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.
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
Queenstown Tasmania Australia: abt railway loco no 1 and its three car train after arrival at the
the Queenstown railway station.
Looking down on the train from the overhead walkway which connects the two platforms
After uncoupling from its train, the loco runs forward
out of the station building and onto the turntable
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 rests after being driven off the Queenstown turntable.
The builder's plate reads "Dubs & Co No 3369 Glasgow Locomotive Works
abt locomotive number 1 near the turntable with the mountain backed main
street of Queenstown setting the scene
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 train has picked up a little speed as it passes through 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.
A view of the Queenstown railway station and turntable
The maintenance sheds for engines and carriages are not far from the Queenstown railway station
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
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.
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.
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
from the right after following near the shores of the harbour. This in the heyday of the railway,
was a busy port.
The restored Regatta Point Railway station 35 kilometres from Queenstown
looking towards the end of the line.
Regatta Point railway station looking towards Queenstown with a flat wagon and a spare
passenger carriage ready for use.
View from the Regatta Point Railway station, with the turntable in the foreground and the town
of Strahan in the distance across the water.
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.
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."
Locomotive D 1 being turned on the turntable at Regatta Point before being placed on the train
in readiness for the next tip.
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 with the engine shed on the left, the railway station in the middle,
and Macquarie Harbour on the right.
A view of Strahan on Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania.
Franklin river wilderness cruises depart from this location.