So did the title of this entry grab your attention? Puffing Billy is a historic stream engine train that runs in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria and it was my destination.
This 762mm (2’6″) gauge line was built in the early 1900’s as a way to open up some of the remote areas of this “mountainous” region of Victoria. I put mountainous in quotation marks because these are mountain for Victoria, but they are pretty small. The train ran until 1953 when a landslide closed the track and the line was losing money so it was discontinued.
Today Puffing Billy is enjoying a big resurgence of popularity as a tourist attraction. The amazing thing is that the whole operation is run by more than 600 volunteers! All the train staff are volunteers including the conductor, ticket sellers and station masters.
My trip today was from Belgrave to Lakeside a distance of 13.2km, 8.25 miles and it took about an hour to cover this distance. The scenery was spectacular as the train traveled gradually up the side of a mountain. The forests we went through were mostly Mountain Ash (a eucalypt) and tree ferns. Because it was a clear day, we could see quite a distance. The train had a one hour stop at Lakeside, where I was able to get a quick sandwich, eat it lake-side and then hike around the lake (it was a small lake!). The return trip was as enjoyable as the trip out.
In some of these photos you may notice that people are sitting in the windows of the train carriages with their legs hanging out! This is a tradition that started soon after the train became a tourist attraction. There are 2 metal bars across the window openings to that you have something to hold onto! It was a fun way to travel!
After the return to Belgrave, I continued my driving tour of the Dandenong Ranges and took some twisty, turny roads to a place called SkyHigh, a scenic spot with 360 degree views of the region. It was clear enough that I could see the Melbourne skyline in the distance (about 30 miles away). SkyHigh had some lovely gardens that I walked through, enjoying some pretty fall colors.
I took a route home that kept me off the interstates and I got to see some small towns that I have only seen as names on a map. I also found a car wash that I took advantage of because our car was a mess (inside and out) after our Great Ocean Road trip last weekend.
So it was a good day and I got to explore another new area of Victoria.