Belgrave Travel Blog› entry 4 of 23 › view all entries
Puffing Billy is an old steam locomotive. There once was a lot of history to the train and its rail, but now it is nothing more than a sightseeing tour. The full length the train ride is about four hours round trip*, but there are several stops along the way.
We arrived just in time to catch the first train of the day. As we were finding our place on the train, the Grand Conductor was ringing his bell up and down the tracks. “All aboard” he shouted, in an old time way that went well with the pipe he was carrying in his hand. We started the journey with our feet dangling outside from the box car. Banjo rode Puffing Bill as a kid, many years ago. He was delighted to hear that we could still sit on the edge and hang over the rails.
The old steam train blew its whistle and right away I could hear the engine come to life. It started slow as it was taking its time to clear the station. Then, with little effort, we were up to speed roaring along the winding steeply graded narrow-gauge railway. We were cutting through “the brush” and puffing away while enjoying the breath taking variety of scenery. Tall trees soon turned into wide open farmlands with rivers and lakes scattered throughout. We rode in the box car untill for about an hour until the first stop.
Our first stop we got off on was Lakeside. We had a little time before the next train came and used it to look at the model train gallery. There was over 2000 meters of track that spread over a neat little model city. It was fun to see, not really all that amazing but it did make us want to start one of our own model train sets.
The next train to take us through to Glembrook was an old diesel train. Banjo and I asked the conductors if we could get up into the cab and grab a quick picture. They happy welcomed us and even offered for us to ride with them in the front. We were ecstatic and the whole two hour journey to Glenbrook and back to Lakeside was up front. We would jump out onto the very front of the locomotive and took some awesome pictures. We chatted with the two conductors the whole way, making jokes and just having a good ol’ time.
The story does not end there. We got back to Lakeside to switch back unto the steam engine and we were invited to ride up front in Puffing Billy as well. There was only room for one of us at a time to ride up front. Banjo went first and I got to ride in the fire watching buggy. Since there is a high threat of brush fires still, there is a small little buggy that follows the trains a couple of hundred meters behind. Our job in the buggy was to make sure no fires were started from the ash of the coals or sparks from the breaks. It was a neat ride and halfway back, Banjo and I switch and I was up front riding with the conductors on Puffing Billy.
The engine was small and right away I was shown what I could and could not touch. Chris, one of the conductors, showed me around the engine. “This is hot,” Chris would point to this, “that is hot,” and he would point to that, “oh, and don’t touch over here too.” Needless to say, I was only given a small amount of room. Chris was the coal shoveler and he would tell me there is a proper way to shovel coal into the engine. Not too much and not too little and the coal has to be put in the right spot. It was a hot job and he kept a pale of water close by. He would dunk his bandana in the water, ring in out and tie it around his neck. Even I was given a job. Chris would look at the steam gauge and gave a shout over the roaring of the engine, “water on, steam on” and I would reply “water on, steam on aye.
This day could not have gone any better. The people were friendly, the weather was gorgeous and the views were stunning.
*An adult ticket was $51 Australian round trip from Belgrave to Glembrook. I purchased two tickets at $102 AU and used my Capital One Visa. With no international transaction fees it hit the bank at $69 US. Not a bad exchange rate right now. I call it my American discout, a little over 30 % off.