We timed our trip to Strahan well with the announcement from the West Coast Wilderness Railway that it will be out of action from April this year. We could not believe our luck as it was announced the day after we had made our bookings.
The railway is a restoration of the original Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company built to bring out the copper concentrates from Queenstown. Overcoming the rough terrain and distance was a major feat in building the Abt rack and pinion system.
The Abt gets its name from the Swiss engineer Dr Roman Abt who invented the rack system. It is a third rail of solid bars with vertical teeth and small cogwheels engage with the teeth on the middle rail.
The first half of our trip the coaches were pulled by a diesel locomotive and the second half we watched as the steam locomotive was attached. It was at this point we noticed the fireman was a woman who is fully qualified and our carriage host told us it is her preference is to be called a fireman. The male engine driver we were informed is from a long line of drivers in the area and I cannot help but feel sorry for him if he has to leave his family home for new work, that is if any is available elsewhere.
It appears now that any rebuilding plans will be shelved until the Federal Group who have run the railway since 2002 negotiate with the Tasmanian or Federal government to fund restoration of the track.
Latest news in The Mercury yesterday February 20, 2013 is that the West Coast Council, tourism operators and the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council are pleading….!!!! with the Federal Government to make a quick decision. The Australian federal government and quick decisions are an oxymoron surely a business plan should have been forwarded long before this by the Federal Group. Considering the Federal Group control and offer most of the accommodation in Strahan you would think this issue would have been signalled with more notice, particularly as they describe themselves as the leading provider in Tasmania of tourism, entertainment, conference, event and corporate experiences. Why did they leave it so long to say they could no longer continue after April this year? Is it a tactic to get the government to pay for it?