Exhilarating train journey

Discover the simple joy of riding one of the best-preserved steam railways in the world through a beautiful old-growth forest.

From the moment you arrive at Belgrave Station, there’s the sense that you’re stepping back in time.

Like a scene out of a period drama, the engine driver, clad in blue overalls and peaked cap, leans from the door of the engine room and waves as passengers climb aboard the maroon metal carriages. There’s a quiet thrill as the locomotive shudders and billows of smoke and a cautionary whistle signal the start of the train journey.

Puffing Billy is one of the best-preserved steam railways in the world and it’s a major tourist attraction many Melburnians take for granted. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from our COVID confinement, it’s that the simplest things often give us the greatest joy.

The Puffing Billy Railway Exclusive RACV Group Tour includes a return journey from Belgrave to Emerald, with morning tea at Menzies Creek Station and lunch at the historic Nobelius Packing Shed.

Even if you’ve been on Puffing Billy before, it’s easy to forget the delight of passing over the historic Monbulk Creek trestle bridge and the beauty of the tall mountain ash trees.

There’s an atmosphere of camaraderie in the carriages as people share what turns out to be an exhilarating experience. As the train chugs past multiple level crossings, people emerge from their cars to take photos and children wave enthusiastically. The romance of locomotion is alive.

The train journey is an immersive experience, a confluence of nature and history: with the smell of eucalyptus trees and coal, the sight of verdant valleys and coupling rods, and the sound of rustling trees and rattling carriages.

As for the sense of taste, that comes when you settle into the rustic surrounds of the Nobelius Packing Shed for a locally sourced two-course lunch, with drinks available at bar prices.

But first there’s tea and scones at the Menzies Creek Station and a guided tour of the museum. Home to more than 80 exhibits, it’s more than a repository for old carriages, fluid pumps and generators. It’s a place that encapsulates Victoria’s railway history and many of the technological advances that have transformed our lives.

It’s also a reflection of the hundreds of volunteers who are involved in almost all aspects of running Puffing Billy, whether it’s manning stations, selling tickets, maintaining the track and trains or showing visitors around the museum. 

If you’re keen to learn more, the volunteers are happy to share their knowledge, whether its explaining the width of the gauge line or how much horsepower is required to pull all the carriages up the hill.

Their passion and commitment to the preservation of this railway is something you appreciate as the century-old stream train ambles along its original mountain track back to Belgrave.

Puffing Billy Railway Exclusive RACV Group Tour, Friday, May 7, 9.15am to 2.30pm, $125pp, includes morning tea and two-course lunch. To book contact Club Events on (03) 9944 8888 or email clubevents@racv.com.au.

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