There’s something genuinely magical about taking a trip on Puffing Billy, no matter your age. From the moment you arrive at Belgrave station, you get a real sense of what it’s very first passengers would have experienced, from the signs directing you to the platform, to the uniforms and friendly waves from staff. This authenticity is what makes a journey on Puffing Billy undoubtedly one of the most fascinating ways to explore the Dandenong Ranges and a perfect way to unwind as a family whilst learning about part of Melbourne’s most wonderful history.

‘The Puffing Billy Railway was one of four low-cost 2’6″ (762mm) gauge lines constructed in Victoria in the early 1900s to open up remote areas. The present line between Belgrave and Gembrook is the major part of the line which opened on 18 December 1900’

We rode Puffing Billy from Belgrave to Gembrook. The journey takes approximately 1hr 50 mins each way. The train creeps along 24km of narrow-gauge track through the lush fern gullies and tall mountain ash trees of the Dandenong Ranges, alongside blissfully unaware wildlife, over our most iconic trestle bridges and past happily waving locals. It really is like a scene out of the Railway Children. After a quick stop at Lakeside we headed further down the track and into the glorious flower filled fields nearing Gembrook.  

Pulling in to Gembrook we were greeted by the unmistakable sound of Santa’s Bell, ringing loudly as he welcomed us into the station. The screams of joy radiating from the train was contagious. The children were thrilled when we entered the station building to find Santa waiting for them with a sack of gifts and a sweet photo opportunity!

We were in Gembrook for just over an hour and a half, before the returning train departed. There is a great little play park, a vintage car museum, picnic area and plenty of local shops, cafes and a pub to explore whilst you wait. We took a picnic and sat in the sunshine, which we’d highly recommend.

Although it sounds like a long journey for younger passengers, our children (and many others on the train) loved it! They really enjoyed sitting aboard Puffing Billy, watching the steam and the smoke puffing into the sky, hearing the loud toot-toot from the driver, waving frantically at passers-by, and sticking their heads out to watch the train curve round the bends. A journey on Puffing Billy is an experience like no other, and we all agreed that it is definitely one of our favourite days out in Melbourne. There is nothing quite like a fun family day out steeped in history!

Trains usually stop for 1 hour and 45 minutes at Gembrook.
One way journey time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

What’s happening at Puffing Billy:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on the Puffing Billy line, with Gembrook Station preparing for a special guest…

On December 7, 8, 14 and 15, Santa and his trusted reindeer will be getting a head start on the holiday festivities, with a merry visit to the last stop on the railway track.

Departing from Puffing Billy’s Belgrave Station, the historic locomotive will travel through the lush fern gullies and tall mountain ash trees of the Dandenong Ranges; across four iconic trestle bridges and into the quaint Victorian whistle stops of the Belgrave-Gembrook corridor, to find the jolly man in red waiting to meet and greet passengers from 12pm – 3pm!

Children 14 years and under will receive a lucky dip present from Saint Nick while sharing their Christmas wish lists and having their photo taken. Decorations and a real pine Christmas tree will adorn the station and add to the Christmas spirit of the platform.

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Puffing Billy is pleased to welcome Thomas the Tank EngineTM during February and March. Children and adults can enjoy a train ride with Thomas and Diesel from Gembrook Station and have the chance to meet the Fat Controller. There are many child-friendly activities the whole family will love.

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