Fuso Canter conquers rail

ALL WEATHER: Fuso Canter takes on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
ALL WEATHER: Fuso Canter takes on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Howard Shanks

A FUSO Canter that can run on road and rail has been chosen to work on Tasmania's iconic West Coast Wilderness Railway.

The stunning tourist railway has three steam engines from 1896, 1898 and 1938, which ferry tourists from Queenstown to Strahan through stunning old-growth rainforest.

This vintage fleet of trains has recently been joined by one brand new Fuso Canter 4x4 sourced through CJD Equipment, while another will soon arrive ready.

Tourists from around the world head for the West Coast Wilderness Railway because of its iconic trains and striking scenery, with breathtaking vistas of the King River, gullies, ferns and trees, many of which are very close to the line.

The latter can pose quite a challenge, because fallen trees and branches will stop a train in its (pardon the pun) tracks.

Fusoontherails Howard Shanks

The Canter 4x4s perform a variety of tasks for West Coast Wilderness Railway, including general maintenance and running along the track before the trains to check for fallen tree branches and debris.

The terrain is steep and the relatively short railway line features no less than 40bridges.

It can access areas on the train track itself or via dirt trails deep in the forest, thanks to its low-range transfer case.

West Coast Wilderness Railway manager rail operations Adrian Horton said the organisation made do with a couple of old hand- me-down Mazda trucks from the 1980s but they were due for replacement.

"It's a harsh environment down here that is tough on trucks and they weren't going to last much longer, so we decided to invest in new trucks,” he said.

The organisation decided the 4x4 Canter would be the best vehicle both on and off the rail.

"We chose the 4x4 because we have one track access road that is a real goat track, it's very steep,” Mr Horton said.

"If you have no 4x4 you might get down but there is no way you will be getting back up again.”

Fusoontherails Howard Shanks

The seven-seat Canter crew cab is already in use in other regions as a road/rail vehicle.

These trucks were converted by Aries Rail and feature front steel rail wheels that drop down and take over from the rubber-shod Canter wheels which still deliver the power.

The Canter starts work at 5.30am when a crew of five climbs aboard to check for fallen trees and branches.

It is fitted with a crane and carries various chainsaws, pole saws, an assortment of tools, a 44 gallon drum full of rail fastenings and 10-15 sleepers.

The crew can clear many of the trees that come down across the line, but sometimes huge trees fall down complete with a huge root system.

"In that case, a train (with heavy equipment onboard) is sent through ,” Mr Horton said.

Big Rigs