10 February, 2014
Our beautiful old steam train on the Wilderness Railway at Lynchford Station
Early start to drive the 41 kms to Queenstown, once again along those winding roads. Thrilled to be able to travel on the Wilderness Railway that has been out of service while maintenance and restoration was completed – the railway only started to run again in January 2014.
Organised our tickets (had booked online) then headed to the Café for breakfast of poached eggs on toast.
We travelled in the Wilderness Carriage (the more expensive ticket), where we had some wonderful extras including an open area at the back of the carriage where we could have a first class view of where we had travelled, and take some great photographs – plus a glass of champagne on boarding the train!
Andrew was our guide for the day, he showed us points of interest including Mt Owen (highest mountain in Queenstown) and Mt Lyell (badly scarred by mining of copper ore), and told us the history of the railway.
As we commenced our journey we passed the Queen River, it is the colour of copper (left). The reason is that the iron ore deposits found their way into the river when the mining occurred during 1970-1994 and although some remediation has occurred it will be years before the river is back to the way it was. The Queen River flows into the King River which flows into Macquarie Harbour near Strahan.
The railway was built 117 years ago and is the steepest railway in the southern hemisphere, it climbs a distance 3 times higher than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It has a 1/12 grade to a 1/16 grade, and uses the rack and pinion system (see image at right) to to pull the engine up the steep inclines. Built to transport the copper ore from Queenstown to Strahan harbour until this stopped in 1963 with the closure of the Mt Lyell Copper Company, the line is now owned by the Tasmanian government.
Our first stop was Lynchford station where we had a chance to try panning for gold and being a prospector, exploring the station museum, and to have a better look at the engine (more photographs!), and have morning tea if required.
Next stop was Rinadeena Station where we could walk up steps to a bridge over the line, a great spot to photograph the length of the train, stretch our legs, get another close up of the engine and the rack rail that made it possible for the train to climb through the rough and rugged terrain. As we approached our last station we had glimpses of the beautiful King River rapids as it flowed beneath us.
At Rinadeena Station we were joined by Christine Delaney (photographed with me at right) who has lived in the area for over 20 years, and has been heavily involved with the railway, and its renewal over the last few years – she is a fountain of knowledge of the railway and passionate about seeing the project completed.
Last stop was Dubbil Barril, we could discover the ancient beauty of the rainforest and walk under the replica trestle bridge, then watch the 27 tonne locomotive being uncoupled and shunted, and turned by hand on the original turntable ready for the return trip, and take more photos of the mighty King River as it flowed past the station.
The trip on the Wilderness Railway was a fabulous experience, like stepping back in time, and marvelling at how the railway was contructed under such challenging conditions. The temperate rain forest scenery was spectacular, the age and height of the beautiful ancient trees, and the depth of the valleys. We felt truly grateful to be able to be a part of the day, and our memories of the Wilderness Railway will be everlasting.
Our return trip to Queenstown would be our last on the unbelievably bending road. We took the opportunity to drive to other points of interest on what will be our last day in Strahan, including the original Wilderness Railway station, Regatta Point at Strahan (below left and right). Eventually, with the continued maintenance of the rail line, it will again complete its run to Regatta Point on Strahan Harbour.
Tonight we discovered that a coach had come in to town, so our attempt to find a restaurant was useless, unless we wanted to sit and wait for 30-60 minutes. Decided to buy a pizza, and take it back to our accommodation to eat, with some nice cheeses that we had purchased previously, and a glass of Shiraz.
Tomorrow we head north to the picturesque seaside village of Stanley on the north west coast.
Our train drivers push the train on the turntable to make our way back to Queenstown
Glorious tree ferns and rainforest on the Wilderness Railway journey