Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

Don River Railway (Tasmania) – 10th December 2012

TomTom was pretty much spot on after we’d left the Tasmanian Transport Museum and we arrived at the Don River Railway in Devonport within minutes of the arrival time we’d been given 3 hours previous. We hadn’t stopped anywhere en-route but were in sheer awe of the scenery the whole way. The drive across Tasmania offered by far the best scenery we’d subjected ourselves to on the whole trip.

The guys at Don River were expecting us; we’d been keeping them updated on our arrival time while en-route. We’d also paid to have our own Private Charter at the railway and once pleasantries were out of the way we were on the platform watching the guys shunt a coach onto the rear of the passenger set, which should have departed at 1500 but had been held for our arrival. At that point we hadn’t realised what the coach on the rear was for but it would offer a very unexpected surprise.

Our plans were to get all the working diesels the railway had in at some point during the evening, the following were in service:

English Electric, SRKT, X Class – X4

English Electric, SRKT, Y Class – Y6

Goodwin/Alco, DL531, 830 Class – 866

Shunters – U6, V2 & Ruston #2

EE’s X4/Y6 did the honours with the first run from Don Village to Coles Beach over the 4km line. They were in multi and the crew certainly knew how to drive them. We’d been told that we probably wouldn’t get much thrash at the Don River; how wrong that quote turned out to be……..

At Coles Beach the Tas Rail main line runs right by the Don River station but unfortunately there would be nothing due until after we’d departed that evening. While the crew seemed to take their time in un-coupling the EE’s we had plenty of time for photographs, then came the surprise. Just as we were beginning to think it was going to be one of those days, and everything was going to take ages, Alco 866 appeared from around the corner having followed us down from Don Village. We’d been expecting to have the Alco but only in the station limits at Don Village due to the track not being in a fit enough condition to allow it down the length of the line. It turns out that since we’d booked out charter the railway had been working towards getting the bits of track upgraded that needed doing, using our visit as the deadline date, and they’d managed to get it done too. The coach they’d shunted onto the rear of the train at Don Village before departure was the only coach the Alco could couple to, which was why the additional shunting took place.

866 did not disappoint either, it did what every Alco should, clag, make noise and look the part. That was all proved during a false start at Coles Beach, when even the EE’s had their attempt to out-clag 866 too when they brought the train back for us to board.

We’d had grand plans of swapping locos about and having different combinations but by the time we arrived back into Don Village after the first run it became apparent that there was absolutely no need so all we asked of the crew was that the train formation remain as it was with the EE’s on one end and the Alco on the other, and we did two more round trips, the latter two actually being our own private charter. There were photo stops where we needed and run-by’s as well. It actually being a lot more productive with the train being T&T.

Our jaunt finished at about 1900, the train crew couldn’t have done enough for us, they were friendly, conscientious and very cranked up, which all added to a cracking afternoon of thrash, photography and fun but it wasn’t over at that point. Upon arrival back, and while the drivers prepared the shunters, we were given a tour of the shed, inside which were the following:

Dubs & Co 2-8-0 No.8

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, M Class, M4

Walkers Ltd, 10 Class, 1002

John Fowler & Co 0-6-0T

Beyer Peacock 2-6-0 “CCS” No.23 (undergoing a major overhaul)

Beyer Peacock 2-6-0 “CCS” No.25 (undergoing some major work also)

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, MA2

Outside by the turntable were the following:

Vulcan Foundry H Class, H7

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2 M Class, M3

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, MA4

Stored in the yard was:

English Electric SRKT, Y Class, Y8

There was also some very well overhauled heritage stock in pristine condition inside the shed, which has won awards for it’s restoration and presentation.

Shed tour complete we walked out of the other end to find shunter V2 already up and running; the desert……

All three shunters, U6, V2 & Ruston #2, were used in one way or another to “tidy up” in some way, shape or form and we utilised this tidying up to get a ride behind all three. Strangely the Ruston sounded the best of the three even though it looked like it was better suited to a garden railway.

We eventually left Don Village just after 2000 having had a thoroughly enjoyable time. We split into two groups again at that point, one remaining in Tasmania, while two of us headed back to the mainland the following morning for a few days of chasing Alco’s on freight. Our overnight that night was in Launceston, very close to the airport, thankfully.


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