A rare sight greeted visitors and passengers at Queenstown Station, home of the West Coast Wilderness Railway recently, when all three steam locomotives still used by the railway were lined up and under full steam.
It’s not unusual for two locomotives to be at the station at once, especially in the peak season, when both the half-day Rack and Gorge excursion from Queenstown and the full day Queenstown Explorer service from Strahan are in the station together around lunchtime.
However having all three locomotives in town together under steam is a rare occurrence, brought about on this occasion by the need to send No 3 and No 1 went out as a “double header” (No. 3 in the lead, No. 1 directly behind and then the carriages) on the Rack on Gorge trip to Dubbil Barril to test some work that was being done on No. 3 by the maintenance crew.
In the photo, the Rack and Gorge train has just returned, while No. 5 (furthest on the right in the photo) was visiting during the Queenstown Explorer run, and is just about to leave for the return leg to Strahan.
Our drivers, aware of the rarity of this confluence of events, strategically positioned No. 1 and No. 3 for our enjoyment and the photo opportunity while the engines were waiting for 5 to depart before they returned to the workshop, providing a thrill for our passengers and especially for those we affectionately refer to as our ‘puffer-nutters’(and you know who you are).
There were five steam locomotives on the original Mount Lyell Railway, plus some later diesel locos which are still in use. Of the five steam locos, the three pictured here (No’s 1, 3 and 5) are in service on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Another can be seen being well cared for in Hobart at the Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy in Hobart’s northern suburbs.
As for the fate of the last of our little Abt locos – well, you will have to join us for a ride to hear that story.