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AN 20,000 piece model train collection which took a lifetime to curate is now calling Ipswich home.
Half of the collection - equating to 11,000 pieces, was donated to Queensland Museum is being catalogued in the Workshops Rail Museum, while the other half went to the University of Woolongong.
While the collection is a dream come true for the city's train fanatics, it comes with a mysterious past.
The donation was taken from the estate of late Wollongong engineer Marsden Williams.
The notoriously private businessman kept the collection secret and only allowed a select few, including his small number of paid maintenance staff, to view it.
When he passed away, his sons didn't want to see their father's life's work go to waste and decided it was time for the collection to be shared with the world.
Mr Williams' had dedicated an entire house simply to store and display his model trains which he dubbed the 'T-House'.
One level was home to display cases for his hand-crafted models from all over the world, including America, Europe and Britain, while the other level had a model railway which could run multiple trains at once complete with a custom-designed track.
Workshops curator Dr Geraldine Mate was lucky enough to view the elaborate display before it was packed up, trucked to Ipswich and called the 'T-House Model Rail Collection'.
"When I walked in the room my breath was taken away," she said.
"It was astonishing.
"Then Mr Williams' sons told me that it was just the front display and that there were more rooms just like it."
Dr Mate said the international collection was one of only a few of its kind world-wide.
"These are very rare, high-end models," she said.
"A lot of his models were bespoke so there were only 10 or 15 ever made and we have up to five of each kind in this collection."
The donation, believed to be worth millions, will take Workshops staff about 10 years to catalogue.
In the meantime there are about 500 models online for viewing.
"Mr Williams saw locomotives as an amazing feat of engineering, which led to his passion for models. Some of them even blow smoke and are fully operational," Dr Mate said.
"We hope to have some displayed at Southbank (Queensland Museum) in May. There's an opportunity to make a world-class display with a collection like this."
This article first appeared on www.qt.com.au
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