The West Coast Wilderness Railway

Rotate to landscape to view slideshow

Queenstown to Strahan - On a rack

The Mt Lyell Mining Company had a problem – lots of copper, but with the mine in a remote area of Tasmania, difficulty in getting the ore to market. 

The nearest port at Macquarie Harbour was almost inaccessible from the mine site due to the wild terrain – wild rivers, dense rainforest and steep inclines. Dr Carl Roman Abt to the rescue.

Dr Abt invented a system that enabled the locomotive to lock into a rack of teeth on the railway that would help pull the train carrying the valuable copper ore up hills and control its descent down hills. And so the train started operations in 1892.

West Coast Wilderness Railway
The rack of teeth designed by the clever Dr Abt that enabled the train to pull loads up the steep inclines.

With increasing maintenance costs and the improvement in road transport, the railway ceased transporting ore in 1963 and was almost forgotten. Until someone had the idea to re-establish the trip as a tourist attraction. That took a lot of work. Rail had to be relaid, bridges repaired, rolling stock acquired. But it got done and the wilderness tourist railway commenced operations in December 2002.

We took the journey on the West Coast Wilderness Railway from Strahan to Queenstown, but you can do it the other way if you like. We started out with a deisel locomotive but swapped over to the specialist ABT steam loco before we got to the ABT track system which is installed on the steepest part of the track. 

And it’s a great ride. Through the thick rain forrest, over tressle bridges, crossing the King River – a trip of about 35km. 

West Coast Wilderness Railway
Alongside the King River, up and down the hills and through the thick rain forest.

The journey has a few breaks to change locomotives and to allow you to have a good look at the scenery and the track.

Watch out for the station called Dubbil Barril near the King River, just because it’s a cute way to spell the name.

West Coast Wilderness Railway
The ABT loco at Dubbil Barril station
Share this destination
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

More from Australia

Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain – The Ascent

Email from Ben: “I plan to climb Cradle Mountain when we visit the area in a few weeks – better start training”. So I reduced my alcohol consumption to one glass of wine a night (well, most nights) and did a bit of walking (on the flat) at weekends, so when we started our trek on a fine February day I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

Read More »

Other destinations you may like:

Tozeur, Tunisia

Tozeur, Tunisia

Tozeur is an oasis town full of interest. The medina buildings have intriguing brick patterns on their walls, there is a great museum, it’s popular with trekies because of its association with the Star Wars film, and there’s a quiet palm grove to wander through.

Read More »
Agra Fort

Agra Fort

The Agra Fort dates from around 1565. It has been a fort and a palace, and then a garrison for the British, so things have been built, changed, and built again.

Read More »
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x