The Don River Railway


The Don River Railway Yard

Last Sunday Naomi and I went to a car swapmeet near Ulverstone which Naomi will probably tell you about later. We went quite early in the morning and by mid morning had seen everything we wanted to see.

“What shall we do now?” we wondered, it was a nice day and we didn’t want to waste it.

“We are nearly all the way to Devonport. Why don’t we go and see if the Don Markets are running and we could visit the Don River Railway.” I suggested. Naomi thought this was a good idea so off we went.

We’ve both visited the railway before, once together on our first trip to Tasmania more than 20 years ago and separately. David and I went there together and spent a couple of hours looking around the museum and workshops and chatting to one of the volunteers who, once he found out we were railway people showed us into some of the areas not usually open to visitors.

Inside the station building

Naomi and I were pleased to see that the railway was still running and it seemed much the same as we remembered it. The DRR operates trains on a short section of track that runs down to Coles Beach. The trip takes about 30 minutes but passengers have the option to hop off the train and return on a later one which is what we did.

Train at the DRR station
Train arriving at Coles Beach siding.
Tasmanian Government Railways DP class railcar used for suburban trains

The service is usually operated by these DP class diesel railcars. This one, DP22 is one of the later ones. The original DP’s were wooden-bodied petrol-driven cars and were built for the Tasmanian Government Railways from about 1939 onwards. The later ones were articulated and the last ones were built around 1950. Passenger trains ceased in Tasmania in 1978 when Australian National Railways took over the running of the services in Tasmania.

The DRR does operate both steam and diesel hauled trains as well when they have crews available. They run themed trains at Halloween and Santa Specials at Christmas. I hope we’ll be able to visit when there is an engine in steam one weekend.

TGR diesel
MA class steam locomotive. DRR

After our visit to Coles Beach we came back to to look at the station and the yard. Some locomotives and wagons are static exhibits outside and others are displayed inside the big shed. There is also a workshop where maintenance and restoration work is carried out.

Static exhibits in the yard.
Wooden bodied DB guards van.
A wooden bodied passenger car.
A couple of old wooden wagons.
A carriage in the shed.
A locomotive in the workshop.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Don River Railway and spent quite some time looking around and chatting to the volunteers in the ticket office. We learned that the station building had originally been the station building at Ulverstone and that the old abandoned line to Wynyard actually crossed the runway at Burnie Airport (which is actually at Wynyard). We stopped to have a look the other day and found where the line had been but there was not much left to photograph.

There are plans for the DRR to run trains to nearby Penguin in the future. The DRR had hoped to get this project underway this year but sadly their long time CEO, Niels Brun, passed away a few months ago and it was decided to wait until a new CEO had been appointed before continuing. They still need to raise quite a lot of money to do this. I certainly hope it happens because the line between Devonport and Burnie runs along the coast and the views are just fabulous. I have wanted to ride a train along that route ever since David and I first drove along the Old Bass Highway and saw how pretty it was. I hope that in a year or two we will actually be able to do that.

Further Reading

The Don River Railway website

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/5551527/more-than-a-luxury-passenger-train-service/

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6423593/niels-brun-gm-of-don-river-railway-dies/

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6541768/don-river-railway-gets-back-on-track/

Taswegian1957

I was born in England in 1957 and lived there until our family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. In 2015 David became ill and passed away in October of that year. I currently co-write two blogs on WordPress.com with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania. In November 2019 I began a new life in the house that Naomi and I intend to make our retirement home at Sisters Beach in Tasmania's northwest. My current housemates are Cindy, my 14-year-old Staffy-Lab X dog and Polly the world's most unsociable cat who is seven.

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