May 13, 1885
In Australia, the opening of a railway in the village of Oatlands in the central part of the island colony (now state) of Tasmania was celebrated with much enthusiasm. The Oatlands Railway was built as a short branch of the Main Line (also known as the South Line), a freight rail corridor linking the city of Hobart in southern Tasmania with the city of Launceston in the colony’s northern region. The development of the Oatlands Railway was the result of strong demands from residents of that area for direct access to the Main Line.
The festivities surrounding the debut of the Oatlands Railway were highlighted by the Launceston-based Tasmanian in its coverage of the line’s early-afternoon inauguration. This newspaper reported, “The day proved beautifully fine, and was regarded by the residents of Oatlands and surrounding districts as a public holiday in honor of the opening of the line and the local [foot] races, both of which were celebrated today.”
This article further noted, “From an early hour the township assumed an unusually animated appearance, and by noon there were over 300 persons assembled round the railway station, which fortunately was profusely decorated with shrubs, flowers, and flags, the ordinary bareness and ugliness of the structure being thus hidden from the public gaze.”
The public officials on hand for dedication of the Oatlands Railway included Adye Douglas, premier of Tasmania; and Nicholas John Brown, the colony’s minister of lands and works. Brown took time during his remarks to those attendance to single out Alfred Thomas Pillinger, who represented Oatlands in the House of Assembly (one of the two chambers of the Parliament of Tasmania), for his staunch advocacy for the branch line.
This branch split off from the Main Line at the township of Parattah, which is about four miles (six kilometers) southeast of Oatlands. The line then coursed along the shoreline of Lake Dulverton before making its way onto Wellington Street in Oatlands and ending at that road’s intersection with High Street in the village
The Oatlands Railway remained in service until being closed on June 10, 1949. One of the best known locomotives serving this line was Big Ben (pictured above), which had been built by the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1919. Big Ben was used for the Oatlands Railway during the line’s final year of operations. A large portion of the route of the one-time Oatlands Railway has since been converted into a bicycle trail.
Photo Credit: LJDJ2003 (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
For more information on the Oatlands Railway, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oatlands_Railway
Additional information on Tasmania’s Main Line (also called South Line) is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Line,_Tasmania