West Coast Wilderness Railway

West Coast Wilderness Railway

The West Coast is considered one of Tasmania’s ultimate holiday destinations, a gateway to historic townships, magnificent lakes, rivers, rain forests, historic sights, and breathtaking wilderness.

If you’re touring Tasmania, the West Coast Wilderness Railway is not to be missed.

With a blast of its steam powered whistle echoing through the adjacent streets of Queenstown, we were called aboard the West Coast Wilderness Railway, ready for our half-day journey.

Setting off just after breakfast, we began the picturesque trip into the rugged and majestic temperate rain forest of Tasmania’s West Coast. As we pulled away from Queenstown, blue skies spanned everywhere overhead, the sun shining an omen of the great trip awaiting us.

We were fortunate enough to travel in the Wilderness Class. This included Tasmanian sparkling wine on departure (despite being 9am, this was a pleasant start to the day). Shortly after departure, we were served chicken and game pies.

West Coast Wilderness Railway

 

After performing their safety demonstrations, the carriage staff introduced themselves to all on board. They proved themselves by putting a unique spin on their informative interpretation of the region’s heritage.

Our hosts-come-storytellers light-heartedly provide a fascinating tale of the early pioneers, Messrs Kelly and Crotty – infamous rivals seeking the gold and copper riches of the Wild Western Wilderness of Tasmania.

As we listened, we became entranced in the breathtaking effort it took to engineer the railways on which we were traveling. From the clearing of hillsides to the laying of the tracks, the carriage staff wove a tale of brave and determined rail workers.

The railway has played an important part of the psyche of the people on the West Coast. It initially commenced operation in 1897 and operated until 1963. It ceased operation for several years, before re-opening on December 27, 2002 after a significant restoration funded largely by Federal and State governments. Another closure occurred in April 2013 which led to considerable lobbying by West Coast residents and tourism industry to achieve a return to operation by early 2014.  Greater detail on the history can be found here

The first stop along the railway was Lynchford, a mere 30 minutes away. We enjoyed a spot of gold panning, and four passengers were lucky enough to strike gold.

Our next destination was Rinadeena, where the train climbed up the famous rack and pinion section of the ABT rail section. This section has a very steep gradient of 1:15, and can only be climbed by mighty steam engines, such as ours. Modern day diesels, we were informed, simply don’t have enough grunt.

Strahan

 

When we reached the crest, we enjoyed a brief tea-break which included scones, jam, and cream for our carriage, and water for our train.

The fares for the West Coast Wilderness Railway vary. The adult fare for the Heritage Carriage is $95, although passengers do not receive the complimentary snacks on board.

Upgrading to the Wilderness Class for $145 per adult was worth it- not only was the food delicious, but this also allowed for a private viewing balcony at the rear of the train, letting us inhale the fresh, alpine air.

December 2014 will welcome the return of the full-day tour from Strahan to Queenstown. The half-day return trip we enjoyed spanned from Queenstown to Dubbil Barril, and included stunning views into the King River Gorge, and an easy-access walk into the rainforest at Dubbil Barril.
During our stop, we were lucky enough to experience the steam loco being manoeuvred on a turn table, purely through man power. The process itself barely took a minute, and is testimony to man’s creativity and ingenuity.
The food continued to fulfil its high standards, with lunch taking the form of a hearty soup, crisp bread roll, and a scrumptious chocolate brownie. Tea, coffee, and drinks from the bar were also available (for a small cost).

The return journey was punctuated with more stories of the bygone era- we continued to listen with amazement at how many men managed to hack their way through the most inhospitable of wilderness with only a pick or shovel to aid them.
We arrived in Queenstown directly on 1pm, to a magnificent blue sky. While we were lucky enough to experience the glorious trip in spring, we can only imagine the beauty of the trip with a mist of rain and cloud pervading the track.

Exploring Tasmania in winter is definitely underrated, with the vapours of steam from the train mingling with rain clouds creating a dewy wonderland.

Tasmanian Spotted Quoll

If you’re travelling to the West Coast of Tasmania, the railway trip is a must-do. 3.5 hours’ drive from Hobart, an early departure from Queenstown Station lends itself to staying in Queenstown the night before. The beautiful trip through the West Coast is ideal if you’re seeking a self-drive holiday.

Take it at your own pace, and check out the many wilderness and heritage experiences our island state has to offer. Unlock our island secrets one stop at a time- while you’re in the region, we also recommend trying the Mt Lyell Underground Mine tour. If you want to get up close with the flora and fauna, explore Lake Plimsoll and Lake Burbury, renowned for their surrounding nature walks, and perfect for a walking holiday, or a school holiday trip.

If you find yourself in Strahan, immerse yourself in the wilderness from the comfort of the Gordon River Cruise. Other accommodation options include Tullah Lakeside Lodge which also boasts another nearby railway the Wee Georgie Wood.

Tasmania’s West Coast – a must visit in all seasons.

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