By Wai Lin Coultas
FANCY CATCHING a train from Deloraine to Devonport? This may well come to pass within the next few years.
The Van Diemen Light Railway Society Inc. (trading as Don River Railway) is embarking on a significant expansion of its tourist railway products and services.
Anticipated to commence by Christmas this year, a weekly Penguin Market Train will travel 34 km along the spectacular North West coastline from Don River to Penguin.
Existing DDR diesel locomotives with refurbished carriages will begin running one return service on Sundays, offering up to 6,000 locals and visitors annually the enjoyment of a 1.5-hour train ride each way.
At the start, a Tasrail driver will operate the train with one DRR driver on board.
Once the Penguin Market heritage rail service has been established, further expansion intends to deliver a similar weekly heritage rail experience from Don to Deloraine and return.
Expected to start in three years, this will be a similar distance and scope to the Penguin Market services, also forecast to attract approximately 6,000 additional passengers each year.
To be undertaken, operated and managed solely by Van Diemen Light Railway Society Inc, which trades as DRR, the loop at Deloraine on existing freight train tracks would ‘add another fantastic tourism option for Tasmanian visitors’.
‘Deloraine is an infinitely marketable destination. The Meander Valley provides some of the best scenic travel in the country,’ said Niels Brun, DRR’s General Manager.
DRR has met Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck with their plans for the new North West Tasmania tourist train on the main line.
Senator Steve Martin announced in April: ‘The not for profit Don River Railway wins a $200,000 boost to expand its operations and attract more tourists and therefore jobs to our local area.’
A volunteer owned and operated tourist railway and museum in Don, DRR was established in 1973. Passenger services commenced in 1976.
Not only a unique heritage rail experience, DRR has significant social and economic benefits for the North West, providing work experience, support and training for long-term unemployed.
About 80 regular volunteers engage in activities including retailing, mechanical workshops, general maintenance, horticulture, railway safety, train driving, operations and mentoring.
Neils Brun also points out as part of the heritage rail sector, Don River Railway is ‘for many people, the public face of the rail industry’, enabling people to ‘work together for the benefit of future generations.’