Abt Rack & Pinion

Anthony Edwin Bowes Kelly had a problem. He had discovered a mountain full of copper but no way to transport it to the coast.

He needed to find a way or make it.

Despite being just 35 kilometres from a deep harbour, the rainforest surrounding him was virtually impenetrable. Full of steep mountains, rocky gorges and incredible remote wilderness, he needed an innovative solution.

Inspired by the cogs of a clock, the Abt System involved a third central rail along the middle of the track, featuring vertical teeth, that engaged with cog wheels underneath the locomotive known as piston wheels. The system enabled locomotives to haul heavy loads up steeper hillsides, creating a braking effect on the downhill side. 

Untested in Australia, Bowes Kelly had no idea if it would work in the daunting terrain of the mountainous West Coast, but he bought a section of rack rail and one of the special steam engines fitted with the cogwheels.

His decision would revolutionise the railway and change the face of the West Coast forever.

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