Home » Towns » Tasmania » North West Tasmania » Railton, TAS
Print

Railton, TAS

Australia's most famous topiary town

Railton is a perfect example of one man's obsession and how it "grew" literally into a town's major tourist attraction. In 1999 Neil Hurley started talking about turning Railton into the "Town of Topiary" and the project grew from there. Beyond its topiary Railton is really nothing more than a service centre for the surrounding area which is economically driven by mixed farming, timber and a substantial Cement Works. It is a town in a pretty location with very little to cause the visitor to pause ... except for the topiary sculptures which, when combined with local arts and crafts and a boutique brewery - Seven Sheds - makes it a town worth exploring.

Location

Railton is located 81 km west of Launceston, 23 km south of Devonport and 261 km north of Hobart.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

There are three possible explanations for the town's name. Firstly there was a postmaster at Reedy Marsh named James Railton and the town was named after him. Secondly it was named after James Railton's daughter. Thirdly there was enthusiasm in the town at the prospect of the arrival of the railway - thus "Rail Town" contracted to Railton. The last is unlikely as the town was known as Railton by 1883 and the railway didn't arrive until 1885.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Railton - Town of Topiary
The obvious starting point is to download the Railton Topiary Map (see http://www.townoftopiary.com.au/images/Downloads/topiarymap.pdf) which identifies the 38 pieces of topiary around the town provides additional details about their genesis. A copy can also be obtained at the Looking Glass Cottage in the main street.
There are basically three kinds of topiary in the town: (a) amusing pieces - Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Three Ducks and an Elephant (b) pieces which combine real equipment and topiary cut bushes - Man mowing and dog, man relaxing in an armchair (c) serious works - the Nurse, Navy, Army and Air Force figures at the RSL Cenotaph. It is hugely entertaining to admire the work and to recognise how much skill and time goes into creating and maintaining these remarkable topiary sculptures. Of particular interest are the Horse and Farmer outside the Looking Glass Cottage - this topiary was started in 1999 by Neil Hurley (the creator of the idea) and is the oldest example in the village and the Cradle Mountain National Paddock in Crockers Street which not only has the town name in topiary but also has a Tasmanian Tiger planted by Graham Ross during a 2012 filming for the TV show Better Homes and Gardens and Hacker the Dog planted by the team from the BBC TV show All Over The Place in 2013.

Seven Sheds Brewery, Meadery and Hop Garden
Located at 22 Crockers Street, Seven Sheds Brewery, Meadery and Hop Garden is an award winning brewery with its Kentish Ale being nominated as one of the Top 20 beers in the country. It is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11.00 am - 5.00 pm with brewery tours each day at noon. They have to be booked, tel: (03) 6496 1139 or check out http://www.sevensheds.com. Opening times can change according to the season.

Cement Australia Railton Plant
Cement Australia’s Railton plant is the largest manufacturer in the district. It produces in excess of one million tonnes of cement per annum, the majority of which is transported to Victorian and New South Wales markets. It has been owned by a number of cement companies since it started operation in 1923. The modern plant produces cement using the fuel-efficient pre-calciner manufacturing process and has its own limestone mine facility and operation. Raw material for the Railton plant is sourced from Cement Australia’s nearby mine. Cement manufactured from the plant is then transported 26 kms to Devonport for shipping. Among the most famous contributions to the Australian architectural environment are the Sydney Cricket Ground's modern concrete stand and the MLC Centre in Melbourne.

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

The Statue of Norman Sykes and Sanctuary Park
There is a chainsaw and chisel timber statue of Norman Sykes (1896-1981) who donated 15 ha of bush to the "young people of Railton". He left the land to be used as a sanctuary for the birds, fauna and recreational purposes. The land he left is now called Sanctuary Park and is located off Sunnyside Road. Sykes planted silver birches, oaks, walnuts and chestnut among the gum trees and there are seats and tables on grassed areas which are ideal for picnics and quiet contemplation. There is a downloadable brochure, produced by the local primary school children, about the park at http://www.townoftopiary.com.au/images/Downloads/SancturyPark.pdf.

Stoodley Plantation Forest Walk
The Stoodley Plantation Forest Walk, 5.5 km to the south of Railton on the road to Sheffield, takes about an hour and is an interesting and unusual walk through old plantings and current timber forests. It includes walks through plantings of pinus radiata (Radiata Pine), eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian Blue Gum), eucalyptus obliqua (Strinky Bark), Douglas Fir, Corsican Pine, European Beech, Western Red Cedar and Peppermint Gums. There is a downloadable brochure at http://www.townoftopiary.com.au/images/Downloads/forestwalk.pdf.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by people from the Tommeginne Aboriginal language group.

* The town was marked out in 1853 by the surveyor, J. M. Dooley. The main street was made wide to allow bullock teams to turn around.

* Around 1870 the Railton Lime Works was operating on Latrobe Road.

* A steam driven flour mill was erected in the district in 1877.

* The town was named Railton around 1880.

* The railway line to the town was completed in 1885.

* By 1900 two timber sawmills were operating in the town.

* In 1923 a cement works was set up on the edge of town.

* In 1928 the Goliath Portland Cement Company took over Tasmanian Cement Pty Ltd and  the town really began to prosper. It has been estimated that the quarry has a total reserve of nearly 120 million tonnes.

* In 1999 Neil Hurley decided to begin the town's topiary program.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

Railton Neighbourhood Centre, 8 Foster St, tel: (03) 6441 5278.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

The local Railton and Districts Development Association has a useful website with information about the topiary as well as accommodation and eating. Check out http://www.townoftopiary.com.au for details.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

3 suggestions
  • I seem to remember that Steve Rand had some input too regarding the Topiaries . Also the Forest walk is no more as it was logged ,I suppose the pathways would still be there. Great article by the way 🙂

    Margaret Blair
  • Steve Rand is a legend. He’s kind and is well and truly a hard worker. Without him our town would have gone nowhere … People have said that he is just like the unofficial mayor of Railton.

    Bell Freestone
  • I will be visiting Railton in February, 2019. This was my childhood home in the 1950s and early 1960s.
    It will be so interesting and maybe nostalgic to do this tri. The pub looks as I remember it. I trust the King’s Hall still exists but maybe not Kelly’s General Store and maybe not Field’s Emporium on the opposite side of the Main Street.

    David Alexander