Friday 4 May 2018

West Coast Wilderness Railway

After spending almost a year living in Queenstown, there was no way we could miss out on a train ride with the West Coast Wilderness Railway. For those who don't know, this track runs from Queenstown to Strahan with Dubbil Barril sitting half way. The line was originally forged, and used, by the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company to transport copper. Today, it's a fun day out to experience the beautiful rainforest of Tasmania's West Coast. All from the comfort of a beaut steam-engine's carriage.

You can ride the train all the way across (and back) if you want, however, the West Coast Wilderness Railway also do trips from either Queenstown or Strahan out to Dubbil Barril and back. We lined this adventure up with some mates, and sharing the carriage with friends, laughs, smiles, and possibly a few sneaky beers, made the experience all the more awesome.

Once you leave Queenstown, it's amazing how quick the lush rainforests take over. It truly is amazing how much of this island state feels untouched by man. Despite the cold climate, most of the land is teeming with ferns, vines, and gums, giving off the visuals of a tropical rainforest.

The first stop from Queenstown is Lynchford, which throws you back in time with the museum-station. After meandering through and taking in the relics of the past, you are handed a bag of river soil, a pan, and told to go find some gold! While Conglomerate Creek doesn't contain the richness of gold shared with many other Aussie locations, traces of it can be found. And like all sources of gold, in those early years, people flocked to the river with immense hopes and dreams. As you can see from the photo on the right, the promise of gold flares that same spark just as powerfully today.

The ride is also accompanied by tour guides. These guides get right into the spirit of things, telling jokes and having a laugh, all while telling the tales of how the rail came to be, the harsh life the pioneers lived through, and Crotty and Lyell's competition to run Queenstown and its mines. Our guide happened to be Merl, a sheila who I worked with during my time at the library. As part of the tour, she gave me a hat and dubbed me Crotty!

The steep inclines of this route really forced some ingenuity from those early pioneers. They came up with a third wheel pinion system that basically ran a cog along the middle of the track to help haul it uphill. I won't post too much on the topic, but if you are interested, go check out what Wikipedia has to say about it! My personal favourite story during the trip was about how the workers went crazy on Sassafras Beer. Along with Sassafras tea, the workers remained pumped and excited for the work. The track was also completed way faster than it had been projected. It was later discovered that Sassafras bark can synthesise an amphetamine!

As you travel alongside the King River, the views only become more amazing. Definitely sights that have to be experienced to truly appreciate. The final stop, Dubbil Barril, gives you a wonderful opportunity to wander through a small track of forest, take in the sights of the river, or grow really excited as you watch the train on the turntable. 

We found riding with the West Coast Wilderness Railway a great day out, and can't recommend it enough!

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