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Published January 10th 2017
Australia’s southern most railway journey
I spot a headstone dating back to 1883 in a picturesque clearing. The rustic gravestones are nestled amongst the thick bush landscape of Tasmania's Far South. Birds are chirping and the waters of Ida Bay gently lap the shore as our guide ignites my imagination with fascinating stories of the pioneering families who settled in this remote region. This is one of Australia's bush cemeteries and would be difficult to locate without participating on the Ida Bay Railway tour.
Ida Bay Train
Ida Bay is a quaint village dating back to the convict era; a relaxing two hour drive south of Hobart, past the idyllic seaside towns of Dover and Southport, heading towards Australia's most southerly road. Relics from its convict past are still evident.
The Tyler and Jager families are two pioneering families who settled in the region and now rest at the bush cemetery. Tyler was transported to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) in approximately 1843 after being convicted for petty theft in England for. After serving ten years, Tyler began life as a free man in the area.
Two other headstones belong to Alexander John Jager and Christina Tyler. Alexander John Jager, a descendant of free German immigrants, married 13 year old, Christina Tyler in 1903. The harsh realities of life in Tasmania was highlighted by our guide as he explained that Christina Tyler gave birth to 21 children, with only 13 children surviving past one month of age.
Just past the cemetery, the remains of a sunken steamboat that had been left in disrepair jutted out of the water.
This is the last operating bush tramway in Tasmania. Sit back and relax as you meander 14 kilometres through buttongrass bushland on this World War II diesel locomotive. This most southerly railway in Australia is a must for train enthusiasts and children.
Departing from the Ida Bay train station, the scenic two-hour return journey includes a brief stop at the bush cemetery before continuing to Deep Hole Bay.
Deep Hole Bay
While the two-hour return tour only allows for a 15 minute visit to the secluded bay, visitors are welcome to spend longer; boarding a train later in the day to return to Ida Bay. Barbeque and toilet facilities are available. There is also a walking track for those wishing to tackle the 1.5 hour return hike to Southport Lagoon or Southport Bluff.
The historic train returns to Ida Bay on the same two-foot gauge line. Constructed in 1922, the tramway was originally used to transport limestone from the quarries to a wharf at Brick Point. The last limestone train operated in 1975.
Ida Bay Train Tracks
Two Malcolm Moore diesel locomotives drove the train as we ambled slowly along the water's edge on an open carriage built on a bogie wagon from 1896.
Ida Bay Train Engine
The carriages may be open or closed, depending on the weather so packing warm clothes is recommended. Other points of interest on the tour include Ida Bay Junction, Brick Point, Donnelly's Gates, Greaves Point, Jagers Curve, South Port Narrows and Major Honors Bay.
Ida Bay Railway departure dates and times vary seasonally. On the summer timetable, trains operate four times daily. Please view the Ida Bay Railway website for times.
Ida Bay Railway Ticket Office
The Railway Station Café is a great place to grab a bite to eat, selling burgers, fish and chips, sandwiches, scones, milkshakes and Tasmanian ice-cream. The food is reasonably priced with the beef and chicken burgers costing $15, a ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich priced at $7.50 and the Devonshire tea costing $10.50 for a pot of tea, served with two scones, jam and cream.
Children over 3: $17.20
Children under 2: Free
Family (2 adults and 2 children): $75