2023 | Part 3

By now, the Commercial Team were busy planning new experiences. It was becoming apparent that the geotech project wasn’t going to be complete in time for peak season and that the middle of the railway was going to remain inaccessible for now.

Our team are highly attuned to our role as a demand driver for our region and the option of remaining closed indefinitely was not even a consideration. We had to find a way or make it. We had to run trains again for Summer.

In November, WCWR launched a brand-new experience, the Lynchford Express. A 1.5-hour heritage-rail journey from Queenstown to Lynchford Station, a station maintained for our passengers exclusively, but once a pioneering town with a bad case of gold fever. It is a return to our heritage roots, travelling through Queenstown and the rainforest fringe, sharing the railway story, as well as that of the pioneers that came before the railway, but without whom we wouldn’t exist.

WCWR’s Maintenance and Onboard Teams updated the station during the shutdown, delivering a new kiosk and decking, as well as improving our local mineral collection, interpretation and museum display. WCWR is grateful for the support of well-known Tasmanian geologists, Keith Corbett, Ken Morrison and Ralph Bottrill, along with Keith’s exceptionally knowledgeable wife, Sib, throughout this project.

The experience was well-received by locals and the soft re-opening received strong media interest and positive coverage across the state. Further, a second ‘new’ experience from Regatta Point Station in Strahan is due for launch in late February 2024, which will see a return to the immersive rainforest experiences that WCWR is famous for.

The year ahead will be another big one for WCWR. Both projects remain ongoing and we continue to work on plans to reopen the middle section of the line. The work is considerable enough that a date can not be reliably confirmed, however, we have released our 24/25 timetable with our shorter journeys in place throughout the duration.

Once these projects are behind us, the story continues. Maintaining a heritage railway to run passenger journeys is a continuous cycle of infrastructure maintenance. Whilst it ebbs and flows over time, 2023 saw us enter a flow state – of maintenance, that is! We are, however, upbeat and positive about the future, and looking forward to running longer journeys when the time comes.

An image gallery from left to right with a restored D1 at Lynchford Station, a shiny red Abt 2 on a truck arrives at Carswell Park and a steam loco runs through a cutting with carriages.

Credits 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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