Re: Ida Bay Railway

Scott Clennett

Hello All,

The Ida Bay "Railway" was built from c1922 to carry limestone from quaries in the hinterland east of Southport down-grade to Ida Bay, in the Lune River estuary area. It had an initial length of about 8.6 km. The limestone was then transported by vessels to the works at Electrona of what was originally the Hydro Electric Power and Metalurgical Company, later the Australian Commonwealth Carbide Co., and locally known as the Carbide Company. It had no connection with the Zinc Works. Electrona is just north of the township of Snug, on North West Bay at the northern end of the D'entrecasteaux Channel. It was used there in the manufacture of calcium carbide, a product which, when exposed to water, generates acetylene gas, potentially explosively. The other main ingredient in the process was carbon, in the form of anthracitic coal, imported from various sources over the years, including, it was hoped for a time, from the Catamaran coal workings at Recherche Bay, not far south of Lune River. In later years, I understand, the anthracite was imported from South Africa. Acetylene gas was used for lighting, in brazing and welding, and in flame cutting steel and other metals, amongst other things. The process required large amounts of electricity, and was directly linked with the early development of Tasmania's hydro-electric schemes, particularly at Waddamana. It was somewhat ironic that acelylene has been largely superceded by electricity.
The railway was originally built to overcome something of a confrontation between the Metalurgical Company and the Huon Timber Company, which withdrew access to its tramway system.
In the 1940s, the Ida Bay Railway was extended by about 6 km to the Deep Hole, on the shores of Southport itself, where there was a much more satisfactory berth. With this extension, the last 500 metres or so leading to Ida Bay itself was abandoned, and the total length of the truncated line became about 13.8 km. With the closure of the Carbide Works, the section of the line west of the main south road leading to Recherche, essentially from the Lune River village, was closed. In time, the Tasmanian government purchased the line with a mind to the (generally flat) section from Lune River to the Deep Hole being leased out for the operation of a tourist railway. A succession of operators failed to make a go of it, at times amid controversy. About four or five years ago, the lease was taken on by Meg Thornton, and she seems to be having rather more success, running a (nominal) four-trip-a-day timetable for a 1 3/4 hour trip, at least when there is demand.

For those interested, it is proposed that the upcoming LRRSA tour through the Tasmanian Southern Forests will linclude a return trip on this railway, probably on Sunday 20 February 2011. I have spoken to Meg about this, and she is very keen.
All the more reason to come!

Scott Clennett

----- Original Message -----
From: Frank Stamford
Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 5:49 PM
Subject: Re: [LRRSA] Ida Bay Railway

Hello Lynn,

I don't think it was ever privately owned as a tourist operation.

I think the Tasmanian Government took it over
from the zinc company and then and then entered
into agreements with various private parties to
operate it. Their success in doing this has been very mixed.



At 05:24 PM 21/10/2010, you wrote:
>I visited the railway several years back and agree that it is a very
>worthwhile endeavour, even if it is off the tourist track a bit [no
>pun intended]... but when and how did the Tasmanian Government take
>over the ownership?? I thought that it was privately owned.
>Best wishes, Lynn
> >...
> >I understand the railway is owned by the Tasmanian Government so perhaps
> >some heritage grant money could be made available?
> >...
>Lynn Zelmer
>Box 1414, Rockhampton QLD 4700 Australia

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