The railway between Hobart and Launceston was built by the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company and was officially opened on 1 November 1876. The route of the railway was selected largely as a result of vocal local interests and accordingly traversed some reasonably unfavorable topography, particularly in the southern section. Because the TMLR had limited finances, the line was built to the narrow (1067 mm) gauge and included long sections of steep gradients and sharp curves. The final eighteen kilometres of the route from Western Junction to Launceston used the existing broad gauge alignment of the Launceston and Western Railway, with a third rail being laid for use by the narrow gauge trains.
From its inception the line was known as the Main Line and carried this title until around 1978 when Australian National renamed it the South Line. Despite being in use for over 125 years, only limited deviations have been built and the line follows the original alignment. Track standards have been improved by the use of heavier rail welded into long lengths, steel sleepers and better ballast.
The line remains in service, and sees multiple freight trains most days, these generally operating Burnie to Boyer and Burnie / Launceston to Hobart and return.
The line commences at Hobart station, which is nestled between the wharves and the Queens Domain on the edge of the city. The line follows the western side of the Derwent River valley to Bridgewater, where the river is crossed on a causeway and impressive lifting bridge. From here the line runs generally north east though easy country to Rekuna (between Tea Tree and Campania). From here the often steep and/or twisty climb commences, with little respite for train crews until Rhyndaston and its 1200m long tunnel is passed, some 28km later.
The descent from near Parattah is not as steep or severe as its southern counterpart, although does still include a number of difficult sections including the Tin Dish and Nala deviations which were constructed in the 1930s to lessen gradients, although at the expense of more additional curvature in some sections.
North of Antill Ponds, the line roughly parallels the Midland Highway as they both follow the agriculturally rich valley's formed by the Macquarie and South Esk rivers. The South Line finishes at Western Junction near Evandale, where it connects with the Western Line.
Hobart - junction for Hobart Wharf lines
Derwent Park - junction for Risdon Line and Elwick Racecourse Line
Claremont - junction for Cadburyas Branch
Bridgewater - junction for Derwent Valley Line
Brighton - junction for Apsley Line
Parattah - junction for Oatlands Branch
Conara Junction - junction for Fingal Line
Western Junction - junction for Western Line
From an 1897 Public Works chart
From the 1973 Working Time Table
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