Puffing Billy: The Steam Railway Journey that Health and Safety Forgot
Based in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, an hours drive from Melbourne, is the Puffing Billy Railway.
Running between Belgrave and Gembrook, carriages built in the early 1900's haul passengers up and down the line, passing through tall gum trees and man sized fern forests. A one way journey for the entire line takes approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes. If time is tighter, there are options to exit the train and explore at a number of stops along the route.
For $57 AUD per adult we opted to travel between Belgrave and Lakeside- a 55 minute scenic journey that Health and Safety forgot.
Boarding a packed train we were able to find a spot to undertake the traditional approach to Puffing Billy travel- hanging our legs over the side.
It is only fair to mention at this point that some casualties did result from this approach to the journey- we saw one forlorn looking trainer, one accidentally discarded flip flop and a dropped baseball cap on the side of the tracks. The fact that we could see anything at all was quite amazing given the amount of wood cinders that we managed to catch in the eye (or eat) on the way up!
The view from the ledge was incredible, but especially so when we dangled over the trestle bridge, 42 feet above the road.
Having successfully made our way to Lakeside we disembarked to enjoy what the area had to offer. The Lakeside stop is located within the Emerald Lake Park and, like most other public spaces in Australia, offers picnic and barbecue areas.There is also a cafe, a wading pool and fantastic green woodland to enjoy.
An unexpected bonus of Lakeside was the local birdlife, inquisitive and friendly. In the hope that we might encounter some birds that wanted to become acquainted we had carried bird seed with us. My Travelling Buddy (who has always had a way with the birds) was an immediate hit with the crimson rosellas.
In terms of preservation of assets, Puffing Billy works on a number of levels. The Preservation Society care for the rolling stock and the engines. The railway participates in The Green Tracks Project and work to help maintain and protect the local waterways to assist the native flora and fauna of the area.
And what better way is there to spend an afternoon, other than dangling over a bridge, with cinders in your hair, and knowing that while you enjoy yourself the railway you're supporting is helping the local environment?