A steam train buffs delight - that's young and old - Puffing Billy (PBR) was the life line to the small mountain communities in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne until the Victorian Railways closed down the line in the 1953 after a land slide blocked the line. Shortly afterwards, the Puffing Billy Preservation Society was formed to save the train and eventually have it running. Fifty years later the trains are still running using original locomotives and rolling stock and the line is now 15 miles long, from Belgrave to Gembrook.
You can catch a Belgrave line suburban train from the city and its a one hour trip to the terminus and a short walk to the ticket office of Puffing Billy.
The trains run from Belgrave to Gembrook, length 15 Miles (24 Km) on 2 foot 6 inch (762 mm) narrow gauge track. The minimum radius curve is 40 metres and the steepest grade is 1 in 30, so the trains are working very hard. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the little engines saying, "I think I can, I know I can, I think I can, I know I can . . ."
There are 4 intermediate stops - Menzies Creek, Emerald, Lakeside and Cockatoo, however the most popular destination and return point is Lakeside where there is 2 scenic lakes, picnic facilities and other attractions including Australia's largest HO scale model railway. Trip to Lakeside from Belgrave is about 1 hour and Gembrook a further 40 minutes - not all trains go through to Gembrook.
Please note there is a restricted diesel locomotive service on "Total Fire Ban" days - check evening news for details. During the fire danger period, steam trains are followed by a fire patrol train (see photo).
Puffing Billy Railways also offer a chance to learn how to drive a 120 year old steam loco. It's a full day course and details can be found at Learn to drive Cost $A1,500.00
On another visit to Puffing Billy, I was able to capture footage of the G42 articulated loco heading off with a load of happy passengers.
Puffing Billy is always looking for volunteers - and I'm one of them - see web site for details and for timetables, fares, luncheon trains, dinner trains and other information. You may like to have a read of some of my experiences as a volunteer conductor on PBR by visiting my Belgrave page
You'll probably wear out your arms waving at everyone the train passes - and that includes the occupants of cars waiting at level crossings, dogs and almost everyone else, although its difficult to get a wave from teenagers.
iF TRAVELLING BY TRAIN TO PUFFING BILLY, YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU CATCH THE SUBURBAN TRAIN TO BELGRAVE. THE DANDENONG STATION IS NOT IN THE DANDENONG RANGES AND MANY KILOMETRES FROM PUFFING BILLY.
Monbulk Creek trestle bridge is the 3rd most photographed bridge in Australia – or so it is claimed. First is quite obvious – Sydney Harbour Bridge, second is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia – the bridge across the river in Richmond, Tasmania.
The Monbulk Creek trestle bridge carries the famous Puffing Billy trains across a creek and is located about 5 minutes steaming time from the Belgrave PBR station. First built in 1899 the curved trestle bridge is classified by the National Trust of Victoria. Apart from the obvious photographic vantage point aboard the train, there is a small car park beside the bridge along Belgrave – Gembrook Road and about 3 minutes driving time from Belgrave PBR station.
For photographers not riding the train, the best views of trains passing over the bridge are on the forward journeys from Belgrave – 10.30am, 11.10 am (does not operate Monday to Friday May to October – except school and public holidays), 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm. Allow 5 minutes for train to journey from Belgrave station and you’ll hear the whistle blowing as the train approaches.
Photo 1 – was taken from the rear covered balcony on a historic carriage and is usually only occupied by the guard.
Photo 2 - the carriage as described in photo 1
Photo 3 – although dated (timetable info, phone number), sadly this sign is now out of the public view and located in the lunch room of a staff facility along the line.
Although this attraction is located at Emerald Lake and close to the Emerald township, I have included in the Belgrave page as it would probably be viewed in conjunction with a Puffing Billy ride.
Every kid big and small - particularly the big - loves model railways. Me, I can stand and watch model trains zooming along tracks, into tunnels, through scenery, past dock area, in fact anything that has been modelled - and yes I used to be so infected by the model railway disease and was lucky to get a cure. For most there is no cure except the grave and then there are some who want to take that beloved loco with them when they go. The last their long suffering wife and family see of them as the coffin is closed is 'him' cradling his loco with a big grin on his face. Is God a model railway nut too??
OK jokes aside, the Emerald Lake Model Railway and miniature world is touted as one of the largest indoor model railways in the world and has over 2000 metres of track with a viewing area 30 x 6 metres and is well worth visiting as part of the Puffing Billy 'experience.' It is not part of Puffing Billy and is run as a separate business.
Admission - Adult $6, Concession $5, Children ages 1 - 15 $4
Open Thursday to Sunday in off peak season plus open 7 days school and public holidays - suggest phoning ahead to make sure business open.
Note: first photo taken when business closed
While most visitors that come to Belgrave are here for the "Puffin Billy" train ride . Belgrave is a small town with a proud heritage.. Being a train person this was high on my agenda this time visiting Melbourne.
A day out with a mate it was decided on that we would get the train...and for me that was a great decision..
The ticket office was quite crowded as I found this to be an exceptionally popular thing to do for locals and visitors alike..There are many trains here that are serviced and nurtured by the volunteers that run the railway...This surely is a unique little railway and is so good to see it being looked after so well. There certainly is a crowd that gathers on the platforms for the various trains. The train journey itseldf is one that travels through some of Victorias marvellous Dandenong Ranges with large forrests of tall mountain ash ..Along the way the train traverses some wooden trestle bridges that make great photo opportunites ..arriving at its destination in the small town of .There is lots to do here while waiting for your return journey to Belgrave..
I did this once years ago when the kids were little and they really liked it. (I did too.)
The old steam train is a lovely thing and it slowly puffs through really pretty country. Some of the carriages are open and that is exciting too.
Last time I saw it, it was crossing the old wooden viaduct, and all the kids were sitting on the open side dangling their legs out.
Well - I was speaking to a family on the Belgrave train yesterday who were on their way to do the Puffing Billy and they told me you aren't allowed to dangle legs any more.
BTW to get out to Belgrave Station where it leaves from many people catch the suburban train. And I always think it sweet that the kids are so excited about just being on an ordinary train.
I have just `checked the website and was astonished at how expensive it seemed to me these days. $48 return for an adult fare for the full journey return. I find that very pricey.
I think you can also get meals and afternoon tea on some journeys - but you have to be on one of the enclosed carriages.
You can stop off at Emerald and have a picnic in the park while you wait for the train to come back and pick you up.
But check out all the options on the website.
I did not go on the paddle boats only because I've been on paddle boats before and I don't find them as exciting as hiking around....would have been more fun if I was in a large group. I think it's about $15 for 30 mins but I could be wrong.
The model railway display covers about 2km of track, 100s of engines, in depth landscapes, push-button interactions and much more. The notes of 'have you seen the...' bring to attention every part of the massive landscape. One can only imagine the time and patience required to build such an impressive model. I would give it the double thumbs up and must do!
I suppose on a warm sunny day that Lakeside is a lovely place to while away an hour or two, but we were chilly and damp, so we resisted a ride on the water-cycles and wandered around the lake for a while before we caught the return train
there is a small cafe at the station and another on the lakes shore, there is also a swimming pool and water slide, but they were closed and looked neglected, perhaps it was too early in the season for them to be open
The train stops at Menzies Creek for a few minutes, this gives you chance to get off to stretch your legs, have a smoke or just admire the engine
you can leave the train here and wander around, or catch the next train back to Belgrave which arrived a few minutes after we did, but we stayed on this one to Lakeside
we were chatting to the guard, and were pleased when he rode to Lakeside with us, he was really nice and he gave us lots of interesting information about the railway and the area
The countryside is beautiful, very green and lush, though that could just have been caused by the rain we brought with us, it was also considerably cooler than at the lower altitudes. This area is temperate rainforest
We saw a very damp and bedraggled Kookaburra sitting on a branch almost close enough to reach out and touch, we were so excited about seeing it so close that we forgot to take a picture of it !
l have a fascination with steam trains, they remind me of my youth when we would climb the fence near the railway line and wave to the trains, all it takes is the smell of a steam engine and l am 8 years old again
The Puffing Billy is probably the most famous train in Victoria, it is lovingly restored and preserved and chuffs merrily along through the beautiful Dandenong Ranges for 13km from the little town of Belgrave to Lakeside on the shore of Lake Emerald
there is also a train to Gembrook, but this only runs once a day
we caught the train at lunchtime, we could have had a Luncheon Special and eaten in the 1st class carriages on the train, but then we wouldnt have had the fun of riding in the open sided carriage, and being able to lean out and see more of what was going by
The walk to the wishing well is picturesque and everyone of us can do with a few wishes coming true. The track covers unspoilt beauty so please be aware that you require proper walking shoes.
This is a must do for all ages. I guess there's nothing like sitting in a steam engine and being covered in soot and breathing in the fumes.