We were nearly three weeks into our Tasmania holiday and it was day 20 (Monday 14th November 2022). We had a trip booked on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Our journey was the ‘River and Rainforest’.
The train departed the Regatta Point Station at Strahan and took us passed Macquarie Harbour and into the rainforest and mountains of Tasmania’s west coast.
The West Coast Wilderness Railway was formerly known as the Mount Lyell Abt Railway. The slow and arduous process of transporting copper ore from Mount Lyell to Strahan using 60 horse teams was the inspiration for the creation of a railway. Survey teams which were led by Engineer F.A. Cutten identified three feasible routes with the shortest via the King and Queen River valleys chosen in spite of its steep grades over the Rinadeena Saddle. Cutten proposed the Abt rack-rail system – cutting edge technology at the time – to negotiate the steep inclines.
Construction of the railway commenced in 1894. The contractor for the initial section made slow progress, experiencing low worker morale in the harsh working conditions. Engineer E.C. Driffield was engaged to oversee the whole project and sped up the work by employing day labour teams based in camps along the route. Workers armed with hand tools and wheel barrows felled trees, excavated formations, and built embankments along with 48 bridges.
The whole first stage from Teepookana to Queenstown was completed in 19 months. The second stage from Regatta Point, Strahan to Teepookna was completed in 1899 with another 12 bridges including Iron Bridge over the King River. The railway ceased operation in 1963 when road transport became a more economical option. About 35 years later the railway was restored and now operates as a tourist heritage railway.
Above:- Article from the Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Wed 26 Sep 1894. Image c/o Trove.
Our trip enjoyed a meal on board and a few stops along the way including a walk through the rainforest.
Once back in Strahan from our railway adventure we visited Peoples Park and went for a walk to Hogarth Falls. The park was declared in the late 1890s when the visionary Ware family recognised the importance of the tourist industry to Strahan. They donated 70 acres of land to be a park for the people and a botanical reserve, which included Peoples Park, Hogarth Falls, and Botanical Creek.
Between 1905 to 1925, on every Sunday, a brass band played beneath a rotunda in Peoples Park. Botanical Creek which runs alongside of the walk was Strahan’s only running water until 1969.
Above:- Article from the Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Sat 9 Mar 1901. Image c/o Trove.
Despite it being a rather dreary day and cold, the walk along the Botanical Creek through the rainforest was absolutely beautiful. The walk is about 2.4 km return. Rainforest trees including Leatherwood, Sassafras and Myrtle line the route.
We soon reached Hogarth Falls which were flowing well after all the recent rain. The falls stand about 15 metres high and is split.
It is not entirely clear on the naming of the Falls, however they were known as such from 1908 onwards.
After our walk through Peoples Park and Hogarth Falls we decided to head north to undertake a park activation at the Trial Harbour State Reserve VKFF-1835. It was about a 63 km drive from Strahan.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Trial Harbour State Reserve. Map c/o Google maps.
We drove north into the little town of Zeehan and then drove west along Trial Harbour Road which offered some great views of the coastline.
We stopped briefly at the Mount Heemskirk lookout to get a view of the town of Trial Harbour. During their 1798-99 circumnavigation of Tasmania, explorers Matthew Flinders and George Bass named Mount Heemskirk in honour of Ducth explorer Abel Tasman’s ship Heemskerck (Old Dutch for “Home Church”).
By the 1880s the township of Remine had commenced. It took its name after the the native name for the wildflower Blandfordia which grows in abundance on the hillsides surrounding the town.
The harbour in which it was adjacent to was known as Trial Harbour. It took its name from the vessel Trial which was driven ashore in March 1881. It was carrying Mr. Alex Ingleton, the Manager of the Montagu Mine. Reporters from the Mercury newspaper arrived and upon asking the name of boat on the beach, they raised their mugs of spirit and proposed the toast: “Here’s to the health of Trial Harbour.”.
By the 1890s there were over 200 people living in the town which had two hotels, a general store, restaurant, blacksmith’s shop, post and telegraph office and a police quarters, along with houses, tents and camps.
Above: Trial Harbour Hotel c. 1890 (left) and Trial Harbour. Images c/o https://tasmaniantimes.com/2021/11/tas-that-was-trial-harbour/
In 1888 a bushfire destroyed almost all of the buildings in the town. In April 1891 Websters Hotel in the town was destroyed by fire. In 1892 the Zeehan to Strahan railway was opened and this resulted in the town being redundant as a service port. Some years later another bushfire roared through the area and again destroyed the town.
Above:- Article from The Mercury, Thu 23 Apr 1891. Image c/o Trove
The Trial Harbour State Reserve is only small and was gazetted as a State Reserve in April 1999. It was previously known as the Trial Harbour Aboriginal Site.
It was cold, blustery and there were intermittent showers, so we operated from the vehicle for this activation. We dodged the showers, stretching out the 20/40/80m linked dipole supported on the 7 metre telescopic squid pole.
Marija made the following QSOs on 40m SSB:-
- VK2MET/p (SiOTA VK-HLD2)
- VK1AO/p (SiOTA VK-HLD2)
I made the following QSOs on 40m SSB:-
- VK2MET/p (SiOTA VK-HLD2)
- VK1AO/p (SiOTA VK-HLD2)
I made the following QSOs on 40m AM:-
I made the following QSOs on 20m SSB:-
We packed up and left Trial Harbour and headed south on the Henty Road back towards Strahan. We stopped off at the Henty Dunes. A mixture of mineral grains deposited here over the last 10,000 years has created the giant 30 metre high sand dunes. There was a 4WD track but unfortunately it was not passable due to all of the recent rain, so we did not get to see much of the dunes.
It was a wild and wet afternoon, but we decided to visit Ocean Beach, Tasmania’s longest beach. It stretches 40km from north of Macquarie Harbour and Hells Gates to Trial Harbour. Ocean Beach has no landmass at this longitude between it and South America.
Whale stranding frequently occurs on this beach. In fact about two months prior to our visit a total of 230 Pilot whales beached themselves on the beach.
We then headed out to Macquarie Head, but the weather was so lousy the views were not great.
- Our Tasmania, 2023, <https://www.ourtasmania.com.au/northwest/trial-harbour.html#:~:text=The%20Harbour%20was%20named%20after,the%20south%20Heemskirk%20mining%20field.>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- Tasmania.com, 2023, <https://tasmania.com/things-to-do/waterfalls/hogarth-falls/>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, 2023, <https://parks.tas.gov.au/things-to-do/60-great-short-walks/hogarth-falls>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- Tasmanian Times, 2023, <https://tasmaniantimes.com/2021/11/tas-that-was-trial-harbour/>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- West Coast, 2023, <https://westcoasttas.com.au/listings/ocean-beach>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- West Coast Wilderness Railway, 2023, <https://www.wcwr.com.au/tours/riveranrainforest>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- Wikipedia, 2023, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Heemskirk>, viewed 4th January 2023.
- Wikipedia, 2023, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_Beach_(Tasmania)>, viewed 4th January 2023.