By 1886 the VDL Co. had completed the construction of the Emu Bay to Mt Bischoff railway. The stations at Waratah and Burnie were still to be completed. In June 1887 the VDL Co at an extraordinary meeting sanctioned the sale of the railway to a separate Company - the Emu Bay and Mt Bischoff Railway Co was registered in London. In 1897 the Emu Bay Railway Company was registered in Tasmania with offices in Melbourne and London. The prospectus for the EBR Co noted that contracts had already been arranged with the VDL Co and the EB&MBR Co for land and the railways. In 1925 the two railway companies merged to become the Emu Bay Railway Co. On 15 December 1976 the Emu Bay Railway Act was passed by state parliament thereby relieving the company of its responsibility as a 'common' passenger carrier.
In 1997 the now freight-only railway celebrated 100 years of hauling minerals (and general freight and passengers in earlier times) on the remote Tasmanian west coast. Formerly a subsidiary of Pasminco Ltd, the world's largest zinc producer, the Emu Bay Railway was sold on 21 May 1998 for A$7.8 million, including locomotives and rolling stock.
In 1997 the Howard Federal Government sold Tasrail to the US owned Australian Transport Network (ATN) for approximately $22 million. By 1998 ATN had replaced a number of locomotives with rebuilt second-hand units, and had also purchased the Emu Bay Railway company from Pasminco. The new owners then announced plans to invest A$9 million in the railway over a five-year period.
In 2009 ownership of the former Emu Bay line (now the freight-only Melba line) passed into public ownership for the first time when all the assets of Pacific National (Asciano) passed to the Tasmanian Government.