Emu Bay Railway

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Emu Bay Railway
IndustryRailway operator
PredecessorEmu Bay to Mount Bischoff Railway Company
Area served
West Coast, Tasmania

The Emu Bay Railway[1] was an Australian railway company. Listed on the Melbourne Stock Exchange, it operated the Melba Line on the West Coast of Tasmania from 1897 until 1998.


Map of the original route

The origins of the Emu Bay Railway can be traced back to February 1878 when the Van Diemen's Land Company opened a 71 kilometre, horse drawn wooden tramway line opened from Emu Bay (Burnie) to Rouse's Camp, near Waratah to serve the Mount Bischoff tin mines. The line was surveyed by John C Climie.[2][3] In 1887, the line was taken over by the Emu Bay to Mount Bischoff Railway Company and relaid with steel rails as a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge railway line to allow steam locomotives to operate.[4] In 1897 the Emu Bay Railway Company took over the line, extending it a further 60 kilometres to Zeehan on 21 December 1900.[5][6]

Following the opening of the Murchison Highway, the line was closed between Rosebery and Zeehan in August 1965.[7] In October 1966 EZ Industries, who were now responsible for 90% of traffic on the line, launched a takeover bid for the company.[8] Although rejected by the directors, it was accepted by the shareholders in early 1967.[9][10][11] In the late 1960s the line was upgraded to carry heavier trains and in January 1970 reopened from Rosebery to Melba Flats.

In December 1976, the company was relieved of its common carrier obligations.[12] Thereafter the line was basically freight only except for a twice weekly mixed train which lasted until 1977, using West Coaster carriages ABL1 and 2, which retained their two-tone blue livery. During the construction of the Pieman River hydro electric scheme in the late 1970s the line was diverted in places and new bridges were built.

The Emu Bay Railway was included in the October 1984 sale of EZ Industries to North Broken Hill Peko, which in 1988 merged with CRA Limited to form Pasminco. In 1989, an 11 kilometre branch from Moorey Junction opened to serve Aberfoyle's Hellyer Mine. On 22 May 1998, the company was purchased from Pasminco by the Australian Transport Network and integrated into its Tasrail business.[6][13][14][15]

Passenger services[edit]

The Emu Bay Railway operated passenger services for both employees and later tourists. In 1921 it operated two railmotors, a 12 seat Berliet and a 16 seat Argyle between Guildford and Waratah. In 1940, a double bogie railcar was delivered by Walker Brothers, Wigan.

With increased tourist traffic, in October 1960 a service named The West Coaster was introduced between Burnie and Rosebery. It was operated by two Dübs and Company built 4-8-0 steam locomotives (6 and 8) that were returned to traffic from storage after being converted to oil burners, named Murchison and Heemskirk and repainted along with three former Tasmanian Government Railways carriages in two-tone blue livery. With the opening of the Murchison Highway, it last ran on 2 January 1964.[6]

Rolling stock[edit]

Preserved 1004 on the Zig Zag Railway in July 2011

The Emu Bay Railway operated steam locomotives built by British manufacturers.[16] Notable were three Beyer, Peacock and Company built Garratts delivered in 1930, that were augmented in the 1950s by five Australian Standard Garratts purchased from the Queensland Railways and Tasmanian Government Railways.[6][17][18]

In 1953, a North British Locomotive Company 0-8-0 diesel-hydraulic locomotive entered service. In 1963 the remaining steam locomotives were withdrawn after three 10 class diesel-hydraulics were delivered by Walkers Limited. A fourth was later assembled by the Tasmanian Government Railways' Launceston workshops. With a large increase in traffic forecast, in 1970/71 seven 11 class diesel-hydraulics entered service. The latter two classes operated in multiples of up to eight.[6]

In preservation[edit]

The two steam locomotives that operated the West Coaster in the 1960s have been preserved; no.6 Murchison at the West Coast Pioneers Museum, Zeehan and no.8 Heemskirk by the Don River Railway, the latter being restored to service in October 1997.[6][19]

The North British Locomotive Company diesel has been preserved by the Derwent Valley Railway, while the 10 class have been preserved by the Don River, Walhalla Goldfields and Zig Zag Railways.[20] The 11 class were all sold to Far North Queensland.[6][21]


  1. ^ Australian Securities & Investments Commission extract company no 009 475 790 The Emu Bay Railway Company Limited
  2. ^ TASMANIA. HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY. TRAMWAY : (No. 90.) Report on Survey of proposed by Mr. J. C. Climie, CE. laid upon the Table by the Minister of Lands, and ordered by the House to be printed, 16 August 1882
  3. ^ James Fenton (1884). The History of Tasmania From its Discovery in 1642 to the Present Time. p. 391.
  4. ^ Railway from Emu Bay to Mount Bischoff Sydney Morning Herald 1 August 1887
  5. ^ Emu Bay Railway Company Annual Meeting The Age 30 March 1901
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Oberg, Leon (2010). Locomotives of Australia 1850s-2010. Dural: Rosenberg Publishing. pp. 109, 209, 227, 269, 327, 330. ISBN 9781921719011.
  7. ^ Emu Bay Railway Act 1965 Government of Tasmania 22 June 1965
  8. ^ EZ bids $1.7 million for Emu Bay The Age 20 October 1966
  9. ^ Emu Bay rejects EZ offer Sydney Morning Herald 3 November 1966
  10. ^ Annual General Meeting year ended 30 June 1967 The Age 7 December 1967
  11. ^ Emu Bay The Age 23 August 1968
  12. ^ Emu Bay Railway Act 1976 Government of Tasmania 15 December 1976
  13. ^ ATN grabs Emu Bay The Examiner 7 April 1998
  14. ^ "Tasrail to take over Emu Bay Railway" Railway Digest May 1998 page 16
  15. ^ ATN Officially Adds Emu Bay Rail Operation to Its Tasrail Business Tranz Rail Holdings 22 May 1998
  16. ^ Emu Bay Railway Locomotives Rail Tasmania
  17. ^ Giant Garratt Locomotive Imported by Emu Bay Burnie Advocate 19 February 1930
  18. ^ "The Australian Standard Garratt on the Emu Bay Railway" Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin March 1995 pages 59-66
  19. ^ Clark, Peter (2012). The Australian Locomotive Guide. Dural: Rosenberg Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 9781922013682.
  20. ^ 10 Class Rail Tasmania
  21. ^ 11 Class Rail Tasmania

See also[edit]


External links[edit]