It's been a tough few months, but we like to find the silver lining and we have tried to make the best out of the situation that Covid created.
Our teams across every department have been working hard to give everything, from our steam engines to our garden beds, some extra TLC and we are now preparing to emerge bigger and better from our unexpected down-time.
Just as our three original Abt locomotives were starting to feel every bit of their extended years (our eldest is a trifling 124 years old), this has been a perfect opportunity to give them some well-earned rest and repair. The biggest project for the workshop crew has been Abt Engine No. 1, which has been completely pulled apart, fine-tuned, painted and is being lovingly put back together.
The track crew have been making the most of the quiet rails, getting ahead on maintenance and preparing sections of the line for new rail using composite railway sleepers. Composite sleepers are a relatively new technology made of recycled plastic and the team have worked closely with the manufacturers and with Monash University in Victoria to test and retest the sleepers for safety and durability. Not only are they eco-friendly, accounting for nearly 155 tons of recycled plastic per kilometre of track, but they have proven to be stronger than wood and more durable than concrete, so we expect them to last much longer, too!
This is our second stage of re-laying track and the composite sleepers are already being used in some parts of the journey. While this stage of vital upgrades were planned before Covid struck, delays in shipping and testing has meant that our Strahan departures cannot resume until early January 2021, while Queenstown journeys will resume in September 2020.
Don’t worry, it will be worth the wait! All four remote stations along the line have seen some exciting upgrades. Lynchford Station and the surrounding gardens have had a make-over and boast new displays that make you feel like you're stepping into the early 1900s.
Lower Landing Station is as good as new, with a platform extension, mass re-vegetation and will soon be fully off-grid thanks to a combination of on-site solar and hydro provided power.
In addition to these exciting major projects, other improvements include carriage renovations, new menus, website upgrades, a new booking office and development of new WCWR experiences.