When I visited the Melbourne Steam Traction Engine Club for its running day last Sunday, it was a bit of what I expected and not what I expected. Yes, there were amazing rustic machines sprawled over an expanse of land, chugging and chuffing in greeting but it was also extremely hidden away in the corner of Ferntree Gully Road and the Eastlink Freeway. I took a train towards Belgrave from the city and then changed to the Route 693 bus towards Oakleigh from the Ferntree Gully Station. There are other ways to get there as well, but driving is probably the most attractive option.
Upon arrival I found myself greeted with a sign that advised me to be cautious of the rail tracks. Machinery of all sorts had come alive with some moving and some bellowing smoke. In fact when I looked at the scene that unfolded before me (being completely inexperienced in trains of any sort) I thought it looked like something out of Transformers. The colourful, giant machines looked like they were going to spring into action any minute and start fighting or saving the world. Only Shia Labeouf was missing. Thanking my lucky stars that I brought my camera I ventured around exploring slowly. Towards the back there is a scenic lake and beyond more of the colourful trucks, tractors and rollers.
Entirely run on donations, the club members are passionate and as you roam around you'll see them working their magic with these metal giants. The volunteers are very friendly so if you were dying to ask a question they would probably be willing to impart with some of their wisdom, however you'll find that you are free to roam on your own as they do tend to get immersed in their work. There is an impressive collection of Steam Rollers, Steam Traction Engines, Earth Movers, and Excavators. It also houses the Stationary Steam Museum of 35 engines dating from 1890s. Amidst all the exhibitions stands the Rapier W90 Walking Dragline (also known as ' Big foot') like a giant watching over the precinct. Most exhibits spring to life on the last Sunday of each month for the running day and you'll see some action.
However it is probably at the 'Steamfest' Rally that you will see the climax of transformers, I mean the National Steam Centre. Happening on the 9, 10 and 11th of March, the steam centre will show off its collection as well as more items that will be brought down for the event from private collections.
I ended my visit with a ride on the miniature railway around the museum grounds (probably a favourite for the kids, I'm guilty of enjoying it too). Children, photography enthusiasts, families and train/machinery enthusiasts will all enjoy this place. It is also important to understand that they hold a valuable historic collection of great educational value as well. So go down to the Steam Centre for a dose of know-how on these industrial metal giants.