Puffing Billy, a must do experience for kids
This Guest Post is written by Emily Rodsted, from The Distant Wanderer, a fantastic blog with lovely short stories and wonderful photography. So after reading this post, make sure to take a look at her wonderful work.
Every town, city or country has that ‘must do’ childhood experience. Something that makes young ones bounce up and down with excitement and makes adults re-live happy memories of easier days with more smiles and less stress.
The experience we have in Melbourne is Puffing Billy – a 117-year-old steam train that winds around the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, through forests, hills, and cottages. It is a delight for all kids growing up in Melbourne, one many would call a rite of passage.
Puffing Billy, a childhood rite of passage
Everyone I know went as a child – my friends, family and my older brother – who was treated to the experience not once, but three times!! For some reason, I never went. Now I’m not saying this in a disgruntled manner, though I let my parents know in no uncertain terms that despite the wonderful upbringing that I had, missing out on Puffing Billy was a serious breach in child/parent relations. So, for my 30th birthday, after dad finally grew sick of my little digs at my lack of train riding fun, decided to gift me with a family day out on the Big Puffing Billy!!!! Wooooooo!
What a day it was! An easy 45-minute drive from the city towards the Dandenong’s, through winding, forested roads to Belgrave where the majestic old train sits puffing along and waiting for the throngs of happy kids and smiling parents. The train carriages are all open sided with just enough ledge to take part in the absolute must while experiencing Puffing Billy…..hanging your legs out the side of the train, smiling as the world rushes past and trying to spot the many native Australian animals that are out and about in that part of the world. The best part about my happy day? I got to spend it with my beautiful family, my partner and most importantly, my 6-month-old adorably cute niece.
Puffing Billy Experience
If you are taking kids, there is plenty of room for bags but unfortunately no room for large prams, which for the little bub was absolutely fine as it meant many snuggles along the way. She was more than happy to cuddle up with us for most of the way and the rocking motion helped put her (and almost all the adults) straight to sleep. The train stops at a few little quaint country stations along the way but most people disembark at Lakeside Station (about an hour and a half away) for lunch and a wander around. As this was my first time, I was going to do it properly and do the full 2.5 hour trip all the way to Gembrook. We went on a Friday, which meant it was pretty quiet, especially after Lakeside where we had an entire long carriage to ourselves. Perfect!!!
Gembrook is a pretty little town with a nice park and a few antique and craft shops, not to mention a great pub that meant we could get in from the cold and enjoy a nice toast to a wonderful day. After an hour and a half there we jumped back on our own personal carriage and headed for home. You’d never get sick of dangling your feet out the window and watching the world go by. It’s such a wonderful experience with children and adults alike sitting side by side and laughing at the sheer fun of hurtling along with the wind in your hair…and the occasional bit of soot in your eyes…I suggest sunglasses to help with that particular problem!
We finished off the day chatting together as the train raced over wooden trestle bridges with large drops either side. Boy, can I tell you it was fun looking down all that way below!
It was a simple trip, on a simple train that took you back to the days when life was a little simpler itself. When the folk up in the hills didn’t have much transport and everything was bought up to them on the train…food, plants, post, animals, people, you name it. That darling little train brought it all. To have it still running to this day, manned mostly by volunteers that live off the joy of the packs of happy kids with smiles on their faces, visiting tourists grinning and taking a million photos to local adults that remember their own first time on the train. No matter what your age, from newborn to elderly, a ride on this red, rattling beauty through some of the most beautiful scenery will surely bring a smile to your face.
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