Wednesday 28 July 2010

Wilderness: Toot-Toot!

I've just returned from one of the few passenger train journeys you can take in Tasmania, given that the Apple Isle hasn't had mainline passenger services for some decades.

Aptly, it's no mundane commuter run; instead it climbs and plunges through the dense, uninhabited rainforest in the green southwest of the state.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a reincarnation of the working railway which once ran from the remote mining town of Queenstown to the coastal port of Strahan, carrying minerals and passengers out of the wilderness.

Opened in 1897, it was a remarkable feat of engineering, cutting through previously impenetrable country using a type of cog railway known as a rack and pinion system.

The railway closed in 1963, with its track and numerous bridges slowly being conquered by the greenery and the fast-flowing King River. However, in another remarkable feat, it was reconstructed about a decade ago, reopening in 2002 as a tourist route.

But that's enough background from me; have a look over my shoulder as I show you some pics of my journey...

1. Queenstown Station; or really a replica of the original station, which suffered various misfortunes since it was closed in the 1960s (including being used as a supermarket).

2. A beautiful carriage interior, with lots of smooth timber and a central skylight.

3. The train at Lynchford Station, where we paused to have a go at gold panning.

4. Eureka! I struck luck with this tiny pellet of gold among the gravel and silt.

5. Up front in the premium carriage, the mood is upbeat...

6. The train at Rinadeena Saddle Station. Just beyond this bridge is an evocative little clearing, just grass where a small community once lived.

7. There are some spectacular views of the King River in the last half of the journey toward the coast.

8. This pic taken at Dubbil Barril Station (don't ask) reveals the cog track that helps the train up and down steep inclines.

9. One of the railway's 40 bridges seen from below, on the forest walk from Dubbil Barril.

10. And finally, a massive fungus growing on the side of a tree in the forest - a sign of just how damn wet it is here!

It's a great railway trip; relatively expensive, but with a surprising amount to see and do. The commentary is top-notch too. And like me, you can now while away hours wondering how the hell Dubbil Barril got that weird name...

Disclosure time... on this trip I was hosted by Tourism Tasmania.

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