The West Coast abt Wilderness Railway:
Queenstown - Strahan Tasmania
November 2008

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How an abt Steam Loco works of an Abt Steam Loco

This 3ft 6in gauge railway on the west coast of Tasmania, was built through inhospitable and practically impassable wilderness in the late 1800s, to carry products of the copper mines from Queenstown, where smelters opened in 1897, and other related requirements to Queenstown like coke for the smelters etc..   There was no acCess to Queenstown by road until 1932, so trains were relied upon to bring provisions, mail, visitors, and to take locals on picnics to the beach near Strahan.   There was a Mount Lyell underground mining disaster in 1912 and nearly half of the 42 victims were taken out in coffins on the railway.   The railway connected Queenstown to the port of Strahan on Macquarie Harbour. It is some 35 Kms (or nearly 22 miles) long and generally follows the Queen and King rivers for much of the distance.   However, to avoid the King river gorge, the railway had to essentially be constructed with steep climbs to Rinadeena, the high point above the gorge with the nature of the terrain dictating grades of 1 in 16 (6.25%) from Halls Creek to Rinadeena for about 2.25 kms for outgoing trains, and about 4.25 kms of 1 in 20 (5%) for trains to Queenstown between Dubbil Barril (the half way point), and Rinadeena in the other direction. As such grades are too steep for normal railroading, a rack railway of German patent was tested and proved satisfactory before the project was developed.   The system was that a rack rail be laid midway between the rails on the steep sections and a cog beneath each of the 0-4-2 steam locomotives, driven by an extra two cylinders, helped pull the trains up the steep grades. Some five rack locomotives worked the line over its life of more than sixty years. They were converted from coal to oil in the early 1950s as an economy measure. The preserved locos are presently fired with diesel fuel.   In June 1962, the last through train ran. Roads replaced the railway which was closed and dismantled, the track bed returning to the wilderness with bridges being washed away while other remaining infrastructure deteriorated, rotted away and became overgrown leaving little indication that the railway ever existed. Fortunately, the rack locomotives, each weighing some 24 tons, had been preserved in museums and parks and three have consequently been retreived and restored for service.   Rack Loco number 1 seen below for example, was retreived from the Pioneer's museum at Zeehan, another locomotive, number 3, was from its preservation location near the present new railway station in Queenstown. Numbers 1 and 3 were even before retreival, both over 100 years old. Yet another, loco number 5 which was built by North British Locomotive Company Glasgow in 1938, was brought from the Puffing Billy Museum at Menzies Creek Victoria where it had been taken for displaying after the abt railway closed.   From about the mid or late 1990s, with funding from the Commonwealth government under then Prime Minister John Howard, the railway was relaid with various improvements to make it less subject to past problems, and a number of passenger carriages were built as well as the restoration of the present three steam locomotives.   Also, two diesel locomotives that formerly worked on the line were acquired. The railway reopened for through passenger services to Strahan at the end of 2002. The running rights for the railway, were acquired by those involved with setting up Australia's first casino at Wrest Point Hobart, and who has also before acquiring the running rights, had acquired Gordon river cruises which depart from Strahan,as well as an accomodation village at Strahan. The 24 selected pictures below are of activities and scenes at each end of the line in November 2008.

abt loco no 1 and its three car train approaching the railway station
 at Queenstown Tasmania November 2008
Queenstown Tasmania Australia: abt railway loco no 1 and its three car train approaching the Queenstown railway station. The maintenance sheds for the railway are in the background to the right

abt loco no 1 and its three car train after arrival at the railway station
 at Queenstown Tasmania November 2008
Queenstown Tasmania Australia: abt railway loco no 1 and its three car train after arrival at the the Queenstown railway station.

Looking down from the overhead walkway 
 which spans the tracks
Looking down on the train from the overhead walkway which connects the two platforms

abt loco number 1 on the 
 turntable at Queenstown
After uncoupling from its train, the loco runs forward out of the station building and onto the turntable

abt locomotive number being turned at Queenstown
The locomotive is turned until it aligns with the track on the left along which it will run past the train through the other platform

abt locomotive number 1 near the turntable at Queenstown
abt locomotive number 1 rests after being driven off the Queenstown turntable. The builder's plate reads "Dubs & Co No 3369 Glasgow Locomotive Works 1896"

abt steam loco no 1 with the main street 
 of Queenstown in the background
abt locomotive number 1 near the turntable with the mountain backed main street of Queenstown setting the scene

abt train leaving Queenstown
With the railway station and high mountains in the background, the abt train leaves Queenstown and is passing the maintenance sheds at the beginning of another journey into the wilderness

The abt train leaving Queenstown
The train has picked up a little speed as it passes through the outskirts of Queenstown

abt train passing the outskirts of Queenstown
Passing over one of the level crossings and the wheels merrily clickety clicking on the short lengths of rail bolted together, the train has all but left the metropolis of Queenstown in its wake.

Queenstown railway station and turntable
A view of the Queenstown railway station and turntable

abt railway maintenance sheds Queenstown
The maintenance sheds for engines and carriages are not far from the Queenstown railway station

illustration of rack railway cog wheel and rack
Although the axles are obviously not of a locomotive, this display near the maintenance sheds, at Queenstown, is an example of a fixed rack center rail and a cog wheel as beneath an abt rack locomotive. There are actually two cog wheels such as shown, beneath each of the Tasmania Wilderness abt locomotives. They are mounted between the drive wheel axles as explained and illustrated at this link The two cogs are driven by an extra two cylinder steam cylinders. The picture above gives an illustration of the method used for traction on such steep grades as 1 in 16 and 1 in 20.

How the pinion and rack system of an
abt Steam Lococomotive works

mural on the wall at Regatta Point station
This picture is of a rack engine on a rack section of the railway, and is posted on the wall of the railway station at Regatta Point. The picture is visible also in other pictures below. It is also the background picture for this page.

View of Regatta Point Strahan
A view of Regatta Point from a high point at Strahan. The building on the left is the 2 track engine shed which generally houses 2 diesel locomomotives for working trains to Dubbil Barril while the restored railway station is near the center with parts of Macquarie Harbour pictured. The railway from Queenstown approaches from the right after following near the shores of the harbour. This in the heyday of the railway, was a busy port.

Regatta Point railway station
The restored Regatta Point Railway station 35 kilometres from Queenstown looking towards the end of the line.

Regatta Point station looking towards Queenstown
Regatta Point railway station looking towards Queenstown with a flat wagon and a spare passenger carriage ready for use.

Strahan in the distance from Regatta Point Railway station
View from the Regatta Point Railway station, with the turntable in the foreground and the town of Strahan in the distance across the water.

Train arriving at Regatta Point railway station
Diesel hauled train with Loco D 1, arriving at Regatta Point. The second carriage is a refreshment car and the other three are passenger cars. This train runs a return journey along the relatively flat section to the half way mark at Dubbil Barril where it meets the steam hauled train from Queenstown and exchanges passengers with the steam hauled train which returns to Queenstown. Both locomotives are turned on the turntable at Dubbil Barril.

Diesel Loco D 1 at Regatta Point
D 1 and train standing at Regatta Point station. Another similar locomotive was in the locomotive shed. The plate on the cab reads - "The Drewry car Co Ltd. Loco No 2405 200h.p. 1953. Constructed by the Vulcan Foundry Ltd Newton-Le-Willows Langs No 0193 City Wall House, London E.C.2."

Diesel Loco D 1 being turned at Regatta Point
Locomotive D 1 being turned on the turntable at Regatta Point before being placed on the train in readiness for the next tip.

Locomotive D 1 and train at Regatta Point
Diesel mechanical locomotive D 1 and train at the railway platform at Regatta Point and ready for another run to Dubbil Barril.

The rail yards at Regatta Point
The rail yards at Regatta Point with the engine shed on the left, the railway station in the middle, and Macquarie Harbour on the right.

View of Strahan Tasmania
A view of Strahan on Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania. Franklin river wilderness cruises depart from this location.

Video: The train at and near Queenstown

Abt train Queenstown Tasmania Wilderness Railway
from reidgck on Vimeo.

Other Pages
How an abt Wilderness Railway Steam Locomotive works
Waddamana Hydro Power Station Museum Tasmania
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Pulling up the old Central Australia Railway
Edith River Railway Bridge Works Northern Territory
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The Port Welshpool - Georgetown Seacat
Tasmania's Last Long Distance Passenger train
The L class Electrics of the Victorian Railways
Some Steam trains of Australia
Marree Pictures: Outback Australia + Railway History
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