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Guide Banner 4 2015

Ecologist and rail enthusiast John Robin describes the Magnet Tramway Rail Trail on Tasmania's West Coast.

"Seated on top of the rearmost truck was the guard, clad in an oilskin coat and gumboots. Now and then he laughingly sympathised with the 'Itinerant' which only tended to exasperate him more. As if the rain wasn't sufficient, the wind in the trees would also send down showers of water. When the Magnet siding was reached, it was a limp and sorry being that clambered down from the truck and gave up his ticket. The trip to Magnet mine is recommended to anyone who is tired of ordinary train travel, the fare is 2/6d."

So wrote an 'Itinerant Traveller' in Lou Rae's book Railways and Tramways on Tasmania's West Coast. The Magnet tram served the silver mine at Magnet between 1900 and the early 1930's. It was a 2'0" gauge torturous line about 16 km long running through beautiful rainforest between Magnet Junction near Waratah and the town of Magnet and its mine. Trains were operated by three Orenstein and Koppel steam locomotives one of which still exists in Western Australia.

To find the line today, drive out of Waratah on the Corinna Road for a couple of kilometres until you come to the Waratah tip on the right hand side. Drive into the tip and walk between the fly-blown sheep carcases and the rotten milk carton recycling bin You are now on the Magnet tram! Leaving the flies behind (hence the need for rain), the formation quickly descends into rainforest. The track is drivable in a 4WD and is certainly walkable or cyclable. There is at least one trestle bridge which has been filled in, but you can still see the cross beams!

The track is very windy, passing through the inevitable beautiful rainforest, until you come to the Arthur River. The trestle across the river still exists, but it has partly collapsed so time to get your toes wet.

From here the railway follows the Arthur river flats through what were once farms, finally turning left up Magnet Creek Valley to the mine site.

Although all buildings are now gone, there is lots of junk lying around to look at and the marsupial lawns amidst the epiplytic ferm strewn willows offer some marvellous camping sites. Bits of the mine's battery still stand and there are odd ruins of loading banks etc. round about. If you're too tired to go back the way you came, a quick way out is via the zig-zag road up through a quarry and back out on to the Corinna Road again.

Magnet is one of those magic little places. Just magic. So don't tell anyone about it and put up with the mud and isolation so it doesn't get "laundered" for the perfumed tourist set. Just bring your rain coat!

Descriptions of other West Coast Railtrails are also available in the trails section of this website.