Thursday, 30 April 2015

Scenic World: The World's Steepest Railway

Scenic World is 2 hours west of Sydney by train and is home to a unique little railway that can lay claim to being the steepest railway in the world. But before the Scenic Railway became a must-do attraction for visitors to the Blue Mountains, this little railway that literally drops over the side of a cliff got its start by hauling coal from the mine at the bottom of the Jamison Valley back in 1882.

Scenic World's top station, with the tracks to the right of the crowd literally dropping over a cliff. Photo 2015.

By 1884, the mine employed 54 men and in that year alone, 20,000 tonnes of coal were hauled to the top on what was then a twin track funicular railway. The coal was then hauled over a 2 km long tramway that ended at a railway siding near Katoomba Railway Station where it was loaded onto trains bound for Sydney. In 1928 however, the mine began carrying passengers on the weekends. For sixpence a ride, the first tourists were treated to a ride in an open coal wagon while sitting on a folded chaff bag. Thankfully, today's version is a little more comfortable. And if you don't know what all the fuss is about, you can watch my YouTube clip below that I shot back in 2010. The railway descends 310 metres to the valley below on an incline of 52 degrees, along the way passing through a natural rock tunnel.

From it's early beginnings, the Scenic Railway has progressively been upgraded from open air carriages to today's Swiss-built glass enclosed 4 car train capable of seating 84 passengers. Five years after visiting Scenic World in 2010, I returned with my wife Denise to write my Train Tripping Around Sydney adventure. The amount of improvements and increased passenger numbers on the Scenic Railway was proof that this Blue Mountains tourist icon is now well-positioned to entertain a whole new generation of thrill-seekers.

The Scenic Railway train that I rode on above back in 2010, has since been replaced by a Swiss-built, glass enclosed train that now seats 84 passengers, (see below).

Arriving at bottom station, visitors to Scenic World can then follow the Scenic Walkway, an elevated boardwalk that takes you on a 2.4 km walk through the Australian rain forest and return to the top on the Scenic Cableway, the Southern Hemisphere's steepest aerial cable car.

The latest Swiss-built Scenic Railway train arriving at bottom station, photo 2015.

The Scenic Railway, combined with the Scenic Cableway and Scenic Skyway means there is plenty to see and do at Scenic World. We each bought an unlimited Discovery Pass for $35 and were able to do everything at the park, including lunch, within four-and-a-half hours before moving on to explore the nearby Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters as seen from the bottom station on the Scenic Railway, 2015.

If like us you travel back down the Scenic Cableway to do the Scenic Walkway in reverse so that you can experience riding the Scenic Railway backwards to the top, the station makes for an amazing spot to photograph the Three Sisters which are visible on the other side of the Jamison Valley. And while you're standing on the platform high above the treetops waiting to ride the train back to the top, take a moment to look at the buffer stops at the end of the line. I can think of no other railway that I've ridden on that comes to such an abrupt end as this!

End of the line on Katoomba's Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains, Australia. 2015.

The Scenic Railway was just one of the places I visit in my book Train Tripping Around Sydney. My 3 day self guided railway adventure will show you how to visit Katoomba, the South Coast and the Hawkesbury River by train, and save yourself a fortune in the process. Best of all, it is only 99 cents and is easily downloaded onto your smartphone, iPad or tablet, providing you with a unique window-seat commentary to use while exploring Sydney.

Available now from only $0.99 through the following retailers


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