West Coast Tour

“Don’t be late” was the word, we would be departing Granton dead on time at 9.00 – so it was an early start, with most packing completed the day before. We arrived at the designated spot around 8.25 where our group was beginning to gather. We had made the decision to go modern, as the newest of our club vehicles is 65 years old, the oldest 76 years, so better not to risk the terrain and weather. Many others seemed to have made the same decision, with 5 club vehicles present and 2 others belonging to guests, the rest modern.
Paul Mitchell would join us later in Queenstown, with his 1962 Morris Major Elite being the oldest vehicle participating.
We were entertained by a gaggle of geese doing their running & taking off, until one of them had an altercation with a passing car – a loud thump and we thought he was fin-ished, but over the fence he hopped and flew over to the river!
In due course Harry gathered us together for a short briefing, and off we went on time at 9.00 – bound for morning tea at Hamilton. We set off through the Derwent Valley in beautiful autumn weather conditions, with early signs of the glorious colours soon to emerge. The New Norfolk area was pretty as a picture, as was the area around Gretna. Hamilton was sleepy and quiet and some chose to have their tea/coffee in the little cafe beside the hotel, others at their vehicles, some feeding a pair of hungry ponies. I always think that when we’ve passed through Ouse we have departed the “home” area and are heading towards the west coast wilds, and it certainly doesn’t take too long to find one’s self negotiating the winding roads around Tarraleah and marvelling over the engineering feats of the canals, penstocks and power stations. We really do live in a spectacular state.
Next stop was the “Wall” (sometimes known as the Wall in the Wilderness), just on the ap-proaches to Derwent Bridge. Situated in a huge shed in the middle of the bush, the Wall is a mas-sive display of wooden relief sculpture, carved by Greg Duncan. It tells a story of Tasmania’s cen-tral highlands including human history, agriculture, industry and wildlife. The lovely girl who wel-comed us was Scottish, and I thought she must have felt almost at home here, with scenery quite reminiscent of the Scottish highlands.
A very short hop from the Wall was the Hungry Wombat Cafe, situated at the old road house, where a delicious lunch was en-joyed. Tony Thompson and John Goldsmith went for a stroll down to the bridge over the Derwent, where Tony discovered a drive shaft tube out of an old 1930s Ford, lying down beside the river – trust Tony to discover something like that. (Photo: Left).
Derwent Bridge pretty much signified the end of good weather, from now on the renowned west coast rain would kick in and not really leave us until home on Thursday.
No matter, we weren’t going to let a little rain spoil our trip. Mt. Arrowsmith was spectacular as usual, if foggy and damp. The scenery around Lake Burbury was incredible, and that road bridge across – amazing!
Before long the old ruined hotel at Linda came into view, meaning Gormanston was just around the corner. Up on the “Gormie” hill we turned right to the Iron Blow lookout, for a stunning view of the old open-cut area.
Internet photo with Greg Duncan
Leon Joubert and Chris Berry will wish they had been with us – at the Iron Blow there were about 15 beauti-ful Porches parked, their owners admiring the view like us. After we were amazed by the copper infused bright aqua water, we jumped back into the cars and negotiated the bends down into Queenstown.
After a re-fuelling stop we checked in to the West Coaster motel, where some put their feet up or enjoyed an early happy hour. Yours truly, however, opted for a walk around the area. At this stage we met up with Paul Mitchell and Kate Wainwright, in the Morris Major. The rooms there were very nice, with some right beside a flowing river – clean, not the famous brown Queen. The evening meal was a set menu, but boy it was well up to standard. Roast lamb and/or tempura battered fish with vegies and/or salad, as much as you could eat, cooked to perfection and pretty well everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Delicious chocolate mousse, pav-lova and fruit jelly followed for sweets, and coffee. The full breakfast in the morning was equally as delicious.
Day 2 – Wednesday 29 March
An early departure at 8.30, with Harry taking us through to South Queenstown, to Bern Bradshaw’s “Tasmanian Spe-cialty Timbers” mill. (Photo: Left).
What an amazing place, a huge iron shed out in the bush, absolutely FILLED with Huon pine, ranging from huge slabs suitable for doors, table tops etc, right down to tiny off cuts which could be used to make knick knacks of all types. Noth-ing wasted. Bern gave us a fascinating talk about the history of Huon pine harvesting and how his mill operates.
The shed from which Bern now operates was originally built as part of the construction facilities for the But-ters Power Station, and one can also make purchases at the “Mill door”. After Bern’s talk he allowed us free reign to wander about, to look at whatever we wanted. Amazing, the neat stacks of Huon pine were everywhere and the impressive array of machinery included a huge circular saw which I decided to stay well clear of! After I had seen everything (is that possible?) I headed outside, took some photos down by the copper coloured Queen River, and after a bit heard the sound of a steam whistle and the Wilderness train passed by only a few metres away – but sadly I was not quick enough with the camera. We were all very grateful to Bern for this interesting experience, and some members left armed with supplies of the beautiful wood.
A very busy day ahead, we departed Bern’s mill and headed back into town for a drink and bite to eat at the train station cafe. After our tummies were satisfied we fired up the vehicles and headed for Strahan. Pass-ing through Queenstown it was sad to see several abandoned houses, slowly falling down.
As the roads became more mountainous, the weather became wetter! As we headed up one of these hills I was concerned to notice the engine racing faster as we went up – damn, I’ve known the clutch in the Corolla was nearly due for replacement but I didn’t appreciate the timing! Would we make it over? With careful light-footed driving and use of lower gears the hills were no problem. I hoped this would continue, didn’t fancy the shame of having the modern car towed home! After arrival at Strahan we found the preferred car park was full, so we parked add hock and headed for local cafes for lunch. After a Banjo’s feed, the sun came out! So I grabbed the camera and headed outside for a walk. What a pretty town Strahan is, with the old buildings in the main street and the train station over the harbour at Regatta Point. The sunshine lasted about 15 minutes, then back to rain!
Wheels Within 450 May 2017
PVCC West Coast Tour – March 28, 29, 30 – 2017 Continued
Wheels Within 450 May 2017
PVCC West Coast Tour – March 28, 29, 30 – 2017 Continued
After lunch and some sight seeing we gathered together for the drive to Zeehan. Once there some checked out the West Coast Heritage Centre and Mining Museum, while others opted to wander the streets. Poor Zeehan is not looking its best at the moment, very few people about and quite a few closed buildings along the main street, as well as a couple of very inanimate mine shaft wheels. The Gaiety Theatre, however, is looking magnificent and makes one imagine the glory times of Zeehan’s heyday. A wonderful place, Zeehan is filled with its own memories of times past, but those who walked the streets definitely needed their umbrellas!
Departure time from Zeehan had to be adhered to, as next stop was Tullah – and not via the usual route through Rosebery but the much longer touring route via the Reece Dam. What spectacular scenery through here, with alternate dense forest and sweeping views! The road never ceases to impress, espe-cially when it crosses the top of the Reece Dam, with amazing views a-plenty. After the dam, we found ourselves meandering through wonderful forest areas. I couldn’t believe how well Paul’s little Morris Major was performing during the day’s lengthy drive, he seems to have it running very well.
We arrived at Tullah Lakeside Lodge around 4.40pm, in foggy semi-darkness. I had heard about this place before, from Brendon who has stayed here. Developed from an old Hydro accommodation building, this has been turned into a lovely retreat, with reasonable prices – allowing ac-cess by average Tasmania families, unlike some of the other over priced places about. The rooms are very pleas-ant, with beautiful varnished timber dado walls, and very cosy inside despite the plummeting temperature outside. When in the dining room, one is presented with a magnifi-cent view over Lake Rosebery and its mountainous sur-rounds. We had a great evening meal, especially after a management error saw us receive a full price meal for the set-meal price we should have had!
Day 3 – Thursday 30 March
After a delicious continental breakfast we said so long to Paul and Kate, who were heading back to Burnie. Our destination was back to Queenstown, via an alternative route through the Lake Plimsoll area – what an amazing drive, if it weren’t for the occasional native tree, you could easily believe you had been transported to the highlands of Scotland with the magnificent lakes and craggy mountains! On our return to Queens-town we refuelled again and then headed across the street to the old Paragon Theatre, now restored, built in 1932 in the art deco style popular at the time. At this time we said goodbye to Cleve Allen who decided to head for home.
At the Paragon we met Anthony Coulson of Queenstown Heritage Tours. After an introductory talk Anthony and two of his staff ushered us out to three vehicles, to take us on a tour of the Lake Margaret Power Station. After a ten minute drive, we turned right off the main road and headed up a winding road, culminating at the power sta-tion. But, not just a power station, this area has more to offer. Firstly we were ushered into the old Lake Margaret community hall, where Anthony gave some history of the area. After distribution of umbrellas (yes, it was still rain-ing) we enjoyed a short walk to the old abandoned village where power station employees lived, way back in the mists of time. We were shown a small grave beside the path, an old lady who had lived in the village. She had left instructions that her grave be shown to visitors, and it be pointed out that she was the grandmother of Hawthorn star Grant Birchall!
View from Tullah Lakeside Lodge
Wheels Within 450 May 2017
PVCC West Coast Tour – March 28, 29, 30 – 2017 Continued
A real ghost town, the Lake Margaret cottages lay silent and lonely, with much decay evident. Boy, if these walls could speak I wonder what stories they would tell, generations of families grew up here and enjoyed a great community spirit, but all gone now. In fact, entry to this whole area is prohibited these days, unless on an official tour. We were permitted to go inside one of the cottages, the last one to be vacated. Inside we saw evidence of “luxury” living, meaning running water, flushing loo, and electricity! Luxury? Yes, be-cause other nearby communities had none of this, living very austere lives. A visit here really makes one aware of how easy we have it in modern times.
Next was a walk down a pathway lined with lush vegetation, and across to the power station. We split into two groups, one heading down a hill to view the spillway and huge wooden pipe, the other into the power station, then the groups swapped over. The station was originally built to power the copper mine, after the old steam engines were retired due to the loss of forest, cut down to fuel them. Inside, the generators are now modern and everything is owned by the Hydro. The lake itself is a considerable distance away over the top of the hill, out of view, with a big penstock delivering the water down to the station.
Then it was back to the community hall for a very welcome cup of tea or coffee, and cake. We admired the historic photos around the wall, and were interested by the old “Lake Margaret Badminton Club” score board and roster, still on the wall (the floor still displays its old badminton markings). At this point we moved some furniture and gathered everyone together for a group photo. We thank Anthony Coulson very much for this tour, it was worth every cent and is something one will likely never forget. Back to the vehi-cles, and on to Queenstown again. Once again inside the Paragon, we were treated to a delicious lunch of spaghetti bolognaise and sandwiches, followed by tea and coffee. We viewed a fascinating film about the history of the area, and had some time to wander around and check out the building. Upstairs, at the back of the gallery, is a row of plush leather lounges, with individual coffee tables, where the more well-to-do would sit to watch, back in the day. How the other half lived! Also, a step inside the old projection room revealed the presence of the original old projectors, huge!
As amazing as this building was, we had to tear ourselves away for the journey home, if we wished to arrive before midnight! Most people chose to rendezvous at the Hungry Wombat again, for a snack and break from driving, before heading for home, with Co-rolla’s clutch fortunately still functional, just.
A fantastic three days, and well done to those members who were brave and took their club vehicles. Forget the rain, everyone had such a great time. A big thank you to Harry Bluett for coming up with the idea, and organising it. Once again also, thanks to Bern Bradshaw for giving us access to his timber mill, and Anthony Coulson for the Lake Margaret tour.

– John