Puffing Billy is not merely a handsome steam train that plies across the Dandenong Ranges; it is indeed a slice of national history.
With its line laid down in the early 1900s, Puffing Billy runs every day of the year except Christmas day along the approximate 25 km track.
The beautifully restored coaches, the peculiar smell off the engine chimney wafting through the air, the queer sound of the train horn, and unspoilt countryside along the way provide the backdrop for a trip back in time.
You can start your journey from Belgrave, since it is the nearest station from Melbourne (40 km east) and choose to go to either Lakeside or further to Gembrook.
You can purchase your tickets at Belgrave, which is the main station and headquarters of the railway. Fares vary according to the distance you choose to cover and age. There are concessions for senior citizens and students and a reduced rate for children.
Refreshments are easily available at quaint kiosks at almost all stations. There are facilities for passengers with special needs.
At the Emerald Lake Park (popularly called Lakeside) you can enjoy an afternoon at leisure around the glorious park and picnic shelters or hire a boat and enjoy fishing at the lake.
In case you decide to stay overnight at Gembrook, a cosy country town, you will have umpteen things to do to elapse your time.
All along the journey aboard the heritage train you will find numerous olde worlde bridges, a spectacular view of sedate farms and scores of diverse ferns intrinsic to the Dandenong rainforests.
For an extra special experience, board The Steam and Cuisine - the luncheon train ($95 adult fare and $85.50 concession/ child fare) - or The Devonshire Journey - the tea train ($60 adult fare and $54 concession/ child fare.)
I went on Puffing Billy last weekend, and I must say, sitting on the edge of the windows was one of the best experiences of the trip. Being able to sit on the edge and dangle your legs out, watching the old, yet strong locomotive course its way on the track is a memory that will be etched in my head for the rest of my days.
Seriously, if you're reading this article, go and take a ride on it.
You won't be dissapointed!
By Luke Davies - senior reviewer Saturday, 10th of September @ 12:53 am