ABT Railway & Empire Hotel Queenstown
As a boy growing up in England, I spent most of my spare time train spotting. When I was a teenager my favourite steam locomotives were being rapidly replaced by diesel and electric locomotives. With this, the magical attraction faded.
The ABT Railway had just been restored when we booked our trip to Tasmania. We were staying in Strahan, on the west coast, and went by coach along a road with many bends, to join the train at Queenstown Station. On seeing the small, green polished locomotive my heart started racing. It reminded me of old times. Even the smell of the belching smoke was a turn on!
We took our seats in a beautifully restored timber lined carriage and moments later the train was pulling out of the station past the deserted streets of Queenstown into the western wilderness region.
After a short run up to Lynchford we disembarked for optional gold panning and a visit to a closed mine shaft. During this time the driver and fireman nursed the engine by making sure that it was ready for the 1 in 20 climb with the unique pinion arrangement engaged on the track mounted pinion.
Read about how an ABT Railway system cog steam locomotive works.
The ride up to Dubbil Barril was the best part of the trip. We were told to keep our heads inside the train as we passed through magnificent stands of trees, gorges and over flimsy wooden bridges. In this rainforest climate, the water continually dripped from the canopy above and it was hard to decipher the engine smoke from the mist through which we passed.
At Dubbil Barril station there was so much to see and do in a short time. There was an easy forest walk, bridge, packed lunch (provided) and the complexity of changing the direction of the ABT Railway steam locomotive on a man powered turntable.
For the rest of the journey, our locomotive was diesel powered and far less exciting for the rail enthusiast. The scenery changed on the approach to Strahan with ore stained rivers, creeks and even the remains of a collapsed bridge near Teepookana.
The hotel is an outstanding building with the many guest rooms reminding me of the boom times associated with mining. It has recently had a makeover and we found the rooms to be basic, clean and comfortable for a short stay. The dining room has an extensive menu of reasonably priced pub food and the beer is the best in the west!
Just inside the entrance of the Empire Hotel, there is a magnificent Blackwood staircase that was crafted in England before being shipped back to Queenstown. Our room was at the top of these stairs and we felt like royalty coming down the stairs for breakfast.
The sight of smoke and steam from over the road reminded me of where I had to be. I was happy filming my new friend leaving the station with another group of Tasmanian tourists on an ABT Railway journey they would never forget.
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