Railways on the West Coast of Tasmania

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The history of the Railways on the West Coast of Tasmania has fascinated enthusiasts from around the world, because of the combination of the harsh terrain in which the railways were created, and the unique nature of most of the lines.

The Mount Lyell rack railway which has an Abt rack system, the presence of the world's first Garratt locomotive and a Hagans articulated locomotive on the North East Dundas Tramway, and the collection of narrow-gauge lines as the only links to the outside world for a number of the communities for over fifty years.[1]

The haulage railways at Mount Read, and the various ones in the area of the Mount Lyell mining lease – were also significant in their use in moving both people and metal ore. Also aerial ropeways were operating in the region well into the late twentieth century.

A number of railway lines that were proposed in the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century – but they never appeared – not all proposed lines are listed here.

The main mining towns during their boom times were connected with the outside world by railway as the main form of transport into their communities and also out to the outside world.

Railways, tramways and haulages[edit]

Emu Bay railway connected with most lines on the West Coast directly or indirectly

Most lines were 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) 2 ft (610 mm) track gauges.

See also Zeehan for tramways that centred on that location

The following list is of most of the significant named lines but it is not a complete list. There have also been haulage lines, and other tramlines within small areas that existed in mining leases and forest areas.

Proposed but not constructed[edit]

West Coast Railways timeline[edit]

  • 04.02.1892 Strahan to Zeehan line opened [17]
  • 25.04.1892 Zeehan to Mount Dundas line opened [17]
  • 18.03.1897 Mount Lyell line to Teepookana opened[18]
  • 01.11.1899 Mount Lyell line to Regatta Point opened[18]
  • 15.12.1900 North Mount Lyell line opened[17]
  • 21.12.1900 Emu Bay line Guildford Junction to Zeehan opened[18]
  • 23.01.1902 Magnet Tramway opened [19]
  • 26.11.1902 North Mount Farrell tramway opened[20]
  • 05.07.1932 Mount Dundas and North East Dundas lines closed[19]
  • 08.10.1933 Comstock Tram closed[17]
  • 02.06.1960 Strahan–Zeehan line closed[17]
  • 22.12.1961 Tullah Tram closed[19]
  • 10.08.1963 Mount Lyell line closed[18]
  • 27.12.2002 First day of operation of rebuilt Mount Lyell line[18]
  • 03.04.2003 Official opening of Mount Lyell line as West Coast Wilderness Railway[18]

Dispersal of rolling stock[edit]

Following closing of various lines, engines and carriages were often re-located on other working railways. Ex Mount Lyell passenger stock can be found on the Puffing Billy Railway in Victoria, while by serendipity the West Coast Wilderness Railway has seen the return of reconditioned engines that used to work on the original Mount Lyell lines. A number of steam engines are held at the West Coast Pioneers Museum in Zeehan.

Following the closures of most railways in the early 1960s, rolling stock was dispersed but engines were fortuitously retained on the west coast, in most cases at the museum in Zeehan. Some of these have returned to service on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.


  1. ^ Poole, L.G. (1943) March, 1943 p 42 and issue August, 1943 p 19. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin and Thomas, C.B. Railways of the West Coast February to June, 1943 pp 15–18; pp 33–34; pp 48–50; pp 64–67; pp 74–76;July to December, 1943 pp 5–6; pp 22–25; pp 40–42; p 53; pp 69–70, January, 1944 pp 7–9. in Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin
  2. ^ "COMSTOCK TRAM.". The Clipper. 8 (436). Tasmania, Australia. 10 August 1901. p. 7. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ "LYELL.". Zeehan and Dundas Herald. Hobart, Tas. 22 November 1918. p. 4. Retrieved 28 June 2012 – via National Library of Australia. 
  4. ^ "MAGNET". The Daily Telegraph. XXXVII (272). Tasmania, Australia. 14 November 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ "LYELL THARSIS AERIAL ROPEWAY.". Daily Telegraph. XIX (75). Tasmania, Australia. 29 March 1899. p. 8. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. ^ "MOUNT LYELL MINES.". The Age (14,265). Victoria, Australia. 23 November 1900. p. 7. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  7. ^ "LYELL.". Zeehan and Dundas Herald. XX (182). Tasmania, Australia. 17 May 1909. p. 4. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ "THE HAULAGE.". Zeehan and Dundas Herald. XVI (243). Tasmania, Australia. 27 July 1905. p. 4. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ Not to be confused with the Aerial Tram between flux quarries and smelter – "MOUNT LYELL MINING NOTES.". The Mercury. LXXII (8922). Tasmania, Australia. 5 October 1898. p. 3. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  10. ^ "MOUNT LYELL OPERATIONS.". The Age (22,820). Victoria, Australia. 28 May 1928. p. 13. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "Underground Workings". The Mercury. CXL (20,774). Tasmania. 8 March 1934. p. 2. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ shown on Mt Lyell Mining Field Map in editions of The Peaks of Lyell
  13. ^ * Murdoch, Geoff (1998). Tasmania's Hagans: the North East Dundas Tramway articulated J class. Redbank Plaza, Qld: The author. ISBN 0-646-33442-5. 
  14. ^ "STRAHAN-ZEEHAN RAILWAY.". The Mercury. LVIII (6,802). Tasmania, Australia. 11 December 1891. p. 3. Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10399793?searchTerm=Metals+Extraction+Tramway#pstart888611
  16. ^ "AERIAL ROPEWAY.". The Advocate (Australia). Tasmania, Australia. 6 February 1930. p. 6 (DAILY). Retrieved 6 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Quinlan, Howard & Newland, John R. (2000). Australian Railway Routes 1854-2000. Sydney: Australian Railway Historical Society New South Wales Division. ISBN 0-909650-49-7. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f Rae, Lou (2005). The Abt Railway Tasmania's West Coast Wilderness Railway. Sandy Bay: Lou Rae. ISBN 0-9592098-8-3. 
  19. ^ a b c Australian Railway Atlas Quail Map Company 2004 ISBN 1-898319-69-3
  20. ^ Rae, Lou (1984). A History of Railways and Tramways on Tasmania's West Coast. Sandy Bay: Lou Rae. ISBN 0-9592098-0-8. 


  • Aubrey, Ronald K. (1975). A pictorial history of the railways & tramways of Western Tasmania. Hobart: OBM Bookshop. ISBN 0-9599034-1-0. 
  • Blainey, Geoffrey (2000). The Peaks of Lyell (6th ed.). Hobart: St. David's Park Publishing. ISBN 0-7246-2265-9. 
  • Branagan, J.G. (1996). Bush Tram-Ways and Private Railways of Tasmania c 1850 to c 1960. Launceston: Regal Publications. ISBN 978-0-949457-87-5. 
  • Whitham, Charles (2003). Western Tasmania – A land of riches and beauty (Reprint 2003 ed.). Queenstown: Municipality of Queenstown. 
  • Whitham, Lindsay (2002). Railways, Mines, Pubs and People and other historical research. Sandy Bay: Tasmanian Historical Research Association. ISBN 0-909479-21-6. 

External links[edit]