2023 | Part 2

It must be acknowledged that passenger revenue keeps our business running. It covers the majority of our commercial operational costs, but it is not enough to cover the expense of running a century old railway. To date, much of our infrastructure costs have been covered by the Tasmanian State Government, for which we are very grateful. In turn, the economic benefit that the Railway brings to the West Coast of lutruwita/Tasmania is extraordinary. Every dollar spent sees a strong return through local wages and tourism dollars spent across the state.

In 2023, covering infrastructure costs meant funding a major re-transomming project and the required geotech work. Consultant engineering firm Pitt & Sherry were engaged to project manage these works, while WCWR staff conducted final inspections of re-railing and transom replacement works. Whilst the re-transomming project consumed most of our additional funding, estimated costs of the geotech work ballooned thanks to our remote location and rising costs of good and services.

While contractors were out in force along the corridor, our rail infrastructure and building maintenance teams were busy undertaking work that is usually impossible around the train running schedule. This included the construction of a new concrete apron and replacement of track at the front of the workshop to remove a track pumping issue, as well as spot installation of new sleepers in a number of locations. The latter is especially challenging in the remote areas of the corridor that lack road access.

Furthermore, water columns have been attended to, turntables at Queenstown and Regatta Point have been widened to improve safety for crews turning engines, and problem trees removed in the corridor. Plastic mesh has been installed on platforms on four of the six stations, and a new ventilation system has been designed and is currently being installed in the workshop to improve air quality during light-ups.

Meanwhile, workshop staff dismantled Abt Locomotive No. 5 so the side tanks could be cleaned out of rust, leaks repaired and internally painted. They also took the opportunity to strip the boiler to enable a full examination of all external surfaces. Magnetic particle testing inside the firebox detected thermal cracking beginning on tube ends and starting to propagate along some tubes and into the tube sheet. Cracks in the tube sheet will be ground out and welded, but despite previously successful repairs to the tube ends, the decision has been made to replace the entire nest, due to the age of the tubes.

Abt Locomotive No. 2, purchased from the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Glenorchy in 2019 was completely rebuilt at The Engineering Company in Wynyard. In October it returned to Queenstown after 60 years away from the Railway and was ready to start commissioning trials and testing. With a new boiler, wheels and overhauled motion and resplendent in a new livery, it will undergo final tweaking in the workshop, and it is hoped to be in revenue traffic in the first quarter of 2024.

Having spent the last few years under major overhaul, the various parts of the Drewry diesel locomotive, D1, were reunited in the workshop throughout 2023. The refurbished engine, gearboxes, compressor and wheelsets were topped off with new wiring and instruments and a fresh paint job, and, following trialling, the locomotive returned to service late in the year.

An image series running left to right with an earthmover located on the rails undertaking work to the rail corridor, workshop supervisor Ken walking next to a restored D1, and Abt 3 undergoing work in Carswell Park, being hoisted by the crane above the rail.

Credit image gallery: Paul Slater

This blog was written as part of a larger ‘Year in Review’ article for the Port Bay Express, a train enthusiast publication and was first shared on 19 January 2024.

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