Puffing Billy Railway Tickets PuffingBilly Puffy Thomas Steam Train Melbourne Belgrave
The Puffing Billy Railway is a fun tourist attraction between Belgrave and Gembrook in the Dandenong Ranges. Contrary to belief there is not actually an individual locomotive called Puffing Billy. Rather, there are about 12 steam trains at the site, and you may see a few of them on the day of your visit. Sometimes Thomas the Tank Engine makes an appearance too! The entire site is run by volunteers of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, so please be kind and understanding with them as they’re all working for free and their love of trains. This was one of the reasons we decided to visit. How could an entire attraction be this popular and run by volunteers?
Buying Puffing Billy Tickets
Puffing Billy prices go up every year due to rising costs so its best to go as soon as you can! We bought ours from the website here: Puffing Billy http://www.puffingbilly.com.au While the site says you MAY be able to buy tickets on the day, it really is unlikely on public holidays. And the website says to get there before 9:30am anyway if you’re nearby. Definitely buy them online. While waiting to exchange my printed internet ticket for a real one, I overheard the person at the ticket counter call to a queue of people that he can only process online tickets. There are no day tickets available. Only online tickets. There was about 10 people who looked disappointed. Definitely buy online, and make sure you allow plenty of time to get there. We chose the 1:15pm time as, to do that, and allow for delays, we had to get the 10:55am train from Southern Cross Station, which meant getting up at 7:00am to shower and get there. Don’t book an early time then find you’ve got to get up at 5:00am!
How to Get To Belgrave Station for the Puffing Billy Experience
Catch the direct line to Belgrave from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD. The trains usually leave every 20 minutes or so during the day and the Puffing Billy run is a short walk from the end of the station and up and over the nearby hill. You can probably hear the steam train whistle when you arrive. There are signs from the station too as well as a blue painted line on the platform you can follow. Other names The Puffing Billy Railway doesn’t have any other names but many have other names for it. Listing them here for search engines! Puffy, Little Billy, Yarra Valley Railway, Puffingbilly, Puff and Billy, Dandenong Train, Puff n Billy, and a lot more!
Review of the Puffing Billy Day Trip
We chose an overcast day and took a quiet Southern Cross Station to Belgrave train. It was Good Friday and the train was only half full. No delays on the line, and we arrived on time at Belgrave station. Little locomotive signs pointed us in the right direction and we followed a blue line along the platform, through some gates at the end, up to the right and around to the left, then down to the steam train area. Once you’re on the track it’s easy to find, but from an empty platform and a dark exit overhung with foliage, you may initially think it’s the wrong way.
Alternately, you could exit the normal way up the steps and turn left and follow the directions around to the front of the station. (If you go right you’ll end up in the collection of Belgrave shops.)
I lined up and exchanged my internet printed ticket for a couple of real ones, coloured tickets to give to the ticket collector before boarding the train. I was also given two smaller souvenir tickets.
While many young people may see these tiny printed bits of cardboard, using the old train ticket printing machines, as museum pieces, I’m old enough to remember actually getting these every day on my way to work, so initially I stared at them realising that another thing from my twenties was now in a museum somewhere!
We got there to find the train on the platform and already filling up with people. My wife had found online that it is best to sit on the right side for the wider view. Unfortunately all the right side seats had filled at this time. No matter. We could get the left on the way back! Initially I thought that the 1:15 was early (we were there early to have time to look around) but it was the 12:30pm. Even so, and even though we had tickets for the 1:15, there were still spaces on the left side and the ticket collector was very happy to hold the train, and let some more people on who had booked for later times, if they wanted to take the empty spaces. They also waited a few more minutes in case there were some late arrivals. I guess some people had booked online tickets and hadn’t got up early enough to get there in time. The conductor also asked us if we’d like to go earlier, so we decided that the next train would probably wait as long, so we said yes!
So the 12:30pm train left around 12:40pm and took us across a very scary bridge, through the Dandenong rainforest and up some inclines to Lakeside. The journey was quite winding and I was able to get some great video of the front of the carriage from my view. My wife also took the opportunity of sticking her legs out the window and dangling them as we went around the curves. With my long legs and heavy boots I was too close to some of the trees for it to be safe so I thought it best not to do that. Also, that hard sitting area, bouncing with the tracks, is painful on my boney butt!
Lots of Puffing Billy Tourists!
Many of the tourists got off at an earlier station – Menzies Station – having gone on it as part of a Puffing Billy Tour (private operators) We decided to have the full tourist experience and stay on until Lakeside. I can say that while the station that the tours get off at seems a bit short, the station that we got off at seemed a bit long. Definitely go to the toilet before you get on the steam train as there’ll be a long wait when you arrive!
Lakeside Train Station
Lakeside has, of course, a lake, a barbecue area, places to do rowing, lots of ducks, cafes, souvenir shops, and a model railway area up the hill (there’s an admission fee for that so, as we only had a few minutes before the train was going to take us back, we decided not to do it.)
The steam train route shows you a view across the Yarra Valley, and lots of trees. It was interesting to see the amount of houses hidden away in the bush, on the side of the mountain.
The train was packed on the way back with many people randomly choosing which train they want to take. Some realised they couldn’t get on so decided to take the next one. I’d advise getting back on board at least 15 minutes before it’s due to leave so that you can get a seat.
The train carriages usually remain on the platform at Lakeside, and the Conductor simply moves the engine around the track to the other side of the train to take it back. Before that happens, kids can get the opportunity to jump into the engine area and have their photo taken with the driver.
You can also get photos in front of the steam train, and the driver sometimes lets out some steam from the engine while you’re taking selfies, which adds to the atmosphere of the picture.
We enjoyed our visit, and it was great fun to be able to not only explore this area of Victoria but to do it on a steam train. I think the most appealing thing about it was just how easy it was. Order online, jump on a train from the CBD, jump on the train at the Puffing Billy Railway station and enjoy. Almost seamless. Highly recommended if you like trains and are looking for a fun day out with your family.
NB: If you’re taking little kids, note that the trains only allow the tiny foldup strollers. If you’ve got one of those hulking things with cup holders, reversible seating, and multiple wheel locks, you won’t be able to take it on board. Please contact them directly if you’re in doubt.
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