The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Tasmanian Railways, 125 years young in 1996

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

I'll readily admit to having done next to no rail fanning in my adopted homeland: over the last thirty years maybe ten days I suppose. Twice in the last few years I've taken kiwi friends out for a bit of a gypsy....down to the Ida Bay Railway or found a train on what is now TasRail and chased it for a while. I've enjoyed myself, said I must do more and then promptly moved onto other things.

In 1996 though I did make an effort and joined the Rails Round Tasmania Tour, that was celebrating 125 years of Tasmanian Railways, for two days then later chasing the train by car. Two steam engines were involved: the green M4 and red MA2. There were ten M class 4-6-2 built by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns Ltd in 1951. Designed for passenger service four were rebuilt at the Launceston Workshops a few years later to make them better suited to working goods trains and became the MA class.

The first excursion I travelled on was on the North Eastern Line between Launceston and Scottsdale. With no turning facilities at Scottsdale it was a tender first run on the way out.

Returning smokebox leading and seen here on a wooden trestle very reminiscent of New Zealand. I understand no trains have run on the North East Line since 2004 although the track is still in place.

The following day the train ran from Launceston south on the main line as far as Conara before heading east along the Fingal Branch. In this shot the train is entering Conara on the main with the line in the foreground being the branch.

After servicing the train backed up and then headed onto the branch.

Later in the week the train came down to Hobart. The morning it left I ventured forth and started my day near the Botanical Gardens. The concrete platform behind the locos is all that remains of the suburban station called 'Botanical Gardens'. The Hobart suburban services were abandoned in 1974 but at most station sites the concrete platforms still remain some forty years later.

Also taken at Botanical Gardens this photo highlights what became of the double track leading into Hobart. To the right of the train, behind the fence, what was once a rail line is now a walking and cycling track. Last year all rail activities moved out of Hobart and today the rails stand unused.

Outside of Hobart, at Rogerville, the train runs under the main north south road.

In what can only be described as glorious Tasmanian scenery the train tackles the grade beyond Campania. 

Both locos belong to the Don River Railway whose website ( tells us M4 is presently operational whilst MA2 is stored unserviceable. Don River once ran numerous trips out on the mainline but that was a number of years ago. Their website explains: 'Mainline tours as such have not operated in Tasmania since January 2006 when Pacific National cancelled the mainline running agreement. With the takeover of the the system by the Tasmanian Government in 2009 we are looking forward to once again running mainline trips, but it will be not be for some time.'  

Rob Dickinson