Train Engine being topped up with water

ABT railway excursion between Queenstown & Strahan – 1963

In 1963, the Mt. Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd decided to close their rail line between Queenstown and Strahan, due to the high cost of maintaining the line. Closure was scheduled by the end of June 1963.

A group from our Rosebery Methodist Church decided to take the very scenic trip before closure and on the June long weekend travelled to Queenstown to join the trip. It would prove to be the last fine passenger trip before passenger services ended on 29 June 1963.

The line had been built in 1897 to carry blister copper products for export, but with the line area being mountainous, it was very scenic and attracted thousands of tourists. Some of the rail grades measured 1 in 20 feet and to enable the trains to climb the incline a center cog system connecting with a ratchet line was provided and engaged to allow the train to climb.  When in use, travel speed was at walking pace and accompanied by much hissing of steam, black smoke and the clanking of metal as the center cog and ratchet connected.

It was a most enjoyable and interesting excursion, and decades would pass before the line was reopened for the pleasure of tourists as West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Some photos taken on the day are attached.

Lyell Train Line Showing the Ratchet System
Engine on Turntable at Strahan

Train Engine being topped up with water

Written by Ivan Badcock – 16 April 2024

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