West Coast Wilderness Railway - History - Original Operation

Original Operation

The Mount Lyell Mining Co (reformed on 29 March 1893 as the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company) began on November 1892. The railway officially opened in 1897, and again on 1 November 1899 when the line was extended from Teepookana to Regatta Point and Strahan.

The railway was the only way to get the copper from the mine at Queenstown, Tasmania to markets. Until 1932 when a Hobart road link was completed, it was the only access through to Queenstown. The motto of Kelly and Orr was, Labor Omnia Vincit, shows the achievement of this railway because it ran, even though multiple surveyors said it was not possible, the weather was extreme, the trains had to climb 1m in 16m (6.25%), and the train had to carry many tonnes of copper and the rail line had to survive natural disasters (including 1906 floods).

The railway utilised the Abt rack system of cog railway for steep sections. Because of the gradients, tonnages were always limited on the railway. The gauge is 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm).

The original line continued into the Mount Lyell mining operations area in Queenstown, and at Regatta Point the line linked around the foreshore of Strahan to link with the Government Line to Zeehan.

The railway ceased operation on 10 August 1963 due to increasing maintenance costs and the improvement of road access to the West Coast to the North with the opening of the Murchison Highway. The last train run was performed by the same engine that ran the first run (ABT 1 in 1896 was the first engine to steam into Queenstown). The rail and other movable items were lifted taken off-site, leaving most of the bridges intact.

Following the closure of the railway, the rolling stock was dispersed—carriages to the Puffing Billy Railway in Victoria and the Abt locomotives were put on static displays or in museums. With the removal of the railtrack the formation from Regatta Point came to be used by road vehicles for access to Lette's Bay and Lowana to the East.

Most bridges remained intact but fell into disrepair and unsuitable for vehicle access beyond Iron Bridge that crosses the King River at the location of the early port of Teepookana.

Read more about this topic:  West Coast Wilderness Railway, History

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