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Abt/West Coast Wilderness Railway

“We find a way or make it”

In 2016, the West Coast Wilderness Railway earned an Engineering Heritage International Marker. The former mining line was challenging to build and maintain, but it was once the main route into the rugged Tasmanian West. The railway’s clever construction incorporates the use of an Abt rack and pinion system to help the train up and down steep sections of track.

Gold was discovered in the Lyell area in 1881, and efforts to extract it led to the discovery of copper. It was the wealth to be made in copper that inspired the large industrial mining venture which became The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company in 1893. The company needed reliable transportation. In a land of boggy tracks and washed-out roads, a railway was the best solution.

The first section of track opened in April 1897, from Queenstown to Teepookana. Construction was completed when the track reached its destination at Regatta Point, near the port town of Strahan, in 1899. The line operated as the Mount Lyell Railway until 1963, when the improved roads took over the mining traffic. Unfortunately, this change came just as tourists were beginning to enjoy taking day trips on the railway.

For three decades journeys on the train through the rainforest were just a fond memory. Then, in 1998, the Federal Government announced funding to rebuild the Abt railway as a tourist attraction. Reconstructing the old track (to new standards) took nearly as much skill and hard work as the initial build. It reopened in 2002 as the West Coast Wilderness Railway and continues to delight visitors with its old-world charm.

Source: Rae, L., 2005. The Abt Railway : Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway, 5th ed. Harris Print, Burnie, Tasmania.

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