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Main government and non-government agencies responsible for railways in Tasmania

Tasmanian railways were constructed and maintained by several private companies, as well as State and Federal Governments. These are the major government and non-government agencies responsible for Tasmanian railways:

In 1865 the Tasmanian Government agreed to guarantee the interest on the bulk of the capital needed to finance the construction of a line from Longford to Deloraine based on a proposal put forward by a group of northern businessmen and passed the first in a series of enabling acts. In 1867 the Launceston and Western Railway Company was formed. Construction proceeded and on 10 February 1871 the line was ready for its official opening with normal services beginning the 14th.

The opening of the line however found the company in serious financial difficulties as rising costs had forced it to borrow additional funds from the Government. To ensure that the line between Launceston and Deloraine remained open parliament passed an amendment to the Company’s enabling Act in 1872 to allow it to keep trading but bankruptcy appeared inevitable.

A Special General Meeting of the Company shareholders on 18 July 1872 resolved to surrender the assets to the Tasmanian Government, which occurred on 31 October 1873 although the formal purchase was not completed until 1904.

The company that built the first railway in Tasmania, between Launceston and Deloraine was unable to service its government-backed loans and was taken over by the state in 1873. In 1885, when the Government acquired the Mersey and Deloraine Tramway, management of the two lines was merged as the Tasmanian Government Railways.

Formed when the Government took over the Mersey and Deloraine Tramway Company in 1885 and merged its management with the Launceston and Western Railway Department. The assets and operations of the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company were merged with TGR in 1890. In 1939 it became the Railway Branch of the newly formed Transport Commission.

The Tasmanian Main Line Railway was built by a private company formed in 1872. A close but uncomfortable relationship with the Government was resolved in 1890 with the purchase of the company’s assets by the Crown and their incorporation into the Tasmanian Government Railways.

An offshoot of the Van Diemen’s Land Company which had a complex series of ownership changes involving companies registered in England, Victoria and Tasmania. An extension of the line linking Burnie and Zeehan opened in 1900. It was shortened with the construction of a freight transfer depot at Melba Flats, outside Zeehan, in the 1960s. The line operated in private hands until its eventual owner, Pacific National, sold its Tasmanian rail assets to the State Government in 2009.

The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway company was prominent in building railway infrastructure, including the Abt Railway and the North Mount Lyell line. In 1897, the Abt Railway from Queenstown to Teepookana was opened, and by 1899 this line had been extended to Strahan. The Abt rack and pinion system was used to assist the locomotive up and down the very steepest sections of track. The railway ran until 1963, and these days operates as the West Coast Wilderness Railway tourist attraction.

The Commission was formed under legislation designed to integrate the management of land transport within Tasmania. It continued until the ownership of Tasmania’s railways was transferred to the Commonwealth, legally in 1975 but administratively not until 1978.

The Australian National Railways Commission operated the Tasmanian (and South Australian) railways until it was privatised in 1997, its Tasmanian assets being sold to the Australian Transport Network P/L, later Pacific National Pty Ltd.

This company was established to acquire and operate the Tasmanian rail assets of the Australian National Railways Commission. Following a change of ownership and a contentious relationship with the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments over the cost of maintaining the rail infrastructure the assets were sold to the Tasmanian Government in 2009.

Created by the Rail Company Act 2009 to manage and maintain the rail infrastructure and transport assets that were recombined under Government ownership.

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