Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Margate: train that goes nowhere

Driving south of Hobart, you may be forgiven when arriving in the town of Margate for thinking that you've found the local railway station on the side of the Channel Highway. The sight of an MA class steam locomotive sitting at the head of a passenger train will quickly have even the most casual railway observer pulling to the side of the road for a photograph. But the Margate Train is simply a static display dedicated to preserve the final Tasman Limited Express train that once ran in Tasmania.

The Margate Train complex is located on the side of the Channel Highway on the approach to the town of Margate, 20 km south of Hobart in Tasmania. Photo 2011

The Margate Train, as it is known in tourist circles, is a popular stopping point for motorists on their way south to Bruny Island. There are 7 carriages coupled behind the locomotive that now operate as a 100 metre long train of individual small businesses including a Pancake Train Restaurant, Lolly Shop, Bookstore and even a Barber Shop. All are connected by a covered platform awning to an old IXL fruit packing shed that now operates as an antique store.

All aboard the Margate Train! Well, at least for books, lollies and pancakes that is. This train ain't going nowhere! 2011

While the idea of stepping into a carriage to check-out each little store is obviously a unique tourist gimmick, I think what is more unique is that a town without a railway station or train track in sight, (the 20 km long former Sandfly Colliery Tramway was the only railway ever operated near Margate between 1905 and 1922), took it upon itself to preserve the last ever Tasman Limited Express. The articulated carriages that were built in Launceston back in 1955, and the 1952 M class steam locomotive that was built in England by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn, of Darlington, UK, hauled the last ever Tasman Limited from Hobart to Wynyard on July 28, 1978. The locomotive, though displayed without a number, was eventually fitted with smaller non-standard wheels to provide greater pulling power on Tasmania's tight bends and undulating track and designated as locomotive MA3. Other preserved working examples of the M class steam locomotives can be found at the Don River Railway, the Tasmanian Transport Museum and Geelong's Bellarine Peninsula at Queenscliff in Victoria. While the Hotham Valley Railway south of Perth in Western Australia also operates some of the Tasmanian Government Railways' former passenger cars.

My wife Denise has all the time in the world to explore the shops on board the Margate Train while she leaves me to photograph the train back in 2011.

While I may have been in town as part of my 2011 Tin Can Bay to Tasmania Book Tour, like any railway aficionado or just plain polite tourist, we made sure we stopped by at the Margate Train for a quick snack and some souvenier shopping. I feel it's always important to support the people and businesses who have gone to great lengths to preserve something as unique as this. If you're travelling south of Hobart, then make sure you call by the Margate Train too. If not, the Margate Train is just one of the many locations featured in my book 30 Years Chasing Trains.

100 pages. Full colour print & eBook version available exclusively through

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