A Ride on the Ida Bay Railway

5 February, 2014

The train terminates at Deep Hole, time to explore the white sandy beach on the D’Encastraux Channel

The Ida Bay Railway is a few hours drive south of Hobart, so an early start for our historic railway journey was imperative.  Alarm set for 7am ready for an 8am start.  Decided to have breakfast at Hobart and chose Harbour Lights Café opposite Watermans Dock.  Enjoyed my muesli with fresh fruit and yogurt while we watched the boats in Sullivan Cove, and Hobart starting to come alive with the new day.

 Our view of the harbour while having breakfast at Harbour Lights

Beautiful drive south with only one wrong turn (thanks again to GPS, when she started “recalculating” we turned her off!) and were soon driving through the picturesque Huon River towns of Franklin, Port Huon and Dover.  The morning was still, the water like a mirror providing wonderful reflections of the boats and the mountains in the placid water.

Yacht reflected in the placid water of the Huon River near Franklin

The Ida Bay Railway is a 7 km (4.3 mi), 2 ft (610mm) narrow gauge Heritage Tramway that operates 105 km (65 miles) south of Hobart. The Tramway was opened in 1919 to facilitate the transportation of limestone from the quarry west of Lune River to a jetty at Ida Bay.  During 1975, freight operations ceased. The Tramway was purchased by the Tasmanian Government in 1977 and leased to private operators for the purpose of a tourist attraction.  Various lease holders ran the railway for years struggling to make a profit, but in 2004 the Line re-opened and has been running successfully for the last several years.

The two-hour round trip runs from the Lune River station through buttongrass bushland to the banks of Ida Bay and then onto the old limestone pier at Deep Hole, for a beachside stop before returning to the station.

 

We arrived at Ida Bay station in plenty of time to order some sandwiches and carrot cake to eat on the train for lunch.  Very exciting to watch the engine and two carriage train arrive, the carriages are open so plenty of fresh air!  Brian was our volunteer guide and train driver, and his commentary on the history of the Ida Bay Railway and the town of Ida Bay was first rate.

 

Our first glimpse of Ida Bay was where the train had its first stop, and we alighted for the short walk to the only remaining graves of members of the Tyler family, early inhabitants of Ida Bay.  Also buried at the same place, but the graves are long gone, are those of the Jaeger family, also prominent in the Ida Bay area.  Brian’s interesting history of these families, and their employees, who operated businesses in Ida Bay gave us an idea of the harshness of the area, and the hard work that was required to make a success in very difficult times.

The end of the line is Deep Hole where we had the chance to walk along the beautiful white sands, and look across to see the settlement of Southport on the other side of the D’Encastraux Channel.

Then it was time for the return trip with glimpses of the water along the track.  Brian’s commentary included the history of the Ida Bay Railway and the difficulty in obtaining government grants to offset the cost of running the project.  The current owner, Meg, has spent thousands of dollars in maintaining the line and train and is unable to convince the government that this railway is of the same importance at the West Coast Wilderness Railway which has lately had millions of dollars in grants to update its rail lines and carriages.

Having seen Ida Bay and the Railway, it would be a great shame to lose this important part of Tasmanian history, so we Sponsored a Sleeper for $25 and would encourage all lovers of history and trains to do the same thing – you can see details of this wonderful project on its website (link above).

We decided to take a different route back to Hobart and drove through the sleepy farming towns of Cygnet, Gordon, Middleton and Flower Pot, past Kettering (where the ferry leaves for Bruny Island) Snug and Margate.  There are some comical caricature effigies made by the farmers near Flower Pot and Middleton, lining the narrow roadways.  It was difficult to park on the narrow roadway, but managed to take a photo of a “Sea Monster” (right).

It has been a long but interesting day, finished off with delicious dinner at Da Angelo Italian restaurant at Battery Point (Chicken Risotto/Lasagne, Crème Brulee/Affogato)

Tomorrow join me on a gourmet island tour to Bruny Island – can’t wait!

Striking blues in the waters of Ida Bay from the train

Our guide, Brian, helps us relive the Tyler and Jager families’ stories and the harshness of running commercial enterprises at Ida Bay for the early settlers to Tasmania

 

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