Tasmania: 1857-1900.
The Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company.


In 1853, those with vision for the future of Tasmania were suggesting serious consideration be given to two major development activities:

The telegraph initiatives were implemented soon after but the Railway ideas did not move until 1868 when a Royal Commission was established to determine the cost of linking the two main population centres. Once the Report of the Commission was available in the following year, action began immediately. Although an unusual thing to do, the Government modified some of the recommendations and it set aside £300,000 to subsidise any company who would undertake the construction and complete the task by the last day in 1874.

In May 1870, a private company in England proposed it could undertake the task but it required the guarantee from the Government be raised to £850,000 at 6% for 30 years. The line was to be a narrower gauge than the Launceston & Western Line (1067 mm - 3 feet 6 inches - rather than the 1600 mm - five feet three inches - originally used). Contracts were finally exchanged with the private company called the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company with a guaranteed return to the company from the government of £500,000 at 5% over 30 years.


Survey work scheduled for the second half of 1872 was delayed but construction did begin early in 1873. The line ran from Hobart Town and reached Evandale (Western Junction) in March 1876 where it met the wide gauge Launceston & Western Railway which had been constructed in 1871. A third rail, to enable narrow gauge rolling stock to be used through to Launceston, was completed in November 1876. This duality made it difficult for the Government which had purchased the Launceston & Western Railway in 1873. Hence on the one track there were two lines and two operators (one public and one private). It was clearly difficult to organise charges to users or costs to be incurred by the two organisations.

In 1876, the Main Line Railway telegraph network was connected to the Electric Telegraphs network at Hobart and Launceston.

In 1881, it was proposed that a third line between Hobart and Launceston should be constructed using the Main Line Railway poles.


The operating situation was ameliorated to some extent when the government bought the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company on
1 October 1890 through the Tasmanian Government Railways which had been established in 1872 to purchase the Launceston & Western Railway in 1873. The problems were not however resolved but they had now to be placed in the broader difficult financial and development situation which had by then overtaken the Tasmanian Government (see Cooley (1862)).