I am a freelance writer, fortunate enough to live near Byron Bay, one of Australia's most beautiful regions. My writing - for newspapers, magazines, online and for business - lives at vivienne pearson.com
Published January 29th 2018
The best $3 you'll ever spend (toot toot)
The Diamond Valley Railway (known to locals as the Eltham Miniature Railway, or simply 'The Tiny Train') is one of the best and most affordable activities for families in Melbourne.
The ride is far more complex and interesting than simply chuffing around in a circle. The ride, which does not just one but two rounds of the 2-kilometre track, involves bridges, tunnels, hills, crossings, signals, switches, crossings and stations.
Eltham Miniature Railway - photo from the Diamond Valley Railway Inc Facebook page, taken by Sammy Daly
You sit astride a padded central plank. It's not luxury but it's comfortable enough. Smaller kids can sit right in front of you so you can hold them and easily chat throughout the ride.
I've ridden the train with a bub in a sling, and whilst 7-months pregnant (though I admit I left it to my mum to accompany my daughter one time when I was already past my due date with my second child!).
* Do pay attention to the advice to step out of the trains with your left foot first - it doesn't feel natural but you risk twisting your knee or ankle if you try it the other way around. *
Queues can be long but don't be deterred. Our public transport system could learn a lot from this railway - the queues move quickly and they put on extra trains in super busy times. If you are short of time, aim to get there before the 11am (Sundays only) starting time.
The queue can be long but don't let that deter you
Finding a car park can also be a challenge - this is a great spot (if you have more than one adult) to people off to buy tickets and join the queue while the driver finds a park.
Tickets are cash only
The train ride can be done alone or combined with other activities in the same park:
Two playground options: there is an older style one to the right of the overall park entrance and a newer one - the Eltham Copper Butterfly playground, located just past the railway - this is a fenced park with water play features and lots of native plants.
Oval: opposite the railway is a full sized oval, perfect for a ball game or a good old-fashioned run-around
Walks: you can walk around the park (see lower part of this map) or head further to the nearby Wingrove Park (see the route here).
Picnic: there are picnic tables in each of the park areas, but be warned that they are often snaffled early by children's parties. Or, bring a picnic rug and set up under the shade of a tree either in a park area or on the edges of the oval.
* Be warned that there are very visible ice-cream and other food vans next to the railway. I always find it easier to be clear to my kids whether or not we will be getting an ice-cream before we arrive. *
Or, simply ride the railway again! It is not uncommon to see people jump off the train and head straight back to the ticket window for a second ride!
* Once you've ridden the railway, you will be hugely impressed to discover that the entire venture is run by volunteers and, not only is a ride only $3, the railway regularly donates funds to local charities. I take my (locomotive driver) cap off to everyone involved! *