WCWR NEWS

West Coast Wilderness Railway loco celebrates 120 years on track

December 12, 2017
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A remarkable era in Tasmania’s history was celebrated recently to mark the 120th birthday of the oldest of the Mount Lyell Railway Abt locomotives, which is still in regular use on what is now known as the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Abt Locomotive No.1 was built in Glasgow and shipped in pieces to the port of Strahan, arriving in late August 1896. The story goes that she arrived without any assembly instructions so putting her together was a test of the railway workers, most of whom had never seen an Abt locomotive before.

However, in keeping with the motto of the Mount Lyell Railway to ‘’find a way or make a way” to get things done, with trial and error and a deal of perseverance and ingenuity, they managed to put the locomotive and its rack-and-pinion drive mechanism, together. Within a month of arriving, Loco No.1 was being tested on a short section of track at Camp Spur fitted with rack bars.

With the tests successfully completed and with any uncertainty about the ability of Abt System to negotiate the mountainous terrain of the line allayed, the rack was quickly installed over the Rinadeena Saddle, the work being completed by 19th November, 1896. The line was inspected and declared open for traffic, with regular train services commencing on 21st December, 1896.

Each passenger travelling on locomotive No.1 that day was presented with a commemorative postcard
‍Each passenger travelling on locomotive No.1 that day was presented with a commemorative postcard

Eventually the Mount Lyell Railway had five Abt steam locomotives on the line. Of these, Loco’s 1, 3 & 5 are still in service on the West Coast Wilderness Railway today; No 2 is in the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Hobart and No.4 was buried in a quarry in Queenstown. The Railway also has a number of diesel locomotives, which provide a backup to the steam engines.

No.1 remained in service until the line’s closure in 1963, when she was given the honour of pulling the last passenger train in August. She remained on display at the West Coast Heritage Centre in Zeehan until being fully restored and returned to service in 2001 when the Mount Lyell Railway reopened as the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Steward Tom light’s Loco No.1’s ‘birthday cake’ candles at Rinadeena Station
‍Steward Tom light’s Loco No.1’s ‘birthday cake’ candles at Rinadeena Station

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West Coast Wilderness Railway Loco No.1 ‘blows out’ her birthday candles in front of an admiring group of passengers at Rinadeena Station
West Coast Wilderness Railway Loco No.1 ‘blows out’ her birthday candles in front of an admiring group of passengers at Rinadeena Station

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

West Coast Wilderness Railway Loco No.1 ‘blows out’ her birthday candles in front of an admiring group of passengers at Rinadeena Station
‍West Coast Wilderness Railway Loco No.1 ‘blows out’ her birthday candles in front of an admiring group of passengers at Rinadeena Station
Loco No.1’s birthday cake was made by the team at Tracks Cafe in Queenstown
‍Loco No.1’s birthday cake was made by the team at Tracks Cafe in Queenstown
‍The birthday cake included hand-made chocolate locomotives

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