Victoria’s 10 best heritage train journeys for kids and railway enthusiasts

Heritage railway

Blanche Clark

Posted April 11, 2022

Like the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series, there’s a sense of adventure for young and old aboard Victoria’s heritage railways.

From the moment you arrive at the station, be it in Belgrave, Mildura or the Bellarine, the excitement starts to kick in. The engine driver, clad in blue overalls and peaked cap, leans from the door of the engine room, and there’s a quiet thrill when the locomotive shudders, and billows of smoke and a cautionary whistle signal the start of the train journey. 

The love of locomotion is alive in Victoria, and there are many towns where you can experience steam power - one of the most important technologies of the Industrial Revolution.

Even with all our technological advancements, this form of transportation continues to fascinate young and old, and it’s thanks to hard-working volunteers that we have so many heritage railways in Victoria.

Towns such as Alexandra, Daylesford and Walhalla, where these railways are located, also make great family holiday destinations. 

Most heritage railways operate on selected days each month, often Sundays, and occasionally during the school holidays, so check their websites for details and bookings.

Historic railway

One of Victoria's most famous heritage railways, Puffing Billy. Image: Supplied

Ten of the best regional Victoria heritage railways

Alexandra Timber Tramway

The Alexandra Timber Tramway and Museum takes you back to the early 20th century, when eight sawmills, with their own self-contained communities, operated deep within the Rubicon Forest.

Today families can ride a steam-hauled train or a diesel locomotive and camp in the forest, imagining life without creature comforts. The engineering feats of the past are on display in the mechanical workshop.

Alexandra is also a sweet spot for a cycling holiday, with a link to the Great Victorian Rail Trail. 

Bellarine Railway

Whether it’s Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween or Christmas, Bellarine Railway has year-round attractions for families. There’s a Day Out with Thomas (The Tank Engine) and the musical Blues Train. You can also opt for a 45-minute scenic train ride from Queenscliff to Lakers Siding to feel the power of a steam or diesel locomotive.

There’s major track work underway to improve the section between Lakers Siding and Drysdale, ensuring this heritage railway will be around for generations to come.  


Musician singing on train

The Blues Train is one of Bellarine Railway's many attractions. Image: Supplied

Daylesford Spa Country Railway  

It’s a diesel railcar rather than steam engine, but Walker railmotors have a special place in the hearts of many rail enthusiasts. The power units were built in the UK, but the rest of the railmotors were constructed and assembled in Victoria, operated between 1948 and 1980.

Few have been preserved, but in April 2022, Daylesford Spa Country Railway celebrates 40 years of operation.

Trains operate on the same day as the Daylesford Sunday Market. 

Kerrisdale Mountain Railway

Located west of Yea, Kerrisdale Mountain Railway is a unique two-foot gauge tourist railway offering spectacular views of the Tallarook Ranges and Upper Goulburn Valley.

The cute narrow-gauge locos zig-zag up a steep ascent, enlivening the 35-minute return journey. There’s also a museum housing the ‘Douglas’ 0-4-2 steam locomotive (pictured at the start of the story), which was fully designed and constructed at Kerrisdale Mountain Railway. Refreshments are available at the kiosk.


Heritage steam engine

Train drivers dress the part to help recreate the bygone era of steam engines. Image: Supplied

Mornington Railway

The Mornington spur line opened to great fanfare in 1889, and the transport of trees, troops, coal and horses was as common as tourists until 1981.

It took a lot of lobbying and fundraising to get this tourism railway up and running in 1991. Since then, it’s been keeping Victoria’s railway heritage alive with the K163 steam locomotive, which recently had a major overhaul at the Newport Railway Workshops (another fascinating place).

A diesel locomotive replaces the K163 on hot days or when it’s out of action. 

Puffing Billy

Puffing Billy is an immersive experience, a confluence of nature and history. There’s the smell of eucalyptus trees and coal, the sight of verdant valleys and coupling rods, and the sound of rustling trees and rattling carriages.

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. As the train chugs past multiple level crossings between Belgrave and Emerald, people emerge from their cars to take photos and children wave enthusiastically.

At the end there are dedicated volunteers happy to share more about one of the best-preserved steam railways in the world.


Heritage steam engine

Lukee the Steam Engine is a family favourite at Red Cliffs. Image: Supplied

Red Cliffs Historical Steam Railway

Lukee the Steam Engine (c.1901) is a hit with families visiting Mildura (Sunraysia). This train ride relives the days when steam locomotives hauled coal and briquettes from the Red Cliffs railway siding to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission pumping station on the Murray River.

Leaving Karadoc Station and running along a 1.5 km narrow gauge railway, children and many adults alike will be intrigued to see the engine uncoupled, turned around on a turntable, and then recoupled at Thurla Station before returning home.

Red Cliffs Historical Steam Railway also a diesel locomotive called Harry. 

Victorian Goldfields Railway

Victorian Goldfields Railway steam train links the historic gold mining towns of Castlemaine and Maldon in Central Victoria. It’s great for children, with family compartments, open windows and the chance to spot kangaroos.

Ales on Rails gives adult friends the chance to ride in an Edwardian parlour carriage, sip local craft beers and disembark for lunch at Maldon. If you’re an Agatha Christie fan, the Murder on the Orient Express event is a novel way to watch the classic 1974 movie with a glass of bubbly in hand.


Heritage train approaching bridge

Walhalla Goldfields Railway includes six large trestle bridges. Image: Supplied

Walhalla Goldfields Railway

If you love trestle bridges, this is the journey for you.

The Walhalla Goldfields Railway line passes six large trestle bridges that criss-cross the spectacular Stringers Creek Gorge. The 60-minute return trip also ambles through beautiful bushland and across the Thomson River.

Reconstructed in the 1990s (the entire railway, buildings and most bridges were removed in 1960), its narrow-gauge line is identical to that of Puffing Billy.

If, as an adult you want to enact your childhood dream of driving a train, look up their Driver For A Day experience. You even get a denim cap.

Yarra Valley Railway

The Walker Railmotor relives its mid-century glory days on this scenic rail line between Healesville and Tunnel Hill near Tarrawarra Winery.

The 9km-round trip on the Yarra Valley Railway takes about 45 minutes, and the dark tunnel is a highlight, although parents might feel a little hand tighten around theirs.

More than 500 volunteers are involved in a project to restore the rail line between Yarra Glen and Tarrawarra Estate, which will increase the heritage railway’s appeal as a tourist attraction.


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