Tasmania's Heritage

Agency Details

Agency Number: TA245
Title: TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS
Start Date: 01 Jul 1872
End Date: 01 Jul 1939
Description:

The construction of a railway in Tasmania was first considered in the years immediately following the establishment of responsible government (1856) the first line being planned to run between Longford and Deloraine. In 1865 the Tasmanian Government agreed to raise the bulk of the capital needed to finance the construction of a line between Launceston and Deloraine. In 1867 the Launceston and Western Railway Company was formed. The Duke of Edinburgh turned the first sod on 15 January 1868 to commence construction of a line which was to be 45 miles long with a gauge of 5'3". Construction proceeded and on 19 August 1869 an excursion trip gave citizens of Launceston their first opportunity to travel by train. On 10 February 1871 the line was ready for its official opening with normal services beginning the 14th. The opening of the line however found the company in serious financial difficulties as rising costs had forced it to borrow additional funds. To ensure that the line between Launceston and Deloraine remained open the Tasmanian Government took over the company and so the Tasmanian Government Railways was born. The late 1870s saw increases in traffic on the line which led to an improved financial position which allowed for additional investment in rolling stock.The extra rolling stock was built at the Launceston Railway Workshops and supplemented the original equipment which had been imported from England.

The next stage in the development of the Tasmanian Government Railways involved the Mersey and Deloraine Training Company which had been formed in 1864 to link Deloraine with the North West Coast using a line with a 4'6" gauge. This company also found itself in financial difficulties and when it opened early in 1872 had only 16 3/4 miles (27.9km) of track. Traffic response was much poorer than anticipated and after only 4 months of operation the company was forced to retire its only engine. Thereafter the line was worked by horses between Latrobe and Railton for seasonal produce traffic. The company was absorbed into the Tasmanian Government Railways by 1885 and its track dismantled and replaced with a 3'6" gauge line. The third major stage in the development of the Tasmanian Government Railways involved the Tasmanian Mainline Railway Company which agreed, in March 1872, to build a 3'6" gauge line between Hobart and Launceston provided the government was prepared to meet the interest charges on the capital, which it was prepared to do. The line between Hobart and Launceston was the most ambitious scheme launched in the Colony, its length being 122 miles (203km). Engineering works involved the line needing to traverse 3 major divides in the Hills; a tunnel 1.25km long to be bored through solid rock; gradients of 1 in 40 were common together with sharp curves and horseshoe bends. Construction began simultaneously from Northern and Southern ends in 1873. December 1875 saw completion of the last 9km of track between Antill Ponds and Tunbridge and on 13 March 1876 Mainline trains began running into Launceston. Before this they had terminated at Evandale because of differences in rail gauge.

During the 1880s Tasmania emerged from 20 years of recession thanks to mineral discoveries on the West Coast and increased demand for Tasmanian primary produce on the Mainland. This led, in 1882, to a decision by the government to authorise the building of a network of 3'6" gauge lines as it felt that the construction and development of railways could be more effectively undertaken by the State. During the ensuing years a number of new lines and branches were constructed. Although during the 1880s the financial position of the Mainline Company improved relations with the government were not cordial and as a result the most satisfactory solution was for the government to purchase the company as it had done with the Launceston and Western Railway. Accordingly on 1 October 1890 the company was absorbed by the Tasmanian Government Railways. The acquisition of the Tasmanian Mainline Railway Company linked the various 3'6" gauge lines which led to more efficient usage of Plant, Equipment and personnel. During the 1890s Tasmania suffered a severe financial depression which, combined with the fact that a number of branch lines were not paying their way, brought railway construction to a virtual halt. In 1898 an 18 mile (30km) line of 2'0" gauge was opened between Zeehan and Williamsford. The line is of interest because its narrow gauge proved to be efficient for use in mountainous country. The principal traffic on the line was ore from the mine at Williamsford. Between 1902 and 1910 there were 3 additional branch lines opened on this line. Additionally traffic from privately owned lines was hauled over the T.G.R. track to the Silver Bell smelter. With the establishment of the narrow gauge system the T.G.R. moved its West Coast workshops from West Zeehan to Strahan making it one of the three main railway centres together with Hobart and Launceston. Also during the 1890s the T.G.R. commenced a program of gradual improvement to existing lines which was to continue until the Great War. Additionally, in 1892, six new locomotives were delivered to haul express trains between Hobart and Launceston. The early 1900s saw new rolling stock being built and in 1912 two more locomotives were purchased for the Hobart - Launceston run. To further improve efficiency a new goods yard which gave direct access to the main overseas shipping terminal in Hobart was opened in 1915 and in Launceston a large roundhouse with accommodation for 44 engines replaced the old workshops and sheds. The decade following Federation saw rapid growth in both mining and agriculture. As a result Parliament was increased the number of branch lines so as to open up new country. By 1924 the T.G.R. had 1080km of 3'6" track compared with 735km of track in 1908.

The 20 years to 1939 were not easy for the T.G.R. During the period the T.G.R. attempted, to adapt the railway system to the needs of the passengers and the new secondary industries being established in the State. It was realised that if passenger revenue was to be maintained improvements would need to be implemented to services especially on the secondary lines where mixed trains (passengers and freight) often subjected travellers to long delays. To overcome this problem rail motors were placed in service. These vehicles seated between 17 and 36 passengers and were able to attract patronage by offering a more frequent service which was clean and fast. By the 1920s 4 new engines were acquired to service the Hobart/Launceston/Wynyard main trunk passenger route. In 1928 corridor type passenger cars were introduced and in 1937 corridor cars which included kitchen and dining facilities were introduced.

The establishment in the early 1920s of the Electrolytic Zinc Works, Cadbury chocolate factory and Goliath-Portland cement works brought valuable lon

Information Sources:

Legislation Administered:

Legislation Creating:

HTG 1/12/1885 p.1633

Legislation Abolishing Agency:

Transport Act 1938

Functions Performed:
21 TRANSPORT [1]
Controlled Agencies:
TA256 TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT TOURIST AND INFORMATION BUREAU 01 Oct 1913 30 Nov 1934
Previous Agencies:
TA69 LANDS AND SURVEYS DEPARTMENT 01 Jan 1804 23 Dec 1970
TA244 LAUNCESTON AND WESTERN RAILWAY DEPARTMENT 31 Oct 1873 31 Dec 1885
Subsequent Agencies:
TA1736 TRANSPORT COMMISSION, RAILWAY BRANCH 01 Jul 1939 01 Mar 1978
Related Agencies:
TA24 PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT 01 Jan 1835 01 Mar 1977
Series Created By Agency:
P1330  CIVIL ENGINEERING DRAWINGS OF TASMANIAN RAILWAYS AND WORKS 01 Jan 1860 01 Jan 1990
P2829  CLEARANCE, CURVE AND GRADIENT, CANT AND OTHER MEASUREMENTS OF THE TASMANIAN RAILWAYS PERMANENT WAY 01 Jan 1872 01 Jan 1997
P2826  COPIED CIVIL AND MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DRAWINGS FROM OTHER STATES AND RAIL OPERATORS 01 Jan 1872 01 Jan 1996
P1297  CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS FOR STEAM LOCOMOTIVES AND SELF PROPELLED RAIL CARS 01 Jul 1872 31 Dec 1960
P2831  ROLLING STOCK REPORTS AND ASSET MANAGEMENT RECORDS FOR TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS AND AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS COMMISSION 01 Jan 1873 01 Jan 1992
P2376  REGISTERS OF SERVICE HISTORY OF TASMANIAN RAILWAY ROLLING STOCK, LOCOMOTIVES, SELF PROPELLED RAIL CARS, CAMP WAGONS AND CONTAINERS 01 Jun 1873 30 Aug 1989
P2093  CORRESPONDENCE FILES, RESIDENT ENGINEER THEN CHIEF CIVIL ENGINEER'S OFFICE 31 Oct 1873 01 Dec 1969
P2316  LOCOMOTIVE, RAIL CAR, WAGON AND CARRIAGE OUTLINE DIAGRAMS 31 Dec 1875 15 Nov 1997
AA365  LEDGER. 01 Mar 1876 31 Dec 1890
AA358  PRESS COPIES OF FREIGHT CONSIGNMENT NOTICES - LONGFORD. 25 May 1879 17 Aug 1886
P2778  RON K AUBREY COLLECTION 01 Jan 1880 30 Dec 1980
AC275  PERSONAL HISTORY CARDS FOR RAILWAY BRANCH EMPLOYEES WHO HAD LEFT BY JAN 1947. 01 Jan 1880 31 Dec 1946
AA359  PRESS COPIES OF FREIGHT CONSIGNMENT NOTICES - WESTBURY STATION. 01 Apr 1882 16 Sep 1887
P1331  CONTRACT PLANS (BOUND VOLUMES) 01 Jan 1883 31 Dec 1975
AA970  PLANS AND SECTIONS FOR VARIOUS RAILWAY LINES PREPARED FOR LETTING OF CONTRACTS FOR CONSTRUCTION OF RAILWAYS 01 Jan 1883 31 Dec 1932
AE493  CORRESPONDENCE AND ASSOCIATED PAPERS RELATING TO THE FERGUS BLAIR CONTRACT FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE MERSEY EXTENSION OF THE DELORAINE - DEVONPORT RAILWAY 01 Jan 1884 31 Dec 1885
P1275  "OLD" RAILWAY MECHANICAL DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1886 31 Dec 1946
P1306  INDEX CARDS OF OLD MECHANICAL DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1886 31 Dec 1939
P1276  REGISTER OF 'OLD' RAILWAY MECHANICAL DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1886 31 Dec 1946
AA360  RECORD OF FREIGHT CONSIGNED AT LAUNCESTON. 16 Oct 1886 30 Jul 1887
AA366  REGISTER OF MONTHLY RECONCILATIONS. 01 Nov 1886 30 Sep 1890
AA373  JOURNAL - GREEN PONDS RAILWAY. 01 May 1887 31 Dec 1905
P1333  PLAN INDEX FOR CIVIL ENGINEERING DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1889 31 Dec 1940
P2213  CIVIL ENGINEERING CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1890 15 Nov 1997
AA364  RECORD OF TICKETS SOLD TO PASSENGERS CARRIED MOLE CREEK TO LAUNCESTON ROUTE. 15 Apr 1890 31 Dec 1897
TC10  GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE. 01 Aug 1890 31 Dec 1963
AA361  RECORD OF WAGONS AND FREIGHT ARRIVING AND DEPARTING LAUNCESTON. 12 Mar 1891 29 Jun 1891
P2324  ASSETS REGISTER (STORES AND EQUIPMENT BOOK), 29 Jan 1892 15 Nov 1997
P2092  HEAD OFFICE CORRESPONDENCE FILES 01 Dec 1892 15 Nov 1997
AA362  RECORD OF FREIGHT RECEIVED AT VARIOUS STATIONS IN NORTHERN TASMANIA. 02 Oct 1894 29 Apr 1895
AA363  RECORD OF STAFF AND STORES SUPPLIED TO RAILWAY GANGS ON THE WESTERN LINE. 01 Jan 1895 31 Dec 1898
P2323  HOLIDAY RECORD, ROLLING STOCK BRANCH 24 Aug 1899 19 Oct 1956
P1305  BOILER RECORDS 01 Jan 1900 31 Dec 1956
P2076  TRAIN CONTROL RECORDS FOR SINGLE LINE WORKING (INCLUDING STAFF AND TICKET SYSTEM) 01 Jan 1901 01 Dec 1983
AF7  NUMBERED FILES 01 Jan 1902 31 Dec 1923
P2215  RAILWAY SERVICE CLASSIFICATION LIST, (STAFF LIST), TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT GAZETTE 01 Jan 1903 12 Jan 1978
TC19  ALPHABETICAL REGISTER OF STAFF LEAVE. 01 Jan 1904 31 Dec 1913
P2129  CONTRACTS, LICENCES, AGREEMENTS, LEASES, BRIEFS ETC. 01 Jan 1905 01 Jan 1990
P2121  PHOTOGRAPHS OF PERMANENT WAY AND RAIL OPERATIONS 01 Jan 1906 15 Nov 1997
AE963  GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE 01 Jan 1908 31 Dec 1979
TC23  PERSONAL HISTORY CARDS FOR RAILWAY BRANCH EMPLOYEES WHO WERE STILL EMPLOYED IN JANUARY 1947 01 Jan 1908 31 Dec 1959
P2137  STAFF REGISTERS, TRAFFIC BRANCH 01 Jan 1909 31 Dec 1946
TC21  EXHIBITS SUBMITTED TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON STATE RAILWAYS, AND RELATED CORRESPONDENCE. 01 Jan 1909 31 Dec 1926
TC20  REGISTER OF RAILWAY ACCIDENTS WHICH WERE DIRECTLY CONNECTED WITH THE MOVEMENT OF TRAINS AND ROLLING STOCK 01 Jan 1910 31 Dec 1976
P2145  HONOUR ROLL, TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS 01 Jan 1914 31 Dec 1918
P2832  SURVEYORS' DIAGRAMS AND CORRESPONDENCE REGARDING IDENTIFICATION OF LOTS AT CLOSURE AND DISPOSAL OF PARTS OF THE TASMANIAN RAILWAY SYSTEM 01 Jan 1914 31 Dec 1975
TC12  ALPHABETICAL REGISTER TO GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE. 01 Jan 1914 31 Dec 1963
TC15  INDEX TO CREDIT ACCOUNTS. 01 Jan 1916 31 Dec 1962
TC17  REGISTER OF FILE NUMBERS. 01 Jan 1916 31 Dec 1963
AA369  CASH BOOK - RAILWAY ADVANCE ACCOUNT NO. 1 HOBART. 01 Oct 1916 30 Nov 1936
P1200  CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES 01 Jan 1917 31 Dec 1962
TC18  CARD REGISTER OF FILE NUMBERS. 01 Jan 1917 31 Dec 1963
AE999  EXHIBITS AND ASSOCIATED PAPERWORK 22 Feb 1917 31 May 1924
P2269  TELEGRAPH "TRAIN REGISTER" BOOK 19 Mar 1917 23 Nov 1919
AA367  CASH BOOK - ASSURANCE OF EMPLOYEES. 01 Jul 1917 30 Apr 1933
P2582  ALPHABETICAL REGISTER OF INCOMING CORRESPONDENCE 01 Jan 1918 31 Dec 1944
P2139  RECORD OF EXAMINATIONS 31 Dec 1918 01 Jan 1947
P2590  TESTS, LAUNCESTON RAILWAY WORKSHOPS, VOLUMES 01 Jan 1919 31 Dec 1965
AF3  COMMISSION WORKING FILES 01 Jan 1919 31 Dec 1924
P2036  PAPERS RELATING TO TASMANIAN RAILWAYS COLLECTED FROM THE CIVIL ENGINEERS OFFICE, INVERMAY, DECEMBER 1990. 01 Jan 1920 01 Dec 1990
AF285  ENGINEERING REFERENCE LIBRARY 01 Jan 1920 31 Dec 1980
AF286  REGISTER OF THE ENGINEERING REFERENCE LIBRARY 01 Jan 1920 31 Dec 1980
P2527  FILES AND PHOTOGRAPHS RELATING TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION ABOUT TASMANIAN RAILWAYS HISTORY AND OPERATIONS 01 Jan 1920 15 Nov 1997
P2581  REGISTER OF FILES, CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES 01 Jan 1921 31 Dec 1956
AE994  CORRESPONDENCE FILES 21 Nov 1921 31 Dec 1923
AF1  REPLY OF THE COMMISSIONER OF RAILWAYS TO THE REPORT OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION AND ASSOCIATED CORRESPONDENCE 01 Jan 1923 31 Dec 1924
AF2  PRESS CUTTINGS 02 Feb 1923 23 Mar 1923
P2423  SPECIFICATIONS, RAILWAY MECHANICAL, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES 01 Jan 1925 15 Nov 1997
AE460  RAILWAY SERVICE CLASSIFICATION LISTS 01 Jul 1925 01 Jul 1976
AA370  CASH BOOK - REVENUE ACCOUNT. 01 May 1928 30 Jun 1934
AA371  CASH BOOK - SUNDRY ACCOUNTS. 01 Mar 1929 31 Jul 1934
P2122  MISCELLANEOUS TASMANIAN RAILWAY INSTRUCTIONS / PUBLICATIONS 01 Dec 1929 01 Jan 1990
P2294  REGISTER CARDS OF ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS (P1332) 01 Jan 1930 01 Oct 1992
P1332  ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS, RAILWAY CIVIL 01 Jan 1930 15 Nov 1997
TC16  INDEX TO AUDIT INSPECTION OF STATIONS. 01 Jan 1930 31 Dec 1956
AA372  JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTS PAID. 01 Jun 1930 31 Jul 1937
AA701  FORTNIGHTLY NOTICES: STAFF INFORMATION SHEETS. 11 Oct 1930 24 Aug 1935
AA368  CASH BOOK - GENERAL ACCOUNT. 01 Sep 1932 30 Jun 1938
P2011  INDEX TO PLANS - RAILWAY CIVIL 01 Jan 1934 01 Jan 1954
P2377  SURVEY/SKETCH BOOKS OF TASMANIAN RAILWAY STATION YARDS AND SIDINGS 01 Jan 1935 01 Jan 1938
P1279  "NEW" RAILWAY MECHANICAL DRAWINGS 01 Jan 1935 15 Nov 1997
P1304  REGISTER/INDEX OF DRAWING OFFICE FOLDERS 01 Jan 1936 31 Dec 1983
P2424  DRAWING OFFICE FOLDERS, RAILWAY MECHANICAL 01 Jan 1936 31 Dec 1992
P2094  CORRESPONDENCE FILES, CIVIL ENGINEERING BRANCH 01 Jan 1936 31 Dec 1990
TC11  INDEX TO FILE TITLES RELATING TO STAFF ADMINISTRATION. 01 Jan 1936 31 Dec 1967
P2679  ALPHABETICAL REGISTER CARDS TO CORRESPONDENCE FILES 01 Jan 1937 31 Dec 1962
P2125  STAFF [HISTORY] RECORD, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BRANCH, LEXICOGRAPHICAL SERIES 01 Jan 1937 15 Nov 1997
P2327  RECORD OF GOODS DAMAGED OR MISSING 14 Aug 1947 31 May 1989