This will be the final post on the trip and I’ve saved the best for last – a ride on board Puffing Billy, a preserved steam railway that has been in operation since the early 1900s.
I don’t know how we missed this during our previous visits but it was SO. MUCH. FUN!!! Upper case and 3 exclamation points worth of fun.
It’s up in the Dandenong Ranges (10 minutes away from Miss Marples Tea Room) and that whole place is filled with such old school charm it was like taking a trip back a hundred years in a time machine, to a time where steam trains had real steam, train conductors wore proper conductor hats and railroad engineers dressed in coal-smudged overalls.
The most amazing thing about this entire operation is that it is run entirely by volunteers. It takes about 900 volunteers to keep the railway going and these guys dedicate their time to doing it for free. The conductors are mostly retirees who do it full time while the train engineers and railway workers are young guys who spend their weekends and after work hours manually repairing tracks, cleaning carriages and keeping the trains operational.
And they’re all so passionate about it.
The conductor who was in our carriage was so cute and friendly in a grandfatherly sort of way. He had a twinkle in his eye as he told us all about the railway’s history and he would point out all the cool stops excitedly so we could get our cameras ready. I mean, the guy has probably gone up and down this track thousands of times and he was still as enthusiastic as the kids were during the ride.
We took a leisurely 1-hour ride from Belgrave (such a lovely name, Belgrave) to Lakeside and the view was magnificent. Rolling hills, lush green plains and charming little cottages, exactly like a scene right out of The Sound of Music.
The coolest part was that they even let us sit along the ledge of the carriage with our feet sticking out at the side. It felt a little dangerous, especially when the kids were half dangling from the train as it made its way across a very old-looking bridge (we held them extra tight and it was actually safer than it looks).
Seriously, it’s among the top 3 most awesome things I’ve done, just sitting somewhat dangerously on the ledge and looking out at the glorious, glorious view. The cold wind felt delicious even though it was freezing and I could barely feel my limbs.
When we got to Lakeside, we spent an hour exploring the place before hopping back on the train back to Belgrave. We had more sandwiches by more lakes, chased some more birds and ran up and down a pretty little bridge.
And then we rounded off a perfect day with some killer sticky toffee pudding from Miss Marples.