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We visited on the weekend and couldn't help but appreciate the volunteers who work so tirelessly restoring and improving the rail line so tourists and passengers can enjoy the trip from Healesville to Tunnel Hill.
Our train driver and signal men were locals to the area and shared their wealth of knowledge about local sights, the trains history and the restoration project, with such enthusiasm.
The lovely restored Healesville Station is where we purchased our cardboard tickets to board the little rail car or to be precise it's a 153HP Walker Rail Motor or RM22 with a Gardiner engine (Walker Bros Power unit.)
After boarding the little train and the kids deciding on the best seats, they were set to go. I gave myself a mini tour of the train and was very tempted to sit in the little drivers cabin at the front, however the volunteers didn't look quite so enthusiastic at the thought of me driving the train. One can but try.
One volunteer came to check tickets and punch holes in them, which is very exciting for children. Then we were off with a toot, past the platform and over a road crossing. We passed lush paddocks filled with kangaroos and horses then passed under a bridge and through a cutting before going through a very old brick tunnel. On reaching Tunnel Hill the train can go no further as the tracks needs restoring, so with the ease of being able to drive the train from either end, the driver changes ends and then we're off again, back to the station.
Once we returned we were told about the different events held on the Yarra Valley Railway with the next being the Ghost Train. I'm told it's very popular and is held annually with the next being on October 25th & 26th. They also open for group tours but they need a minimum of 3 days notice, kids birthdays are also popular on the train.
The rail line between Lilydale and Healesville opened in 1889, which carried timber, dairy, livestock, agricultural products and passengers. In 1893 there were three daily trains to Healesville. In May 1901 the Duke and Duchess of York boarded the train to Healesville.
The railway was also an important part of the construction of the Maroondah Dam in the 1920's to carry cement and other materials needed. The railway went into a steady decline after WWII as road transport became the preferred choice and eventually closed fully in 1980.
The track declined rapidly after it was closed and the Warburton line was removed.
After much restoration and hard work by volunteers the Healesville line, reopened to passengers on 17th July 2010. It has been 30 years since a regular timetabled passenger train has operated in the Yarra Valley.