Cover image for Tasmanian Government Railways
Tasmanian Government Railways
Agency Number:
Start Date:
01 Jul 1872
End Date:
01 Jul 1939
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 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 T G R by 1885 and its track dismantled and replaced with a 3'6" gauge line. The third stage in the development of the Railways involved the Tasmanian Mainline Railway Co. which agreed, in Mar. 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 Co. 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 Oct 1890 the company was absorbed by the Railways. The acquisition of the Tasmanian Mainline Railway Co. linked the various 3'6" gauge lines which led to more efficient usage of Plant, Equipment and personnel. During the 1890s Tasmania suffered a 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 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 W W 1. In 1892, 6 new locomotives were delivered to haul express trains between Hobart and Launceston. The early 1900s saw new rolling stock 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 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 made to services especially on the secondary lines where mixed trains 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 . By the 1920s 4 new engines were acquired to service the Hobart Launceston Wynyard main 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 Zinc Works, Cadburys and Goliath cement works brought valuable long-haul traffic to the railways. This increased with the establishment of the A. N M at Boyer and APPM at Burnie shortly before W W II. Although tonnage handled increased the T.G.R. still had difficulty in balancing revenue with expenditure In other attempts to effect e
Legislation Creating:
HTG 1/12/1885 p.1633
Legislation Abolishing Agency:
Transport Act 1938
Functions Performed:
Controlled Agencies:
Tasmanian Government Tourist and Information Bureau (TA256)01 Oct 191330 Nov 1934
Previous Agencies:
Lands and Surveys Department (TA69)01 Jan 180423 Dec 1970

Launceston and Western Railway Department (TA244)31 Oct 187331 Dec 1885
Public Works Department (TA24)01 Jan 183501 Mar 1977
Subsequent Agencies:
Transport Commission, Railway Branch (TA1736)01 Jul 193901 Mar 1978
Series Created By Agency:
P1330 Civil Engineering Drawings of Tasmanian Railways and Works01 Jan 183301 Jan 1992

P2829 Clearance, Curve and Gradient, Cant and Other Measurements of the Tasmanian Railways Permanent Way01 Jan 187201 Jan 1997

P2826 Copied Civil and Mechanical Engineering Drawings from Other States and Rail Operators01 Jan 187201 Jan 1996

P1297 Construction Drawings for Steam Locomotives and Self Propelled Rail Cars01 Jul 187231 Dec 1960

P2831 Rolling Stock Reports and Asset Management Records for Tasmanian Government Railways and Australian National Railways Commission01 Jan 187301 Jan 1992

P2376 Registers of Service History of Tasmanian Railway Rolling Stock, Locomotives, Self Propelled Rail Cars, Camp Wagons and Containers01 Jun 187330 Aug 1989

P2093 Correspondence Files, Resident Engineer Then Chief Civil Engineer's Office31 Oct 187301 Dec 1969

P2316 Locomotive, Rail Car, Wagon and Carriage Outline Diagrams31 Dec 187515 Nov 1997

AA365 Ledger.01 Mar 187631 Dec 1890

AA358 Press Copies of Freight Consignment Notices - Longford.25 May 187917 Aug 1886

AC275 Personal History Cards for Railway Branch Employees Who Had Left by Jan 1947.01 Jan 188031 Dec 1946

P2778 Ron K Aubrey Collection01 Jan 188030 Dec 1980

AA359 Press Copies of Freight Consignment Notices - Westbury Station.01 Apr 188216 Sep 1887

P1331 Contract Plans (Bound Volumes)01 Jan 188331 Dec 1975

AA970 Plans and Sections for Various Railway Lines Prepared for Letting of Contracts for Construction of Railways01 Jan 188331 Dec 1932

AE493 Correspondence and associated Papers relating to the Fergus Blair Contract for the Construction of the Mersey Extension of the Deloraine - Devonport Railway01 Jan 188431 Dec 1885

P1275 "old" Railway Mechanical Drawings01 Jan 188631 Dec 1946

P1306 Index Cards of Old Mechanical Drawings01 Jan 188631 Dec 1939

P1276 Register of 'Old' Railway Mechanical Drawings01 Jan 188631 Dec 1946

AA360 Record of Freight Consigned at Launceston.16 Oct 188630 Jul 1887

AA366 Register of Monthly Reconcilations.01 Nov 188630 Sep 1890

AA373 Journal - Green Ponds Railway.01 May 188731 Dec 1905

P1333 Plan Index for Civil Engineering Drawings01 Jan 188931 Dec 1940

P2213 Civil Engineering Construction Drawings01 Jan 189015 Nov 1997

AA364 Record of Tickets Sold to Passengers Carried Mole Creek to Launceston Route.15 Apr 189031 Dec 1897

TC10 General Correspondence.01 Aug 189031 Dec 1963

AA361 Record of Wagons and Freight arriving and Departing Launceston.12 Mar 189129 Jun 1891

P2324 Assets Register (Stores and Equipment Book),29 Jan 189215 Nov 1997

P2092 Head Office Correspondence Files01 Dec 189215 Nov 1997

AA362 Record of Freight received at Various Stations in Northern Tasmania.02 Oct 189429 Apr 1895

AA363 Record of Staff and Stores supplied to Railway Gangs on the Western Line.01 Jan 189531 Dec 1898

P2323 Holiday Record, Rolling Stock Branch24 Aug 189919 Oct 1956

P1305 Boiler Records01 Jan 190031 Dec 1956

P2076 Train Control Records for Single Line Working (including Staff and Ticket System)01 Jan 190101 Dec 1983

AF7 Numbered Files01 Jan 190231 Dec 1923

P2215 Railway Service Classification List, (Staff List), Tasmanian Government Gazette01 Jan 190312 Jan 1977

AE460 Railway Service Classification Lists01 Jul 190301 Jul 1976

TC19 Alphabetical Register of Staff Leave.01 Jan 190431 Dec 1913

P2129 Contracts, Licences, Agreements, Leases, Briefs Etc.01 Jan 190501 Jan 1990

P2121 Photographs of Permanent Way and Rail Operations01 Jan 190615 Nov 1997

AE963 General Correspondence01 Jan 190831 Dec 1979

TC23 Personal History Cards for Railway Branch Employees Who were Still employed in January 194701 Jan 190831 Dec 1959

TC21 Exhibits Submitted to the Royal Commission on State Railways, and related Correspondence.01 Jan 190931 Dec 1926

P2137 Staff Registers, Traffic Branch01 Jan 190931 Dec 1946

TC20 Register of Railway Accidents Which were Directly Connected with the Movement of Trains and Rolling Stock01 Jan 191031 Dec 1976

TC12 Alphabetical Register to General Correspondence.01 Jan 191431 Dec 1963

P2145 Honour Roll, Tasmanian Government Railways01 Jan 191431 Dec 1918

P2832 Surveyors' Diagrams and Correspondence Regarding Identification of Lots at Closure and Disposal of Parts of the Tasmanian Railway System01 Jan 191431 Dec 1975

TC15 Index to Credit Accounts.01 Jan 191631 Dec 1962

TC17 Register of File Numbers.01 Jan 191631 Dec 1963

AA369 Cash Book - Railway Advance Account No. 1 Hobart.01 Oct 191630 Nov 1936

TC18 Card Register of File Numbers.01 Jan 191731 Dec 1963

P1200 Correspondence Files, Annual Single Number Series01 Jan 191731 Dec 1962

AE999 Exhibits and associated Paperwork22 Feb 191731 May 1924

P2269 Telegraph "Train Register" Book19 Mar 191723 Nov 1919

AA367 Cash Book - Assurance of Employees.01 Jul 191730 Apr 1933

P2582 Alphabetical Register of Incoming Correspondence01 Jan 191831 Dec 1944

P2139 Record of Examinations31 Dec 191801 Jan 1947

AF3 Commission Working Files01 Jan 191931 Dec 1924

P2590 Tests, Launceston Railway Workshops, Volumes01 Jan 191931 Dec 1965

AF285 Engineering Reference Library01 Jan 192031 Dec 1980

P2527 Files and Photographs relating to Requests for Information about Tasmanian Railways History and Operations01 Jan 192015 Nov 1997

P2036 Papers relating to Tasmanian Railways collected from the Civil Engineers Office, Invermay, December 1990.01 Jan 192001 Dec 1990

AF286 Register of the Engineering Reference Library01 Jan 192031 Dec 1980

P2581 Register of Files, Correspondence Files, Annual Single Number Series01 Jan 192131 Dec 1956

AE994 Correspondence Files21 Nov 192131 Dec 1923

AF1 Reply of the Commissioner of Railways to the Report of the Royal Commission and associated Correspondence01 Jan 192331 Dec 1924

AF2 Press Cuttings02 Feb 192323 Mar 1923

P2423 Specifications, Railway Mechanical, Single Number Series01 Jan 192515 Nov 1997

AA370 Cash Book - Revenue Account.01 May 192830 Jun 1934

AA371 Cash Book - Sundry Accounts.01 Mar 192931 Jul 1934

P2122 Miscellaneous Tasmanian Railway Instructions / Publications01 Dec 192901 Jan 1990

P1332 Architectural Drawings, Railway Civil01 Jan 193015 Nov 1997

TC16 Index to Audit Inspection of Stations.01 Jan 193031 Dec 1956

P2294 Register Cards of Architectural Drawings (P1332)01 Jan 193001 Oct 1992

AA372 Journal of Accounts paid.01 Jun 193031 Jul 1937

AA701 Fortnightly Notices: Staff Information Sheets.11 Oct 193024 Aug 1935

AA368 Cash Book - General Account.01 Sep 193230 Jun 1938

P2011 Index to Plans - Railway Civil01 Jan 193401 Jan 1954

P1279 "new" Railway Mechanical Drawings01 Jan 193515 Nov 1997

P2377 Survey/sketch Books of Tasmanian Railway Station Yards and Sidings01 Jan 193501 Jan 1938

P2094 Correspondence Files, Civil Engineering Branch01 Jan 193631 Dec 1990

P2424 Drawing Office Folders, Railway Mechanical01 Jan 193631 Dec 1992

TC11 Index to File Titles relating to Staff Administration.01 Jan 193631 Dec 1967

P1304 Register/index of Drawing Office Folders01 Jan 193631 Dec 1983

P2679 Alphabetical Register Cards to Correspondence Files01 Jan 193731 Dec 1962

P2125 Staff [History] Record, Mechanical Engineering Branch, Lexicographical Series01 Jan 193715 Nov 1997

P2327 Record of Goods Damaged or Missing14 Aug 194731 May 1989