Tourism gets on track in Tasmania

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2001, 12:00am

A RUSTING OLD railway line, once used to carry ore from mines in one of the most desolate spots in Tasmania, is about to become one of the Australian state's main tourist attractions.

In the 19th century, miners worked in atrocious conditions to extract copper from Queenstown on the wet and wild west of Tasmania. The narrow-gauge railway was the only link to the coast, 30km through thick rainforest to Strahan, where copper ore was loaded on to ships.

The Abt Railway, which opened in 1898 and closed in 1963, has been fully restored at a cost of A$25 million (about HK$100 million) and within a few weeks it will carry tourists, not ore, to Strahan.

The line crosses 40 bridges, wild rivers and mountainous hinterland. The original steam locomotive, seen below, has been restored to pull period-style carriages.

Passengers will experience one of the world's last temperate wilderness areas. A rack section covers 200 metres at a grade of one in 16. Before the rail trip, visitors can take tours of the old mines. From Strahan harbour, boat trips can be taken to notorious Sarah Island, where prisoners were treated sadistically.


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