This week’s Sunday Drive was a trip to Zeehan on the west coast of Tasmania. Along the way we stopped at Tullah, where we visited the Wee Georgie Wood steam railway, Rosebery and our final destination was Zeehan’s West Coast Heritage Centre. Both the museum and Wee Georgie Wood deserve and will get a post of their own later in the week but for today l want to describe our journey down the Murchison Highway.
We started our day pretty early with a 7:30am departure from home as we wanted to get to Tullah before 10am when the first train ran. We’d never visited Wee Georgie Wood before so we wanted a bit of time to find out where to park, how to get tickets etc.
The route we took was essentially the same as when we visited Waratah recently but instead of turning off, we continued on the Murchison Highway. It’s hard to believe that prior to this road being built in the 1960s there was no road to the west coast from the northwest. Despite my accidentally directing Naomi to the road that goes through Hellyer Gorge which we’d meant to avoid because it is very winding although spectacular, we still made good time and arrived in Tullah just before 9:30 am. As we drove into town, we were greeted by several fire engines parked just outside the town. A bushfire in the area earlier in the week came so close to Tullah that the volunteers who run the railway went and moved the locomotive to a safer spot. We could see the blackened ground and burnt trees on both sides of the road as we drove into town and later, we saw the familiar sight of helicopters water bombing hot spots.
In case you think we were being a bit foolhardy going down there let me explain that I read about the fire on the Wee Georgie Wood Facebook page earlier in the week and did not plan on going until they announced that they would be definitely running trains over the weekend. The fire is still going but under control. The main areas of concern are some places where there is peat, which burns easily, and had to be watched in case the ground reignited.
I didn’t take a lot of photos of where the fire was because I didn’t want to be a bushfire tourist but I did snap a couple from the car and the train just to give an impression.
Tullah was once a mining town as were many towns on the west coast. I remember learning as a child in Primary School that in Tasmania silver, lead and zinc were mined. I never thought in those days that I would ever be visiting those places. Later, in the 1970s, Tullah became a centre for the Pieman hydroelectric power scheme. Many houses were built to accommodate workers during the building phase which included creating a man-made lake. At its peak the population of Tullah was 2,500 people. The most recently recorded figure is 165. The houses in “New Tullah Village” were sold off when work was complete.
We didn’t spend very long in Tullah, just an hour and a half at the railway. I hope we will go back another time and visit Lake Mackintosh and Lake Rosebery and the surrounding area a little bit as it is very attractive.
After leaving Tullah we continued on the Murchison Highway until we reached Rosebery, another mining and hydro town. The Rosebery mine produces silver, lead, zinc, copper and gold. The current owners are MMG Mining, a Chinese owned company.
There is a small museum there but on investigation it didn’t seem to be open so after a quick walk up the main street we continued on to Zeehan. As we progressed, we saw more signs of mining activity along the way as well as signs warning us of logging trucks turning off.
The Murchison Highway is not a big two of four lane highway. It is narrow, winding and hilly with one lane in each direction. Trees grow on either side of the road giving almost a tunnel effect at times. Sometimes we could see grey, craggy mountains rising in front of us.
We had two goals in Zeehan, one was to have a pub lunch. That didn’t happen because we could not find a pub that was serving lunch. We bought burgers at the local takeaway instead. The other goal was to visit the West Coast Heritage Centre, a museum that takes up 37 hectares in the centre of Zeehan. We spent over two hours going around the museum which has displays on mining and minerals, railways, a replica police station and courtroom and the Gaiety Theatre where you can watch a film, look into the auditorium and see displays of musical instruments, clothing and other household items. We both took a lot of photos in Zeehan so I’ll do a separate post about the museum later in the week.
After a walk down the main street we headed back to the car to start the trip home leaving Zeehan around 4pm. We were back in Burnie at 6pm and decided to stop at Macca’s (McDonalds) for dinner. This seems to be becoming a bit of a habit on these outings. We don’t usually eat burgers twice in one day but we didn’t think we’d feel like cooking when we got home. Actually, I ordered a Chicken Caesar wrap instead. I tend to prefer the wraps to the burgers at Maccas. We like to eat in so we were there for probably half an hour before heading home which we reached at 7pm.