Railway and road trip


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Oceania » Australia » Tasmania » Cradle Mountain
February 21st 2021
Published: February 22nd 2021
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Another early morning, as we had to drive into Queenstown to board the West Coast Wilderness Railway, which was scheduled to leave at 9am. We headed out on the road at 7-15am. The sun was just coming up and we had to drive straight into it, but the trip was uneventful and took about 40 minutes. We found a park and walked across to the station where we quickly were given our tickets and then made our way to Tracks Café for a coffee. We were told we were in the Heritage carriage, which was the premium one, so we looked forward to a great trip.

We boarded at 8-45am and were greeted with a glass of bubbly from our hostess, Brooke. The carriage soon filled up with 16 of us altogether. There was also several other carriages and an open truck which was used on the trip back for the rafts used in whitewater rafting down King's Gorge.. At 9am we steamed out of the station to follow the rails up the mountain to our destination station, Dubbil Barril. This railway had been built through the vision and determination of a man called Bowes Kennedy to move the copper from Mt Lyell to the port of Strahan for shipping to Hobart and thus to ports around the world. He hired surveyors to tell him the best route, but they told him it was impossible to cut through the forest and mountains that stood in the way. He sacked them and hired more. His motto was ”either find a way or make a way”. 500 men worked on building it, in terrible conditions and it was completed in two and a half years. However, by mid-20th century, it became cheaper to use road transport and the railway was closed. It has been resurrected as a tourist attraction.

As we passed through dense rain forest we were offered canapes and we soon came to the station of Lynchford, but we did not stop there. We went on up the rack and pinion steep slope to Rinadeena station. This was our first stop and while our engine took on water we wandered along the platform and looked in a mine shaft which was still there. When we returned to board Fletcher spotted a currawong atop the carriage picking out tidbits that had alighted there. He seemed oblivious to us!! Back on board and delicious scones and jam and cream awaited us. We bought a bottle of wine to accompany them and chuffed on. The scenery was spectacular as we ran along the side of the King river and looked down on King River Gorge. We were able to go out onto the back platform of the train and so got some great photos.

We finally reached the highest point, Dubbil Barril station. Just after we arrived we were treated to the sight of the train from Strahan steaming through the station on its way to Queenstown. This is an all day trip while ours was only half a day. Here, we also watched the engine being turned around on the manual turntable. There was also an interesting rain forest trail which we walked along . It had great views of the river and many trees with lichen covering them and a dense forest floor.

Back on board we were asked to switch sides so we had a different view going back. We were served a light lunch consisting of pumpkin soup and bread, followed by icecream. The journey back was punctuated by a stop at Lynchford. This is where gold was discovered by a man named Lynch who told everyone of his good fortune and triggered a gold rush. There was an interesting display of artefacts pertaining to the gold diggings and we were able to pan for gold in tubs out the back. I was hopeless at that.

Then we were on the final leg back to Queenstown station. It was a great trip and if you like trains, I recommend it. It was about 2pm, so we drove back to Strahan. The service station man had rung to say they had managed to get us a tyre so we dropped the wheel off. Fletcher dropped me back at the motel and returned to have the wheel fitted. It did not take long and saved us from having to deter to Burnie or Devonport. We rested at the motel and then decided to have an early dinner as our lunch had been rather light and we wanted to watch the final of Mastermind. So it was down to the pub, Hamer’s Hotel, for fish and chips. We were there at 6pm and served quickly and efficiently by the staff. However, the food was disappointing as the fish was so heavily crumbed it was rock hard. Nevertheless it had been a good day and we were happy to go back to our room and have an early night.

The next morning we slept in and took out time getting ready to head north. We finally were on the road not long after 10am. We headed first for Zeehan where we stopped to look at the town. The main feature here was the West Coast Heritage Museum which we decided to visit. This was substantial, spread over 30 hectares and including the old Gaiety Theatre and the Police Station and courtroom. We spent a couple of hours here. The first part which explained the mining history of this area was housed in the old School of Mines and consisted of numerous photographs and displays of mining gear and models. From here we walked to the old Freemason's Lodge and thence to the Police Station and courtroom. Both of these buildings were well restored and showed how they would have looked in the early 20th century. The highlight for me was the Gaiety Theatre. This has been beautifully preserved. Dame Nellie Melba and AC/DC/ both played here!! What a contrast!! It is still used today.

Outside there was a blacksmith workshop containing a myriad of appropriate tools and several locomotives all linked to the mining industry and heritage of the area. An interesting couple of hours spent taking in the history of this West coast.

We drove on passing through Rosebery which seemed very small and then, looking for lunch, we stopped in Tullah where we found the Tullah Lakeside Lodge. This had a cafe with tables outside looking over a picturesque lake and mountains. A fisherman's basket for Fletcher and prawns for me filled the void and we spent a lovely hour watching the view and enjoying the break. Then it was on to Cradle Mountain. The weather, though cooler than the last few days, was fine and we enjoyed the scenery as we approached the mountain range. We found the Discovery Park where we had booked a cabin and checked in. This, though smal,l had all the amenities we needed except for WiFi which was only available near the reception. However, we could live with that for a couple of days.

We were recommended to the Cradle Mountain Hotel as a place to get an evening meal. Fletcher took his computer with him as of course, being Saturday, there had been various meets he needed the results for. We set ourselves up in the bar and while Fletcher downloaded what he needed we had a beer and then stayed for a meal. I only wanted something light and the potato, cauliflower and leek soup was just right. Fletcher had salt and pepper calamari which again, being a smaller serve, hit the spot with him. We have been trying various Tasmanian whites and really enjoying all we have tasted.



A return to the cabin and some TV before a reasonably early night with the prospect of lots of walking to do tomorrow.


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