum Ghosts – Why Would the Museum be Haunted?

National Railway Museum Ghosts, do they exist and if so, why would the Museum be haunted?  We first heard the rumours many years ago, when a couple of volunteers passed on their stories and experiences. So, we went in to find out if it was truly haunted.  It eventually led to Haunted Horizons starting up the tours, and we still continue to do these tours/investigations to this day.

The Museum sits in the heart of Port Adelaide, or Port Misery as it was originally referred to.  The name was well deserved, as when the settlers first arrived, they were greeted with mosquito-infested mangrove swamps and often had to wade knee-deep in mud to get to land.  There were also complaints that it was too far away from Adelaide itself.  Over time, a wharf was built, land reclamation was made, and it went on to become our biggest and busiest port in South Australia.  Interestingly, a lot of the original buildings there, have cellars and basements, such as the Port Admiral Hotel.  However, if you look more closely, you will see that the basements were once the original ground floors.  Evidence of this can be seen from the outside of these buildings as you wander the streets.

Port Dock Railway Station - Port Adelaide
Port Dock Railway Station – Port Adelaide circ 1950

As the population of Adelaide started to grow, it became important that they could transport supplies and newly landed passengers more efficiently to the City.  So, by 1856 the Adelaide to Port Adelaide Railway line was completed and in operation.  The station, then known as Port Adelaide Station, was an impressive building and sat on the corner of Lipson St and Vincent St.  Sadly it is not there anymore, as when it was closed in 1981 it was eventually redeveloped and is now the Port Adelaide Police Station.

Behind the Station was the Goods Yard, which was extremely busy with all the import and export goods coming in and out of this busy port.  This is where the National Railway Museum sits today, on the working part of the Old Port Dock Railway Station.  The museum consists of three large display sheds, one being the original goods shed from 1873 along with platforms.  The museum certainly takes you on a trip down memory lane of our locomotive past.

As the industry declined, the wharfs closed, Port Adelaide has now become a tourist town maintaining its historic past with so many heritage buildings still standing.

But what of the National Railway Museum ghosts and why would it be haunted?


Ghost Stories from National Railway Museum Port Adelaide

National Railway Museum Deaths and Ghost Stories

When some of the volunteers approached us, they told of their experiences there and suggested we should go and find out if it is haunted for ourselves.  Shadowy figures had been witnessed there on frequent occasions, footsteps on platforms when nobody was there, and even one day an old bakelite phone started to ring when it was not connected to any phone line.  We certainly couldn’t resist going in to explore these stories.  First, though, we had to look up some history.  After all, you can’t have ghosts without living people behind them, so not expecting too much, we hit Trove, (digitised papers online).  Within one hour of looking, we found 21 deaths in and around the area where the museum now stands.

One was Harry McDowell in 1915.  Clifford Howard was helping with shunting in the yard when he noticed a man lying across the tracks, who seemed to be worse for drink.  Clifford desperately tried to stop the oncoming train, but with no success and it passed over Harry, killing him instantly.

Another was George Dowsett in 1871, a sixteen-year-old boy was working in the yard.  His job was to shunt the carriages and on this day he was seen to be guiding a truck, but he was bent down which meant his head was placed in front of the buffer.  An onlooker tried to yell out to warn George, but not before two carriages and the buffers came together.  George’s head took the full force and he never regained consciousness, dying 10 minutes later.

Not only were there deaths in this area, but the museum also houses the locomotive that was pulling the picnic train from Broken Hill which was fired upon.  Known as the Battle of Broken Hill, it is said to be the very first terrorist attack on Australian soil.  In 1915 locals from the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows were travelling to Silverton to celebrate New Year’s Day.  There were 1200 members sitting in open carriages, so when two camel traders, Mullah Abdullah and Badsha Mohommed Gool, took the war effort into their own hands and started shooting at the train, the passengers had nowhere to hide.  Seventeen-year-old Alma Cowie and John Shaw were hit and killed immediately. Mr Millard who had been riding beside the train was also hit and died.  The two attackers made their escape, but were later tracked down and shot dead.

With many deaths associated with the area on which the museum now stands, and with locomotives and items within the museum associated with tragedy, it is not surprising that the museum is haunted.


Hunting for the National Railway Museum Ghosts

Our Paranormal Investigations

And so it was we went in to search for the National Railway Museum Ghosts, and it has been a very interesting journey, with hard to explain happenings both to our investigators and our guests.

My first experience there was when I was standing on a dark platform, doing some infrared B Roll of the locomotives when I heard footsteps come up behind me.  Thinking it was maybe our host, Andrew, coming up to talk to me, I turned to say hello.  I was surprised to find nobody there, and seconds afterwards there was a huge bang on the locomotive behind me.  I was certainly glad to see the tour coming through just after that.

To see if we could get some more information, I invited my FIVEaa co-presenter from the ‘Twilight Hour’, Liz McCaskill, to see if she could pick anything up.  Spils, (my research team-mate) and Liz were convinced they saw a shadowy figure heading towards the back door.  We then heard the flaps on the door moving heavily.  We ran out to see if we could see where the figure had gone, and I did take a photograph.  The photograph seems to show a muddy brown shape, almost the same shape like a head and shoulders.  The rational part of me thought maybe, I got my finger in front of the lens, as often this is how it shows on photos.  But when we tried to recreate it on the camera, which has an extending lens, we just couldn’t replicate it.  This wasn’t the only time that I caught something strange on camera.  One night I was doing some SLR photography for the website and was focusing on one of the carriages that had been involved in a fatality, resulting in the death of the driver.  In the several photos that I took the cabin was dark, however, in one shot there seemed to be a white mist.  The camera was on a tripod and hadn’t moved between shots.  Interestingly it was at the same time I thought I had just heard footsteps in the carriage.

Tours have constantly been reporting shadowy figures both in and out of the carriages.  We often warn our guests about shining torches into the windows, unless they want to risk the occasional face looking back.  One such incident was when one of the tours shone her torch into a window of the carriage and nearly dropped it in surprise.  She swore that she had just seen the face of a teenage boy looking back at her.  This isn’t the only time a torch has briefly lit up a figure, as one of the guests saw a mannequin of a man in a carriage she had just looked into and told her guide Kag, that it had just scared her.  She was in disbelief when Kag told her that there was no mannequin in the carriage.  She looked again and this time the figure had gone.  As our guest was from the Intolerant Podcast, this particular night can be listened to on their Intolerant Podcast Episode on Spotify.

One of the most outstanding incidents was when we hosted Ben Hansen, star of SyFy Channel’s ‘Fact or Faked’ and ‘Ghosts of Morgan City’.  No sooner had Ben got off his flight from L.A. he was at work as our special guest for our investigation special events, one of them being the National Railway Museum.  Throughout you could see Ben was struggling from jetlag, but still valiantly fighting sleep so as not to let his fans down.  Largely it was quiet in the museum that night, until we moved to the Fluck Pavillion (back shed), and set ourselves up on the far platform.  Ben decided to take a drink bottle we had given him and placed it on one of the posts of a railing, in the hope something would knock it off.  As we proceeded with the investigation, suddenly there was a crinkling sound and then the bottle went flying across the platform, much to a shocked audience.  The video below shows that nobody was touching the railing at the time, and when zoomed in and slowed down, you see the bottle crumple as if somebody had picked it up and thrown it.  You will see Ben wake up after that!

We continue to take you on this incredible journey with us, in search of the National Railway Museum Ghosts, so why not book on to one and explore the paranormal happenings at this great location yourself!

We would like to thank the National Railway Museum for welcoming us to their amazing museum and allowing us to share the National Railway Museum ghosts with you all.  Definitely pay a visit during the day as well.  It is non-profit and depends on people visiting.  It has the most amazing collection of locomotives and railway memorabilia.


Watch  a Startling Incident – National Railway Museum Paranormal Investigation


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Photos – Alison Oborn and Kag Allwood

Information sourced:
Information from our museum hosts on our tours
Trove Newspapers
National Railway Museum information and website

©Adelaide Haunted Horizons 2022
No reproduction without permission

Written by Alison Oborn
Author, Paranormal Investigator, Tour Operator

Alison Oborn - Adelaide Haunted Horizons