The West Coast Wilderness Railway

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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 inaccesible 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 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. 

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. 

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.

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