Puffing Billy: A magical day out for the Caravanning with Kids Family!
Puffing Billy is a century-old steam train which continues to run on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook in the magnificent Dandenong Ranges 40kms east of Melbourne. Puffing Billy Railway is now a major tourist attraction and operates every day except Christmas, made possible by the efforts of more than 900 volunteers. What makes the Puffing Billy experience unique is that you ride the train with your legs hanging over the side of the carriages – a true thrill for young and old!
I have fond memories of riding on Puffing Billy when I was a small girl, hanging my legs through the windows and feeling the wind in my hair and the smell of coal and steam in the air. It was a special experience for me and one that has stayed with me my whole life. As a mother there is something very touching about sharing those memories with your own children…reliving your own experience yet seeing it through your children’s fresh eyes. I was excited to be heading with the family to Puffing Billy knowing my girls would love the experience as much as I had all those years ago…
The girls knew something of Puffing Billy already – not from my endless chats of my childhood memories but from a Barry Peters visit to Ashlee’s kinder a few years earlier. At the time the children received a CD and track 8 has been near worn out in our place, “Here Comes Puffing Billy”! The girls certainly knew about the train.
We were all excited, the girls singing the song endlessly as I packed us a picnic lunch – yes; we were all more than ready to go! All aboard for a wonderful family day out..!
The atmosphere at the station on arrival is wonderful. A mix of old school charm, historic warmth and features steeped rich in tradition. The staff and volunteers dress in traditional uniforms and the kid’s faces brought us pure joy – what they didn’t know of course was that the magic was just beginning!
The growing crowd all waited with anticipation as Puffing Billy rolled into the platform, full steam billowing and the creaks and sounds of the old steam train filling the air. Wayne and I were immediately whisked back to our own childhoods and all four of us ‘kids’ jumped aboard. (There are a few options for ‘rides’ and we choose the 11.10am departure from Belgrave to arrive at Lakeside at 12.20pm for our picnic lunch!)
The girls could not wait to get their legs through the bars in the windows – the world famous way of experiencing Puffing Billy! A tiny second of mummy-panic washed over me as I processed if they could fall through – nup – all safe! But Wayne and I sat behind them anyway, a protective hand on little Kate made me feel better and meant I could relax and enjoy the ride. #Mumlife right!?
Chug Chug Chug…we were very lucky to be on a carriage that had a volunteer member who gave us a history lesson as we journeyed along. Wow! The kids didn’t listen as they were too engrossed in looking at all the trees and hanging out waving at all the other passengers down the line, but Wayne and I were fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed the stories of this historic railway.
We arrived at our stop, Lakeside, a gorgeous green area with plenty to keep you busy while you await your return journey. Boasting BBQ areas, playgrounds, chairs and tables this is truly Mother Nature at it’s best. We found a spot by the lake and prepared our picnic while the girls ran off to play. After enjoying lunch and the beautiful location we headed back the five minutes walk to re-board the 2:25pm train.
The ride back is equally enjoyable – even better if you sit on the opposite side of the train to return home. Even second time around the girls could not contain their excitement – could this day get any better? Back at Gembrook we met the Station Master and took some photos with the Train Driver and the volunteers. A gorgeous pictorial reminder of a great day – and perfect for sticking in the girl’s Travel Journals!
It is very hard for me to explain how we felt watching our girls on Puffing Billy, it actually brings tears to my eyes just typing this for you all. The pure joy, fascination, excitement, giggles and questions of interest made our hearts burst. What a day! Before I go nuts with all the enthusiasm, let’s wrap this up… if you are thinking about going on Puffing Billy…GO! This was truly was one of the best days we have ever had.
We stayed at Crystal Brook Caravan Park which was only 15 minutes up the road and was the perfect location for this weekend away. Have you been on Puffing Billy? We would love to hear about your day.
You can record all your travelling adventures in our Australian made Travel Journals – get yours here: