A Royal View


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Oceania » Australia » Tasmania » Devonport » Don River Railway
March 30th 2014
Published: April 1st 2014
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Royal Carrriage 01Royal Carrriage 01Royal Carrriage 01

The Royal Crest
Around the world there are many great Railway Preservation Projects, and rightly so. The very fabric of development of many places including Tasmania was the thread of iron rails and hissing steam monsters that carried produce and people where no other transport of the time could, and at speeds that were unimaginable before the rail was introduced.

For me personally, maintaining that railway history at a small working level is really important. Just as we have recognised the painful but enduring work of Tasmania's convicts, so we need to acknowledge the truth of the benefit of rail to this little island state. I would think that the rail road too was built in many places with the blood sweat and tears of the convicts.

There are a number of working steam railways in Tasmania, but I want to mention two in particular.

Based in Queenstown Tasmania is a bush railway system that runs through steep twisty inclines of the western rain forests. Here the rail transported minerals, timber and anything else that needed transport. The train there has a gear driven rack drive that tows the train up inclines that a normal train would slither back down. Due
Important piece of historyImportant piece of historyImportant piece of history

This little blue loco was used to build the rock groin at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, at Hells Gate.
to weather conditions and time, we didn't visit this train.

However, the disappointment of Queenstown has been offset by visiting The Don River Railway. This working rail museum is funded by the Van Diemen Light Rail Society Inc. This group of volunteers have built up a great railway workshop, and restored both rail wagons and locomotives with a high quality of finish.

The latest project completed is both vintage and of special note, A Royal Carriage none the less.

The Royal Carriage started as a 6 wheel (3 axles) passenger car, in 1879, a typical Victorian Passenger Car. In 1893 the wooden chassis was replaced by a steel one which was a little wider and was carried on two, two axle bogies, much more suited to the twisting tracks of Tasmania. It would have continued service like that for many years, but like Rudolph Reindeer, this particular car was called out for special attention in 1919 in readiness for a Royal visit by The Prince of Wales in 1920 and again later for The Duke of Gloucester.

Some of the fittings used in the original are no longer available, and some materials may not fully match the original, but none the less, the volunteer craftsman and women of Don River Railway have done a fantastic job of recreating this carriage, and opened for view for the first time about two weeks ago.

So what happened to this carriage after the Duke of Gloucester used it and the restoration project? It was put aside, and after 1948 stripped and refitted as a railway work gang mobile work camp. Beds, kitchens etc for the gangers. It was actually on a list of wagons to be burned and scrapped but for the gangers reprieve.

To see this glossy carriage restored is fantastic and I must send my congratulations to all who have contributed financially and with labour to this project.

There is much more history here for you to uncover. I noticed a small tank engine parked on a siding, and asked where it had come from. This loco is historically important also. When we visited Strahan we went on the Gordon River Cruise. When we went through Hells Gates, there was a long rocky groin built out into the sea to direct the river flow. This long rock groin was built by the convicts with the aid of a little blue steam locomotive that carried the boulders from the quarry to the sea wall. And that is the little loco at Don River Railway.

The Don River Railway does have a working track which is serviced by a railcar most days, and a steam train on Sundays. Unfortunately, the steam loco has suffered a serious boiler failure, and I suspect that it will be some time before that is back on line. The train trip is along the banks of the very pretty Don River, winding its way through the trees to the terminus, and after a short stop, returns to the Don River Station. Interestingly, historically there never was a Don River Railway Station, nor a work shop and turntable, just a line that ran from a local quarry through to the Burnie Devonport line. The journey is good and young and old were aboard when I travelled, and all seemed very happy. The children were able to see the driver through the Perspex window in the rail car and all seemed happy on the trip.

If you have time visit, if you have time and skills, join them in their quest to keep the museum operating and more specifically, keep their rolling stock and track operational.

Next stop is Melbourne. Farewell Tasmania, we have enjoyed the 6 weeks on your beautiful island.


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Two class passenger car cic 1890Two class passenger car cic 1890
Two class passenger car cic 1890

This is a 6 wheel wagon. The centre axle has to be able to slide laterally to enable the car to move through curves and points. The centre wheels are flanged as normal, so the amount of slide would be several inches.
Second ClassSecond Class
Second Class

We would se it as bumpy!! But probably better than horse and cart.


1st April 2014

Last of Tasmania
Another very interesting blog " didn't you do well." We certainly enjoyed your efforts over the past weeks. On the home lap now and probably reluctant to give up the gypsy life just yet.
1st April 2014

Enjoyed our tour of Tasmania with you
I trust your return journey to Melbourne was as pleasant as your trip over - no sea sickness. I am pleased you enjoyed your time in Tasmania - 'boy where did the 6 weeks go'. Once again you entertained us with your 'blog' and your beautiful photos. Safe travelling now back in Australia. Look forward to seeing you when your back home. We go to Gympie next Thursday 10 for a Northern State Gideon Convention for the weekend and then Tuesday 22 for our two week Gideon Safari out west - like we did two years ago. I pray you have kept well and 'Bushbaby' was too. Love as usual - Carol (and John) ox's ox's
1st April 2014

Tassie Crossing
Once again we were blessed with a great crossing. We were welcomed by the captain at 5:45am and he gave us disembarkation instructions for Adelaide. Repeated Adelaide several times in his spiel. At the end was just a hint as he reminded us that it was 1 April. Back in Bris around Easter.
1st April 2014

Your Blog
Have absolutely enjoyed your blog. The writing and photo's were great. Wished we could have done it with you. Brought a lot of memories back from our visit to Tasmania but you have seen so much more then we ever saw. Will have to do another trip. Looking forward to catching up with you. Hope you continue to travel safely God Bless Love Mary
1st April 2014

Thanks
Hope to be home Easter Saturday. Looking forward to catching up with you before going to USA.
2nd April 2014

trains
as always the photography was superb,and the subject so interesting,see you soon.Safe journey home my friends, can't say enough how much I have enjoyed you blogs.
2nd April 2014

Trains comment
Thanks Jakii, it has been a fun 6 weeks down here. Life at home will be comparatively boring!? Should be home Easter Weekend.

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