ellaslist Reviews : Puffing Billy Railway
- All Ages
Have you and your family visited Puffing Billy railway yet?
Recently, some ellaslist kids visited Puffing Billy with their grandparents. We were lucky enough to receive a guest review on just how fantastic the Puffing Billy experience is for the whole family.
Take it away, Michael Russo.
It's the Perfect Time To Visit Puffing Billy With The Whole Family.
Puffing Billy is a narrow gauge (76.2 cm) steam railway originally operated in the early 20th century. It is now one of Victoria's top tourist attractions providing a "Step back in time" experience for young and old alike.
It operates in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, travelling between Belgrave and Lakeside, the station at Emerald Lake Park - an idyllic spot for a family picnic in finer weather.
The journey takes around 60 minutes one way and travels through the Victorian rainforest and lush, verdant, rolling hills of farmland. The rainforest is famous for its tall Mountain Ash eucalyptus, which try to outdo each other as they stretch skyward. These trees are the tallest flowering plants in the world, some of them soaring to heights of up to 100 metres.
More information can be found at Official site for Puffing Billy - Melbourne Family Attraction.
Boarding The Train
On the day we went, it was raining - quite heavily - as we boarded the train at Belgrave station. The inclement weather, however, did not seem to dampen the spirits or the excitement of the children about to undertake this excursion.
The joy on their faces as we pulled out of the station was memorable, despite the heavy downpour, which saw us drop the clear window guards to keep the rain out of the carriage. Ten minutes out from the station, however, the rain stopped, the window covers were rolled up again, and after some makeshift measures employed to wipe dry the wet window sills, the children were soon sitting on them, dangling their legs out of the carriage and hanging on to the horizontal bars in the windows (the youngest being the subject of intense vigilance for his safety). This activity of dangling the legs outside the carriage is restricted to children over 4.
One of the highlights of the Puffing Billy experience is to hang one's head out the window and see the steam engine chuffing out the thick, grey-black smoke. However, there is a downside to this, as the smoke contains tiny particles of soot. Our eight-year-old got a small bit of this in his eye and spent the remainder of the day rubbing it. The soot is not hot, but like any piece of grit in one's eye, it is a source of discomfort. One option is to wear sunglasses or swimming goggles, casting aside any fashion standards in favour of safety.
Exploring Each Stop Along The Way
A short stop along the way at Menzies Creek enables passengers to alight and explore the Menzies Creek Museum and the Little Toot Cafe, then take a later train to either continue to Lakeside or return to Belgrave. We opted to stay on board until we arrived at Lakeside.
Arriving at Lakeside station, we disembarked and were pleasantly surprised by what we saw. Our last journey on Puffing Billy was some four years ago, and the development of tourist facilities in that time has been extensive.
What immediately catches the eye is the new Puffing Billy Visitor Centre.
This houses a comprehensive gift shop, a huge cafe with a good range of food and inside and outside dining tables, well-appointed public toilets including a parenting room, a multi-purpose function centre and a large hall.
Emerging from the Visitor Centre and looking to the left up the hill is Australia's largest model railway and miniature world. This is a popular attraction for children of all ages, from 2 to 82!
With over 1000 m of track, several different lines and superbly crafted miniature landscapes, our three spent a good 45 minutes there and would have stayed longer if we had let them. Stools are free of charge for smaller children to stand on to see more of the excellent display.
The miniature world includes a model coal mine, a model sawmill, farmhouses, a harbour complete with a cruise ship, and a township with a railway station.
The track up to Australia's largest model railway, from the Lakeside station, has been updated and is now fully accessible for wheelchairs, prams, plus very young (and very old) legs.
Another journey highlight is crossing the Belgrave-Gembrook road and the Monbulk Creek at Selby via the wooden trestle bridge.
This sweeping, curved bridge was built in 1899 and is the most photographed structure in the region. It makes for an ideal photo opportunity from both the train and the ground. While sitting on the window sill, children can see the engine hauling the train from all carriages.
Arriving back at Belgrave, the exit (as was the entry to the platform) is through the well-stocked gift shop, which stocks a variety of gifts and souvenirs from a memorable day out.
Additional activities while at Emerald Lake Park include hiring paddle boats on the lake and hiring bikes to explore the many tracks around the lake. These tracks can also be explored on foot.
More Details About Puffing Billy can be found on their website.
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