November 23, 2014

1340 AUSTRALIA (Tasmania) - West Coast Wilderness Railway

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a reconstruction of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company railway between Queenstown and Regatta Point, Strahan, in Tasmania, now operating as a tourist experience with a focus on sharing the history of the Tasmania's West Coast. Following track rehabilitation work, the railway was re-opened between Queenstown and Dubbil Barril on 6 January 2014, while rehabilitation of the section through to Strahan continues. This railway is significant because of its Abt system to conquer the mountainous terrain through rainforest, with original locomotives still operating on the railway today.

The Mount Lyell Mining Co (reformed in 1893 as the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company) began operations in 1892, but the railway officially opened in 1897, and again in 1899 when the line was extended. The railway was the only way to get the copper from the mine at Queenstown to markets, until 1932 being the only access way up there. The operating conditions were very hard, because the weather was extreme, the trains had to climb 1m in 16m (6.25%), and the train had to carry many tonnes of copper and the rail line had to survive natural disasters. It ceased operation in 1963 due to increasing maintenance costs and the improvement of road access to the West Coast. Despite various proposals, it was not until the 1990s after the demise of the main Mount Lyell Company mining operations, that some very committed local people campaigned for the restoration of the railway as an iconic heritage tourist attraction.

Of the five original steam locomotives, ABT 1 (in service since 1896) and ABT 3 (in service since 1898) were restored in 2001 and ABT 5 (in service since 1938) in 2005; ABT 2 is on display at the Tasmanian Transport Museum, Glenorchy, Hobart; and ABT 4 was scrapped to provide parts for the other locomotives. Of an 0-4-2T design, all locos were built by Dübs and Co. of Scotland or their successor, the North British Locomotive Company. A number of modifications were made to the locos over their operational lives, the most noticeable being conversion of all locos from coal to oil firing, fitting of new sandboxes, generators and headlights, and the repainting of most locos from black to green. The locos are notable for having four cylinders in such a small locomotive. The passenger carriages are new, providing passenger comfort for year-round operation.

West Coast Wilderness Railway - Wikipedia
West Coast Wilderness Railway - Rail Tasmania
Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, Rack/Adhesion Tanks - Rail Tasmania

Sender: Cheryl / Cherylj (postcrossing)
Sent from Adelaide (South Australia / Australia), on 09.11.2014
Photo: Joe Shemish

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