Moving Cities to Low Carbon - Lessons from Hannover
When: Thursday, 15 October, from 6.30pm
Location: Wilkinson Building, 148 City Road, The University of Sydney
Cost: These events are free of charge
Contact: Sue Lalor
Phone: 02 9114 0941
Hannover has over twenty years of experience in planning to meet Climate Change, and a Low Carbon Future. Hannover has committed itself to a wholistic sustainable urban strategy, whose aims are derived from a vision of sustainable development and comprise protection of natural common goods, social justice, responsible lifestyles, urban planning and development, mobility, business development, sustainable local economy and global responsibility for local action.
Hans will outline the experiences of Hannover in Climate Protection, Planning for a Low Carbon Future, the Development of Model Urban Projects, Sustainable Resource Management, and Energy, amongst others. Given how long Hannover has been working in these fields, they have learnt many valuable lessons in what to do, and what not to do, as well as some of the barriers to implementation.
About the Speaker
Hans Mönninghoff has been dedicated to energy and climate protection politics for over 30 years. As Deputy Chief Executive for the City of Hannover Mönninghoff established and led Hannover's Carbon Reduction Initiatives with a target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, on the back of existing successful initiatives to reduce carbon. Mönninghoff has played a key role in the development of Hannover as the greenest City in Germany with the most square meters of green space per capita.
For more information on this talk visit www.arch.usyd.edu.au/prc or download the flyer.
I look forward to seeing you here.
Director, Planning Research Centre
Professor, Urban and Regional Planning
University of Sydney
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The research the report is based on was done in conjunction with Connection Research, in association with the World Wildlife Fund. It follows an earlier report on private sector green ICT strategies which was far less positive: GREEN IT: The Convenient Truth.
Unfortunately, Fujitsu have produced their reports as a large (5.4Mbyte) hard to read and hard to get PDF file. Fujitsu should consider providing their report as a set of small, easy to read, mobile compatible web pages. This would reduce the carbon emissions cause by the report by at least 90%. For those who do not want to cause excessive greenhouse gas emissions which downloading the full report would cause, here is an excerpt:
The idea of intergenerational responsibility and balancing the three elements of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) present both challenges and opportunities for the way we live today. With rapid population growth and the
increasing impact of climate change, we need to act now.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the ICT sector as a proportion of global total emissions are forecast to increase from 2% in 2009 to 6% by 2020. Over the
same period the number of personal computers is expected to more than treble, from 1.2 billion to 4 billion. The ICT industry has an important leadership role to play - both in mitigating its own impacts and in exploiting its technology to enable emissions reductions in many other industries and business processes.
The Gershon Report recommended the Australian Government develop a Whole of Government Sustainability ICT Plan1 to manage and reduce the environmental impact of the government’s ICT activities. This plan, developed by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Deregulation, is effective from early
In late 2008 Fujitsu Australia conducted research to understand how ICT departments in the Australian private sector were responding to the emerging carbon priced economy. Fujitsu Australia published these findings in a report titled Green IT: The
Convenient Truth 2.
In September 2009 Fujitsu Australia commissioned further research to understand how Australian Government agencies are preparing for the emerging sustainable ICT aspirations and goals being set by the Australian Government.
The research found that Australian Government ICT managers are personally more concerned about climate change than the Australian population generally, and also more concerned than ICT managers in other sectors. In fact, the survey
identified no climate change deniers at all. This may be because of an increased awareness of the issues raised in the Gershon report and the subsequent high profile of sustainability in government generally.
The research clearly shows that Australian Government ICT managers have done far more in the measurement of ICTs power consumption, and in ensuring accountability for Green ICT, than their counterparts in the private sector.
This would indicate Australian Government ICT managers are demonstrating Green ICT leadership, both as a result of their agencies’ overall commitment to a green strategy and because of their awareness of the ICTs important role in reducing overall carbon emissions. ...
From: Green ICT: The State of the Nation, A Report on How Australian Government Agencies are Responding to the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy, Fujitsu, 29 September 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Hawkei is claimed to "... become a fully integrated node on the network centric battlefield" with C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence). However, apart from having sufficient electrical generating capacity, it is not clear how a vehicle could have C4I fundamental to the design. Computer and telecommunications change much faster than vehicle designs. If the Hawkei had C4I closely integrated, the design would be obsolete with eighteen months.
War 2.0: Political Violence & New Media
Today, war is conducted not only by the dispatch of Tomahawks in the air or Kalashnikovs and suicide attacks on the ground but also by means of bytes, tweets, digital images, and social networking forums. (New) media technology, in other words, has become a medium of war and diplomacy.
This multidisciplinary two-day symposium on 7-8 October hosted by the Department of International Relations at the ANU will map the shifting arena of war, conflict, terrorism, and violence in an intensely mediated age. The symposium will bring together international relations academics, media scholars and media practitioners, policymakers and defence staff. It will explore cultural, political, strategic, and technological transformations in media platforms and media participation and assess their impact on policy, publics, and outcomes of political conflict.
The symposium addresses questions such as: What is 'new' about new media? How have the transformations in media technology influenced media-military relations? How have these transformations impacted upon traditional media actors? How are war, conflict, terrorism and violence represented; what are the consequences of these representations? In what ways has new media technology empowered marginalised voices in war, conflict, and terrorism? And how has the transformation of the media landscape impacted on the way states conduct their foreign policy? ...
From: War 2.0: Political Violence & New Media, ANU, 2009
7 October 9:15 - 9:30 Introduction 9:30 - 10:45 Keynote address by James Der Derian
From the Image of War to the War of Images
(Live webcast from Brown University)
10:45 - 11:15 Morning tea 11:15 - 12:45 Panel One: Traditional Voices
Responding to New Toys, New Challenges
Kate Geraghty, Sydney Morning Herald photographer
Prakash Mirchandani, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU
Bill Paterson, Ambassador for Counter-terrorism
Peter Mantello, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan
Brigadier Brian Dawson, Director General Public Affairs, ADF
12:45 - 1:45 Lunch 1:45 - 3:00 Keynote address by Eric Beecher, Crikey.com
The Changing Media Landscape
3:00 - 3:30 Afternoon tea 3:30 - 5:00 Panel Two: New Voices
New Media Empowering New Actors
Lisa Goldman, political blogger from Tel Aviv
Sophie McNeill, SBS Dateline video journalist
Mark Andrejevic, University of Queensland
Matthew Hornsey, University of Queensland
Nicholas Farrelly, ANU
Mehran Mortezai, Iranian student and Twitterer
5:00 - 6:30 Reception
8 October 9:30 - 10:45 Keynote address by Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald
A Correspondent's Journey
10:45 - 11:15 Morning tea 11:15 - 12:45 Panel Three: War 2.0 - What are We Facing?
How is New Media Shaping Conflict?
Thomas Rid, Authors of War 2.0
Peter Leahy, University of Canberra
Seb Kaempf, University of Queensland
Julie Posetti, University of Canberra
Hugh White, ANU
12:45 - 1:45 Lunch 1:45 - 3:00 Concluding Plenary
Politics by Other Means?
From: Program for War 2.0: Political Violence & New Media, ANU, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Cradle Mountain Backpackers YHA is located opposite the Cradle Mountain Transit Terminal outside the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park entrance. Due to the pressure of tourism, visitors are discouraged from bringing their cars into the park. There is only limited parking in the park with narrow roads having many one way sections. Visitors can park at the transit centre and take a suttle bus into the park (cost included in some of the National Parks Passes). The YHA is located at the back of a caravan park and is run from the caravan park office. The cabins are set between the trees, with the wildlife coming right in amongst the buildings (you need to make sure you close the door or they will be in with you). The accommodation is clean, warm and comfortable. There is a small shop and free Internet access at the caravan park office.
In addition there are several upmarket resorts near the park entrance, particularly Cradle Mountain Chateau, run by the same Pure Tasmania group which runs the railway and cruses at Strahan.
A point of confusion is that the transit centre is separate from the park visitors centre, which is right at the park entrance. Both the transit centre and the visitors centre have gift shops and information displays. There are some short walks around the visitors centre. The visitors centre is not always staffed (visitors are still obliged to pay an entry fee). There are two push buttons at the centre for contacting the shuttle bus or summoning emergency assistance (this appears to be the award winning "Telstra Wayphone"). Also there are books for visitors to record their arrival and departure for safety. All visitors are encouraged to log in and out, even for short walks.
The board walks in the park are extensive. This is because the ground, which is wet for much of the year, is very fragile and in many places is impassable due to the thick mud. The main board walks from the visitors centre into the park carries power cables under it and may one day form part of the National Broadband Network.
It is about ten kilometres from the park entrance to Dove Lake, the most accessible of the scenic vistas. At the lake there is a small car park and a shelter, with another log book for visitors. This is the furtherer the shuttle bus goes into the park.
From this point for the next two and a half hours on a quick walk around the lake I was unable to stop marvelling at the view, which is unlike anything I have seen before in Australia. The views look like something from a picture postcard and are almost painfully wonderful. Around each corner of the walk around the lake there seems to be an even more spectacular view.
The boathouse at the water's edge, made from local timber now weathered to a lustrous grey, appears suspiciously like it was build for no other reason than to enhance the scene. The snow on the lichen covered rocks appears as though it has been carefully arranged by a landscape artist to enhance the view between the gnarled trees to the distant peaks.
Perhaps if this was Japan or China, it would not seem so remarkable. But Australia is usually a land of large flat open plains and animals you see fleetingly after dark. Here were the wildlife was standing around waiting for me to photograph, with lakes and snow peaks behind.
This semester break, come along to a teaching forum on creativity in teaching and innovation in the academic learning environment.
Professor Mandy Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University will be giving a talk entitled The Senses in Teaching.
Dr Thomas Nielsen, an expert in Imaginative Education, will talk on Emotions, creativity and imagination: keys to a whole person approach to education.
... Stephen Darwin, who works to improve the quality and integration of educational evaluation, will be discussing expansive learning in light of the impact of new technologies and approaches to teaching.
Lunch will be provided, please RSVP by COB Friday 2nd October to email@example.com
Speaker/Host: Professor Mandy Thomas, Dr Stephen Darwin and Dr Thomas Nielsen
Venue: Forestry Room 1.02, Building 48
Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Time: 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Enquiries: Vivien Silvey on 6125 2606
From: Creativity in teaching and learning, What's On @ ANU, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Public Sector Network vision
1.1.1 The Public Sector Network (PSN) vision one of creating ‘the effect of a single network across UK government’, delivered through multiple service providers in order to ensure ongoing value and innovation.
1.1.2 In some respects, this is similar to the Internet model, whereby ‘service consumers’ experience flexibility and inter-working without much concern for underlying inter-network ‘plumbing’. However, the vision is also one of a ‘private network of networks’ for the public sector, addressing the various special security, resilience, service and availability needs of public sector organisations.
The PSN in practical terms
1.1.3 The PSN is a supply-side ‘network of networks’, making network-oriented services utilitylike for the public sector. Hence, it is essentially an inter-working and standards framework for the suppliers of network-oriented services to the public sector, governing both interconnection of supplier services and the relevant key service characteristics/attributes that ensure inter-working and end-to-end service assurance across supplier portfolios. As such, it includes:
1.1.4 To be clear, this standards framework will not replace current quality (ISO 9001), service (ISO 20001) and security (ISO 27001; Security Policy Framework) management standards, or Next Generation Network (NGN) standards; rather, it will compliment these by extending standards to various technical, commercial and service inter-working arrangements for government’s suppliers of network-oriented services. ...
- an overarching PSN Operating Model and governance approach – including a Code of Interconnection (CoICo) and Code of Practice (CoP) for service providers, and a Code of Connection for service consumers;
- new standards that ensure inter-working across network-oriented services and end-toend serviceability across suppliers;
- a ‘marketplace’ for PSN Services, established through procurements; and
- various core enabling infrastructure, including:
- a Government Conveyance Network (GCN), this being the interconnect ‘glue’ between the individual service providers conforming to the CoICo;
- central technical infrastructure providing for service inter-dependency analysis across suppliers, supporting end-to-end service management and assurance; and,
- an appropriate commercial settlements regime for suppliers, underpinning endto- end service management and assurance where the chosen delivery model involves peered service providers.
From: GCN Service Description, Version1.1, PSN Core Infrastructure project team, UK Cabinet Office, 24 April 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
The Lady Jane Franklin II, cruse ship is part of the Pure Tasmania tourism conglomerate, who also run the tourist railway, casinos and resorts. This is an aluminium 32 m catamaran built by Richardson Devine Marine in Hobart and designed by Crowther Design Sydney (now merged with Tasmania's Incat, into Incat Crowther), with interior design by Spear Green Design. With a capacity for 228 passengers, this is a very large and very comfortable ship.
The rival World Heritage Cruises run a similar cruse using a very similar ship. Lonely Planet recommend this cruse and you can get a YHA discount. I didn't realise this at the time and book with Pure Tasmania, but do not regret it as the tour was good. WHC have a very poor web site compared to PT, making it very difficult to find any information about their tours.
There are three classes of seating on the ship: the upper deck has the premium class, with wine supplied, the window seats on the lower deck are second class and third class are termed "atrium" away from the windows. While the cheapest seats, the atrium area at the front still provides a good view, with large windows each side, out the front, and through a glass roof. There is an outdoor viewing area at the bow and stern, open apart from when the ship is docking. At more than 30 knots, standing on the bow while approaching the harbour entrance between two rocky outcrops of "Hells Gate" was an exhilarating experience.
The ship tours Macquarie Harbour. The environmental cause adopted by the ship is the endangered Orange Bellied Parrot. For those wanting to see the wildlife closer up, there are kayak tours from the ship. For the less adventitious, there is a short board walk into the forest while the kayaks are launched.
The ship is equipped with LCD displays similar to those in aircraft with a moving map showing the location and orientation of the vessel. We started at 42 degrees 9.207 minutes South, 145 degrees 19.745 minutes East. The harbour is the second largest in the world. Much of the year the top few m of water is fresh, with a brown colour of tannin from the roots of native grasses.
The harbour is used for salmon and trout farming. It would be interesting to see if the tannin in the water increases the anti-oxidant levels of the fish. Some rivers of the harbour are contaminated by mining with heavy metals, but the water is diluted with other fresh and salt water.
Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout are farmed in floating nets. A black polythene tube, looking like a giant bicycle inner tube, floats on the surface holding the net in place. A water cannon is used to fire the fish food across the floating pen.
The tour visits the southern end of the Tasmanian world heritage area, which extends north to Cradle Mountain. The tour guide was proud to point out that the area meets 7 out of ten of the criteria for world heritage areas, equal first to one in China. The area has significant natural heritage and cultural aspects. Some of the reasons for listing are nothing to be proud of, such as the existence of endangered species and the indigenous cultural remains of the people who were driven out of the area.
Patricio Silvia tour guide on Sarah Island also performs in the play "The Ship that Never Was" by Richard Davey. The play is performed in Strahan by the Round Earth Company and is published as a graphic novel. The play was first performed in 1984 and has been running since, including performances on Sahara Island. It tells the story of convicts who take over a ship on the island and sail to Chile. The theatre company have taken a break from performances to visit Chile (and thus delay their attempt to beat Christie's "The Mouse Trap" for the number of performances of a play).
This week the movie Van Dieman's Land (by Jonathan Auf Der Heide and Oscar Redding) opened in Australian cinemas. It tells the story of the escape of Alexander Pearce from the penal colony at Macquarie Harbour. While the landscape is majestic when seen from the comfort of a luxury ship, close up it can be far less comfortable. A reminder of this was the sight of a Huon Pine crushing one of the board walks on the Gordon River. Beneath the path is mud, lots of mud. The tree did not break suddenly, instead it gradually lowered itself to the ground through the mud. The trees use this as a means of prorogation. The result is a dense tangle of vegetation and mud which is very difficult to travel through.
Tasmania's past shows up in other ways for the observant. Tasmania has a mining tradition. Part of that tradition is temporary miner's huts, called "Dongas". The modern version of these are sophisticated prefabricated and modular buildings (I suggested they be used for classrooms). In Strahan, after the cruse, I noticed on holiday village "Strahan Bungalows", which appeared to be made from these modules, probably by Statewide Constructions.
There are some problems with this scheme, due to the government's climate change initiatives being split between three departments: Energy, Environment and the Department of Climate Change. The reporting requirements for EEO are different from those for the proposed carbon reduction scheme. Also EEO gets little attention for senior ministers and limited funding, even though it is a program which covers the bulk of Australia's carbon emitting companies.
The information provided by EEO is not particularly well organised, with the list of company information being split across web pages, based on the first letter of the company name.
Some information on the program:
- Industry Guidelines
- Assessment Handbook
- Assessment and Reporting Schedule Template
- Case Studies
- EEO Workshops 2006-2009
- Energy Savings Measurement Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Services directory
- Verification fact sheet
- Opening presentation – Update on EEO and Energy Policy
- National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting
- Investor Perspective – Phil Preston
- Investor Perspective – Andrew Barr[PDF,89KB]
- EEO Public and Government Reporting [PDF,130kb]
- EEO Verification [PDF,122KB]
- Trends from First Assessments [PDF,130KB]
- Data Analysis [PDF,204KB]
- Energy Mass Balances [PDF,133KB]
- Representative Assessments [PDF,687KB]
- Industry Assistance Programs [PDF,78KB]
- National Australia Bank [PDF,66 KB]
- Energy Manager, Sydney Water [PDF,163KB]
- Santos Limited [PDF,92KB]
- Toyota Australia [PDF,303KB]
- Incitec Pivot Ltd [PDF, 97KB]
- Linfox [PDF,306KB]
- Shell Geelong Refinery [PDF,94KB]
- Thiess's Australian Mining business unit [PDF,841KB]
- Wesfarmers Limited [PDF,212KB]
- OneSteel [PDF,515KB]
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Some topics: incident command system, national response framework, social media, neighbourhood communications networks, mitigation messages, preparedness messages, first informers, changing media world, trusted community leaders, emergency management operations, next disaster strikes, disaster messages, emergency officials, emergency management organisations, cable news outlets, citizen journalists, media partnership, emergency managers, mitigation initiative, online news sites, traditional media outlets, citizen journalism, disaster information, participatory journalism, incident management system
Some topics: boomburbs, edgeless cities, favoured quarter, phoenix region, accidental cities, housing hardship, unincorporated places, reluctant cities, panoramic maps, unincorporated land, urban realms, growth counties, homeowners associations
The Victorian advertisements looks very similar to those which the NSW Government used to promote its "North West Metro". These advertisements were designed to reassure the public that this plan was going to be implemented very soon, unfortunately this turned out not to be true.
The Victorian government might usefully reallocate money from advertising a transport plan to replace its stalled MyKi smart card ticketing system. The Victorian Minister for Transport might like to visit Istanbul and ride their integrated public transport system, using an Akbil electronic token. Istanbul's Akbil is less technically sophisticated than Melbourne's MyKi, but has the advantage of being proved in daily use. Melbourne could benefit from such a system.
The Victorian government is renaming Melbourne's train system a 'Metro'. A metro system is distinguished by having a high capacity, frequent service. Usually with a metro there is no timetable, with services running at specified frequencies, such as every five to fifteen minutes. The Melbourne trains are not such a system and are therefore not a metro. As with the NSW failed North West project, simply relabeling a rail line a "Metro" will not make it one. In the case of Melbourne rail, the service is provided by a private operator, who could be taken to court for falsely offering a Metro service.
The last problem is that the Victorian government has made it very difficult to obtain the actual plan advertised. The plan is in the form of numerousdifficult to read files, some of which are very large, under an obscure link: "Download the plan":
- The Victorian Transport Plan Overview (PDF, 1,535 KB, 28 pp.)
- The Victorian Transport Plan Overview (Rich Text Format, 325 KB)
- The Victorian Transport Plan (PDF, 13,514 KB, 164 pp.)
- The Victorian Transport Plan (Rich Text Format, 820 KB)
Document in parts
- Introduction and highlights (PDF, 919 KB, 13 pp.)
- Shaping Victoria for future success (PDF, 1,745 KB, 18 pp.)
- Shaping Victoria: Road demand map (PDF, 2,450 KB, 1 p.)
- Shaping Victoria: Rail demand map (PDF, 1,374 KB, 1 p.)
- Priority 1: Shaping Victoria (PDF, 906 KB, 9 pp.)
- Priority 2: Linking rural, regional and metro Victoria (PDF, 1396 KB, 15 pp.)
- Priority 3: Creating a Metro system (PDF, 1,621 KB, 23 pp.)
- Priority 4: Moving around Melbourne (PDF, 3,409 KB, 21 pp.)
- Priority 5: Taking practical steps for a sustainable future (PDF, 986 KB, 13 pp.)
- Priority 6: Strengthening Victoria's and Australia's economy (PDF, 2,250 KB, 20 pp.)
- Delivering The Victorian Transport Plan (PDF, 509 KB, 3 pp.)
- Appendices (PDF, 464 KB, 14 pp.)
Audio (MP3) version
- Overview MP3 Announcement (MP3, 135 KB)
- Table of contents (MP3, 360 KB)
- Message from the Premier (MP3, 1,360 KB)
- Message from the Ministers (MP3, 865 KB)
- Our acheivements (MP3, 1,000 KB)
- Highlights (MP3, 2,400 KB)
- Six Priorities for Action (MP3, 256 KB)
- Shaping Victoria (MP3, 760 KB)
- Linking rural, regional and metro Victoria (MP3, 1,110 KB)
- A Plan for all Victorians map (MP3, 1,070 KB)
- Creating a Metro system(MP3, 1,080 KB)
- Moving around Melbourne (MP3, 1,020 KB)
- Taking practical steps for a sustainable future(MP3, 830 KB)
- Strengthening Victoria's and Australia's economy (MP3, 1,140 KB)
- Project timelines (MP3, 2,710 KB)
- Copyright statement and alternative formats (MP3, 155 KB)
- Closing Announcement (MP3, 215 KB)
- Victorian Transport Plan Stakeholder Engagement Summary Report (PDF, 228 KB, 28 pp.)
- Booz and Co: Melbourne Public Transport Standards Review (PDF, 217 KB, 15 pp.)
- Edward Dotson: East West Link Needs Assessment Recommendations 1, 2, 3, 6 (PDF, 185 KB, 3 pp.)
- GHD: EWLNA and Northern Link (PDF, 13,861 KB, 81 pp.)
- GHD: Hoddle Street Advice (PDF, 19,168 KB, 91 pp.)
- Maunsell: Review and Analysis of Historical and Proposed Commuter Ferry Services on Port Phillip (PDF, 657 KB, 49 pp.)
- Meyrick: Economic Assessment (PDF, 321 KB, 28 pp.)
- Price Waterhouse Coopers: Review of Social, Demographic and Land Use Analysis (PDF, 135 KB, 22 pp.)
- Price Waterhouse Coopers: Additional Impacts Analysis (PDF, 505 KB, 22 pp.)
- Price Waterhouse Coopers: Critique of Assessment of Conventional Costs and Benefits (PDF, 1561 KB, 41 pp.)
- Price Waterhouse Coopers: Review of the Estimation of Wider Economic Benefits (PDF, 115 KB, 20 pp.)
- SGS Economics and Planning: Melbourne Employment Projections (PDF, 933 KB, 34 pp.)
- SGS Economics and Planning: Valuing Household Sector Non-Transport Benefits in Cost Benefits Analysis (PDF, 632 KB, 39 pp.)
- Summary of Model Outputs (PDF, 1,802 KB, 23 pp.)
- The Nous Group: Transport Abatement Wedges (PDF, 706 KB, 54 pp.)
- Veitch Lister: Zenith Model Establishment And Validation Report (PDF, 2,935 KB, 34 pp.)
- Veitch Lister: Background Assumptions (PDF, 919 KB, 11 pp.)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
On my previous Trip to Tasmania for talks, I was jokingly asked if I would like to run the railway. I aimed to do a "live" web report from the train, but had to settle for taking some photos and posting them later.
The railway was built to carry material to and ore from the mines at Queenstown. It is now a tourist railway, restored using lavish federal and state funding. The railway has been controversial from the day it was opened, being the subject of company rivalry as well as a pawn in state and federal politics for more than one hundred years. This is touched on in the commentary on the train and covered in detail the excellent historical book available at the Strahan station: "The Abt Railway : Tasmania's West Coast Wilderness Railway" (by Lou Rae, latest edition 2008 ).
The Strahan station is the restored original (the other stations on the line are modern replicas). If you are a steam enthusiast, then check when you book that one of the original steam locomotives will be used (some trains are pulled by a historic diesel). If you are early you may see the locomotive come out of the shed, cross the road and be turned on the manual turntable (two staff pushing with their backs). I recorded low resolution video of the locomotive being turned and leaving the turntable (with the sound of the whistle) and approaching the station.
The seam locomotive was built by DUBs & Co in Glasgow Locomotive Works 1898 (No 3730). This is a talk engine, as popularised by the books and TV show "Thomas The Tank Engine". Meticulously restored and carefully maintained the locomotive has gleaming brass and shining steam gauges. It is a bit uglier than a cartoon loco, due to the extra pipes needed to power the rack and pinion "ABT" equipment, needed to pull the train up steep hills.
The train is fully crewed, this being a real train which has to meet the usual railway safety standards. Much like an airline flight, the conductor "Tom" (inevitably nicknamed "the fat conductor" despite his slimness) provided a safety briefing, as well as giving some history and selling travel guidebooks (the detailed railway history is a better buy for the enthusiast).
While the locomotives are genuine, the passenger carriages are locally built replicas (the original carriages being used on the "Puffing Billy Railway" Victoria). The carriages feature local Tasmanian timber and polished brass (with luggage racks from Queensland Rail). While I went to a lot of trouble to power a wireless modem from USB for the trip, I found there was a 240 Volt power point next to each seat.
The line first follows the curve of the harbour, then up a river valley. On one side of the line most of the time the line clings to the side of a steep river valley, covered in dense temperate vegetation, with the river visible below. There are several stops for the passengers to get out and take in the view. The stations and some track work are newly built in a sensitive way: not attempting an exact historical restoration.
As an example bailey bridge components have been used to build several bridges and the water towers for the stations. Clearly these are not from the 1890s, but are in the spirit of a non-nonsense line.
For the rail enthusiast there is the delight of being able to walk across the tracks, examine the ABT "rack" close up and watch the locomotive being oiled and watered.
Remains of the original engineering works are event at several points of the trip. The original iron bridge, washed away in a flood is visible in the river. At another point the original test track for the rack and pinion system can be seen from the 1800s.
At one station you can observe the train from an overhead bridge. In the photo you will notice that a cover (like a lid on a pot) has been placed over the funnel of the locomotive.
There is also a second turntable, which can be seen close-up.
The nearby pedestrian bridge is constructed from the same bailey bridge components as the rail bridge.
The water tanks which make this a "tank engine" can be best seen from the bridge. The small tanks also result in the train having to stop to take on water. While the line is short, the steep grade results in the engine having to expend considerable energy.
At one station you can walk down to the river. What at first looks like snow on the water is foam from a natural detergent from the forest.
The end carriage of the train has a delightfully ornate open observation platform. Several times the safety briefing emphasised the danger of opening the doors while the train was in motion, so it is not clear if the open platform is used.
Not all the bridges have been replaced with steel. One is a wooden trestle, which you can walk under.
I have included some photos of the buffers and chain couplings, for those interested.
The rack which is used on the steeper track is newly made, to the original design, but the rails are second hand, recovered from other Tasmanian rail lines.
The rack and pinion is a complex mechanical device and must require considerable maintenance. Along with the staff needed to look after the passengers, it is not clear how the railway could be a paying proposition, even if full.
Apart from the railway and the river, there are the temperate plants to examine close up.
As with most railway journeys it is rarely possible to observe the train itself, or where it is going, while on board. The commentary provided gave plenty of warning when there was a good view coming up and on which side. I was able to get a photo of the train crossing the bailey bridge.
However, the views of the river were frequent, as the train wound around the steep bank. It is difficult to imagine how the line was built with limited use of powered machinery.
The effects of mining can still be seen in the rivers, with the yellow water contaminated with mine tailings mixing with the black water naturally stained by the grass.
The journey ends at the reconstructed Queenstown station. There is an excellent gift store in the station as well as a coffee shop.
The rail fare includes a bus ride back to Strahan.
The trip is half a day, but seems much longer and I fell asleep on the bus ride back. There are shorter trips during the peak tourist season. For those wanting a more adventurous experience there is "Piners and Miners" tour in a stretched Land Rover converted to run on and off the rail line.