I felt like a bit of a walk today, so decided to head to the Kaoota Tramway, a trail south of Hobart which I’d heard and read about over the past year or so, but hadn’t yet walked. I had noticed it popping up on social media a bit , so it does seem to be becoming better known (there are plenty of local bloggers who have visited – I’ve referenced a few below – so I’m hardly making any great discovery here. But I have found a few historical resources to share.
Not being quite sure where to find it, I used Google Maps on my phone, which guided me to the Margate end of the track, along Nierinna and Lawless Roads from the turnoff of the Channel Highway and Sandfly Roads. It can also be walked from the Kaoota end, and infact there is a better carparking area there; I can only assume Google chose to direct me to the end that was closest to home.
Parking is indicated a kilometre or so before the track begins, adjacent to a poultry farm and several new houses near the top of Lawless Road. The track itself begins further up the hill and inland. It is a level walk, following the route of a light railway constructed in the early 20th century to bring coal mined at the Sandfly Colliery in Snug Tiers down to the port at Margate, where a jetty allowed direct access to sea transport. The official track now follows a six kilometre section of the original tramway from the hills behind Margate to Kaoota Road.
It runs about six kilometres through regrowth forest around the brow of several hills to the point where it joins with Kaoota Road. Google Maps shows the Tramway Track continuing from here up towards Coal Mine Road, where the mine was located; however the official walk currently ends here and the extension is not signposted and appears to be a vehicular road. At this end of the track there is a pleasant grassy area with a picnic table and bench seats, a good spot to enjoy some lunch before the return trek (unless you’ve managed a car shuffle).
The Kaoota Tramway is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register (ref 10951), but I have not been able to find any statement of its historical significance. There is a quite informative sign at the Kaoota end of the track (see photo) which lists a few details that appear to have been gleaned from the handful of newspaper articles. It seems that establishment of the railway was a private enterprise, but it failed to thrive and the state government ended up assuming control, at least for a short period. Plus ca change.
While the walking is easy and pleasent enough, I cannot say that the walk itself is overly interesting. There are few views, although the southern side of the Wellington Range is visible through the trees at several points, and apart from directional signs at either end of the track and the aforementioned interpretive display on the history at the Kaoota end, there is little to see other than the bushland itself. A couple of bridges cross creek beds along the way, but when I visited the streams were dry. Some of the best views are of Bruny Island and the channel viewed from the top of Lawless Road, before the start of the track proper.
It would seem that a further section of the track down in Margate itself has been transformed into another walking trail, and this walk could be added to the Nierinna Creek Track which leads from a bridge a little way back down Lawless Road back towards Margate.
Paper on the Kaoota (Sandfly) Colliery by CA Bacon (pdf download)
Channel Heritage Centre (local community history museum)
Kaoota Tramway walk notes from Greater Hobart Trails website (pdf download)
Kaoota Tramway Track leaflet from Kingborough Council (pdf download)
Margate Tramway Track leaflet from Kingborough Council (pdf download)
Nierinna Creek Track leaflet from Kingborough Council (pdf download)