"All aboard" rings out across the platform. A green flag from the guard and a piercing blast of a whistle and then … ah! Nostalgia. That is what the Yarra Valley Railway has successfully re-created at Healesville Station.
The eight-kilometre journey only takes 20 minutes but it crosses the Healesville – Kinglake Road, passes over the Watts River, goes under the now disused Donovans Road Bridge, and passes through the historic 155-metre long tunnel through Tunnel Hill.
A brief stop is made at the Tarrawarra Winery before the return journey commences.
Healesville Station opened in March 1889 with the first steam train arriving soon after. Steam gave way to a diesel-powered Walker Rail Car in 1957, which in turn was replaced by a diesel-electric rail motor in 1979. The last regular passenger service was in December 1980, with the official closure of the line in 1983.
From the moment you step onto Healesville Station you are taken back in time when railway travel was a journey, not just a means of getting somewhere.
An accurate recreation of passengers luggage waiting to be loaded.
The sensation is reinforced when you buy your ticket. A genuine cardboard ticket, date stamped on a genuine old date stamper, and not a Myki in sight. The only reminder of today is the "Visa & MasterCard welcome here" sign at the ticket office.
Could be decades ago, if the Visa sign wasn't there.
In July 2010 a milestone was reached when the Yarra Valley Railway launched its passenger train service with the Walker Railmotor RM22. This marked the first time in 30 years that a regular timetabled passenger train service had operated in the Yarra Valley.
Approaching the Donovans Road crossing on a return trip.
The basic Walker Railmotor was built in England with the body built in Melbourne. Sixteen entered service with Victorian Railways from 1948, with the last one retired in 1981. RM22 was 'discovered' by the YVR in a railway museum at Williamstown and after discovering that it had actually operated on the Lilydale to Healesville line procured it and spent many years restoring it.
Recently the YVR received a $3.5 million grant to assist with extending the line to Yarra Glen, eight kms past Tarrawarra. Many bridges need to be rebuilt or replaced, many as an aftermath of the Black Friday bushfires which ravished the area.
The train departs the Healesville Station every Sunday and public holidays between 10.00am and 4.00pm.