All Aboard The West Coast Wilderness Railway
The West Coast Wilderness Railway is an all time favourite of ours. It's a fantastic family day out, with loads of history and stories for the whole family. We love how the kids can get involved in activities from yesteryear; gold panning, bush walking and watch original ABT Steam Engines shunt around the tracks! The guides are wonderful, the seating comfortable and the journey itself, magical!
You can decide to do the Railway from either end- Strahan or Queenstown. There are a few different journey options as well such as right through, halfway and back or a return journey. Which ever end you start at be mindful that if you don't do a return or half way and back you'll need to organise transport to get back to where you started. There are no buses so we suggest a member of your travelling group drops you off then picks you up. Each journey goes for a minimum of four (4) hours.
There are a couple of stations that provide a canteen service, but you can bring your own food and drinks should you choose.
We have traveled on the Railway many times, having lived in the area for a long time. It doesn't really matter what end you start at but for the kids we find Queenstown as a starting point offers more activities for the kids to get involved with.
It's an early start with the trains leaving between 9 and 10 am depending of which route, and you'll need to be at the station around half hour before it leaves to collect tickets, use the toilets and get on board. There are no toilets on the actual train but each station stop has them.
We travel in a Heritage Carriage. The seating is in booth styles, and you can sit nicely a group of four all together. If you're family is larger you will all be seated together as well, in joining booths.
Prams don't fit very well inside the carriage and you won't fit them down the isle either. Take a collapsible stroller that you can slide under the seats out of the way and get out at each stop. It's about half hour between stops.
Leaving Queenstown the train travels through the southern end of town and onto Lynchford; the first stop. Lynchford was a bustling mining settlement in the 1890s and was very popular with gold and tin. These days the area has a station which has a museum inside. The best part about Lynchford is the gold panning. The kids can get right into it and pan for real gold, worth around $2 a peice if the price is right. Train guides provide a demonstration on how to pan so be sure to meet them at the panning tables as soon as you get off the train.
The next section is awesome. It's where the journey leaves the Queenstown area and heads into the mountains. The line travels through rainforest here so you'll get to see some iconic tassie species such as Leatherwood, Sassafrass, Myrtle and the odd Huon pine.
The most exciting part about this section, and he kids will love it, is the sound of the train as it starts to climb up the steep track. Using the ABT system to haul its load, the engine chugs and puffs and its excitingly loud! If the temperature is cool the steam from the engine engulfs the outside of the train and floats into the valley. It's beautiful! Out of the three steam engines in use, two are green so you can tell the kids Percy or Henry are pulling them up the hill!
Next stop is the top, Rinadeena. There is a cafe here, toilets and a lovely short walk around the station and up to a viewing bridge overlooking the train and station below. This is where a lot of popular photos are taken. The loco crew will fill up the engine with water here, check the train over and when ready, you'll all head down the other side of the mountain, towards the King River Gorge.
The rainforest is very enchanting in this down hill section. Ferns, giant Blackwoods, Myrtles and Sassafrass line the edge of the track. The best part is the King River Gorge. If you've ever seen the famous promo shot of the train from the air- this is where it was taken. 65 metres to the river below, the train crosses over two bridges and stops halfway for photo opportunities. We've seen two wedgetailed eagles here. One soared right past out carriage! When it's time to leave the Fireman blows the whilstle, and you can hear it echo throughout the valley. It's amazing.
The halfway stop is Dubbil Barril, also the bottom of the mountain. Here the trains will either turn around or get ready to continue on to Strahan. There are toilets here and a beautiful rainforest walk with stories along the way. You can walk right down to the King River to find the Huon pines that litter the river banks. Some are over 100 years old!
If your train is continuing on to Strahan, the next section of the track has heaps of bridges. The kids will love waiting for the next one to come as your travelling quite high up from the river. As the sun shines through the trees it feels like late afternoon. It's just beautiful. You'll cross the Quarter Mile Bridge just before the next station. Not original, the old one was washed over during floods. You cans still see parts of it in the river below.
Next stop is Lower Landing, near the famous Iron Bridge. This station is pretty cool, especially if you arrive when a Bee Train is leaving. R Stephens from Mole Creek bring their bee hives to the station on trucks, which are loaded onto flat wagons and pulled along by one of the original Deiesel engines from Strahan. Once at Lower Landing, the trucks are off loaded and they head up into the mountains to Teepookana Plataue. It is here where the native Tasmanian bee heads off to the Leatherwood Tree flowers to make his honey! The kids should be able to taste some Leatherwood honey here, and some of the other flavours too such as chocolate, ginger and meadow. Yum!
The farm land you'll travel through once leaving Lower Landing had many houses with lots of children, who would all line up on make shift platforms every morning to catch the train to school!
Next stop is Regatta Point Station in Strahan; the end of the line. Or start, if you like! This station is the only original station building left. Historically listed, the old station once house a tea room and had a second platform in the middle of the two tracks opposite the platform.
We rate the rail trip highly. There is toilets at every station, with only around 30 minutes max in between each stop. There is a basic change table at each station also, but you'll need change matts. Food is relatively good considering the location of where you travel. Almost everything is carried on the train and off loaded at the stations, so keep that in mind if the selection isn't that big. You can bring snacks and drinks for the family if you choose, as no extra cost.
Seating is comfortable. It can be a little squishy if your carriage is full however that's all part of the experience! The steward are very helpful, friendly and knowledgable. Hey go out if their way to ensure you have a great time, and if your kids are train buffs, they will try and convince them to become train drivers if they don't already want to be one!
We love the journey. The rainforest, activities for kids, staff and the whole romance of the trip. It's magical. It's well worth the price and if you can, include it in your west Coast itinerary.