Rack & Gorge - West Coast Wilderness Railway

  • Zoe Francis
  • 25 May 21

As we wound our way through the mountains from Strahan towards Queenstown in the rugged West of Tasmania I had no idea what to expect from our upcoming train journey.

Rack & Gorge train by Zoe Francis

Rack & Gorge train by Zoe Francis

Stepping back in time

Arriving at Queenstown station felt like stepping back in time. Established in the late 19th century mining boom, Queenstown has retained a colonial heritage and historical charm. The old buildings tell the stories of a bygone era. Once one of the worlds richest mining towns, today Queenstown is home to museums, many nearby natural attractions and of course the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Queenstown station was built for this wilderness train journey and follows the original rail line of the Mount Lyell Mining & railway company deep into the Tasmania’s West Coast wilderness.

 

All Aboard!

Travelling in the exclusive Wilderness carriage, we were delighted with surprise of the quality of this train journey. From being greeted by our private host, to entering the beautiful carriage and taking our spot for the start of the journey, The Rack & Gorge tour far exceeded my expectations. The train has been completely restored using the original steam locomotives used on the same railway back in 1896, and with new carriages made from native Tasmanian timbers, modelled on the original Mt Lyell carriages, it provided a stunning space to enjoy the ride. To start our journey we were offered a glass of sparkling wine and tea and coffee varieties were available throughout the 4 hour journey from Queenstown to Dubbil Barril return. Over the journey we indulged in 4 courses of gourmet delicacies including canapes and a light lunch, we certainly did not go hungry! Our Bunnik Tours group had the Wilderness carriage all to ourselves with our private host and it included access to the open balcony throughout the journey to allow us to immerse ourselves into the wildness and have unrestricted viewing & photo opportunities.

 

Entering the wilderness

Shortly after leaving Queenstown, the stunning scenery of this train journey began.

Our first stop is at Lynchford, where we have the opportunity to go panning for gold at this former gold mine as we learn more about the mining history of the area. But it is after leaving Lynchford that the true beauty of this journey comes to life. From Lynchford we take a steep incline of up to 1/16 making this the steepest operating steam train journey in the southern hemisphere. As we climb slowly using the Abt rack and pinion system, we are surrounded by the dense green of the rainforest. From inside or outside the carriage, the views on offer are simply spectacular. As we delve deeper into the rainforest we follow along the king river, providing a fantastic sight from high above. As the sun broke through our cloudy autumn day, the flora of this cool temperate rainforest shone through, illuminating the variety of nature we were slowly passing.

 

Enjoy the ride

On board, exceptional commentary throughout tells the stories of how the original railway was built, and the tough conditions those workers survived. We heard about the life of those living along the railway and the rise and fall of mining in Tasmania’s west. The three included stops of Lynchford, Rinadeena and Dubbil Barril, were a lovely opportunity to stretch the legs and wander amongst this remote area.

At Rinadeena, a footbridge above the track allows for some fantastic views & photos from above the train, while at Dubbil Barril a walk through through the rainforest provides some of the days best views. As Dubbil Barril is the half way point of the journey, here we were able to watch the locomotive being turned around on the manual turntable before heading back towards Queenstown.

Overall our journey on the Rack & Gorge tour was a highlight of our time in Tasmania. From the spectacular traditional train & carriage to the fantastic service and delicious treats on board, learning about the interesting history of Western Tasmania to exploring deep into rainforest with spectacular views both on and off the train, the West Coast Wilderness Railway remains a special memory of our time in Tasmania. 

 

All images by Zoe Francis

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