Full steam ahead for train adventures

IT’S a world-famous steam train and it’s in our own backyards. The Puffing Billy Railway, one of the finest preserved steam railways in the world, operates every day except Christmas Day and is delivering a track-load of family fun this spring including first-class dining experiences and a day out with Thomas the Tank Engine.
It was originally built at the turn of the century to transport goods and passengers throughout the district, but now operates as a tourist service – providing an enjoyable journey to people of all ages.
The line was opened by the Victorian Railways in 1900 between Upper Ferntree Gully and Gembrook, but financial struggles, and a landslide in 1953, led to the decision to close the line in 1954.
A series of farewell trips in 1955 lead to the establishment of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society in an effort to keep the train running.
Tourist services resumed between Belgrave and Menzies Creek in 1962, and were extended to Emerald in 1965, Lakeside in 1975 and Gembrook in 1998. It has since been a roaring success, with more than ten million passengers taking a trip on the iconic train since the re-opening.
The railway departs from Belgrave and travels 25kms through the forests and fern gullies of the magnificent Dandenong Ranges to Emerald Lake Park and Gembrook.
Together with the traditional train journey, Puffing Billy also offers a range of unique First Class travel and dining experiences in up to four luxurious, fully enclosed carriages, each seating up to 20 passengers. Guests can choose from lunch which is available all week, or dinner on selected Friday or Saturday evenings. Other evenings are available for groups of 60 to 80 passengers.
Group bookings on all scheduled trains may be made and special charter trains for groups of up to 250 are available.
Other unique events include the Murder Mystery Trains, Jazz Trains and Drive an Engine experiences. One of the most popular events is the Day out with Thomas event which will occurring in the next two months.
Thomas the Tank Engine will be steaming into Emerald Town Station alongside Puffing Billy throughout October and November and tickets are on sale for passengers big and small wanting to climb on the carriages pulled by Thomas and his best mate Diesel. It will be full steam ahead back at Emerald Town Station with a pantomime show featuring Thomas and the Fat Controller among the family fun on offer as well as face painting, jumping castles, an animal nursery and Bulgy Bus rides.
Puffing Billy chief executive officer John Robinson said Thomas and his friends had been regular visitors to Puffing Billy during autumn and spring for over 15 years, and the team of volunteers were looking forward to welcoming the trains back this year.
“Puffing Billy is excitedly awaiting the arrival of his good friends Thomas, Diesel and the Fat Controller and would love for all their other friends to come out and say hello, too,” he said.
“Having the world’s most famous steam engine visit Australia’s most famous steam train is a truly magical event and we invite Thomas lovers, young and old, to join us at Puffing Billy’s Emerald Town Station to enjoy the show. This family friendly event will impress the most dedicated Thomas fans, with a ride on the Thomas hauled steam train being the highlight of the day. So book early and make your way to Emerald in October or November for a train adventure like no other,” he said.
Tickets are $27 for adults and children (4 years and over) and $15 for toddlers (1-3 years). Shows will take place on 17, 18, 24 and 25 October and 7, 8, 14 and 15 November 2015. Bookings are essential and must be made online at www.puffingbilly.com.au