Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Westerway: Tasmania's Derwent Valley Line

Westerway is a small town in southern Tasmania that is unique for having one of the few remaining examples of a preserved Tasmanian Government Railways station building in the state. Situated 65 km north west of Hobart, Westerway Railway Station first opened in 1909 after Tasmania's Derwent Valley Line was extended from the junction at Bridgewater.

Westerway Railway Station on Tasmania's Derwent Valley Line, as photographed in September 2011.

The Derwent Valley Line originally opened in 1886 and ran only 18 km from the junction at Bridgewater, to the town of New Norfolk. Over the coming years it was extended in sections until in 1925, the discovery of the world's largest deposit of osmiridium, an extremely rare metal now referred to as iridium, was discovered in the Florentine Valley and the line was extended to Kallista, making the Derwent Valley Line a total of 74 km long.

One of the few remaining TGR stations preserved in Tasmania. Westerway Railway Station, 2011.

In 1940, the town of Boyer became the site of Australia's largest paper mill, and a steady stream of log traffic passed through Westerway on its way down from the forests. Government railway operator TasRail completely closed the line beyond New Norfolk in 1995 after heavy rains damaged the track, and today the former junction at Bridgewater is the southern end of the Tasmanian railway network. But somehow the station building at Westerway has survived, thanks largely to the efforts of the Derwent Valley Railway Preservation Group. When I passed through Westerway in September 2011, the station building was receiving its final coat of fresh paint. It seems that one of the few remaining original Tasmanian Government railway station buildings in the state has been rescued in a town of just 156 people. And while I was on my way to explore nearby Mount Field National Park, Westerway Railway Station on the side of the Gordon River Road became a compulsory stop for an avid railway adventurer. Trains or no trains, a nicely restored railway station such as the one tucked away in a remote southern Tasmanian town called Westerway, is an attraction in its own right.

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