Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Belgrave: Tale of two stations


Belgrave's Metro Trains Station (above) lies 42 km north-east of Melbourne's Southern Cross Station. Located in the heart of Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges, Belgrave is a tale of two railway stations. The Metro Trains Station that marks the end of the Melbourne's suburban railway network, and the Puffing Billy Railway Station that lies just beyond the Burwood Highway overpass.


Belgrave's Puffing Billy Railway Station as seen on the approach from the Metro Trains platform. 2015.

A trip aboard Puffing Billy is a must-do when visiting Melbourne, and the easiest way to get there is by catching a Metro Trains service to Belgrave. Trains run hourly and the station is a short walk along a well-sealed path to the Puffing Billy Railway's headquarters.

Belgrave's Puffing Billy Railway Station before the crowds arrive for the first train, 2015.

The Puffing Billy Railway is a testament to the volunteers who fought to reopen the narrow gauge railway line. Built back in 1900 as a cheaper alternative for bringing timber and produce down from the hills of Gembrook, it was a landslide that ultimately led to the narrow gauge line's closure in 1954. By the time the line from Melbourne to Belgrave was reopened as a broad gauge electrified line in 1962, the Puffing Billy Preservation Society had reopened as the former line as a tourist attraction, running steam trains as far as Menzies Creek.

Today, Puffing Billy is regarded as Australia's favourite steam train, Belgrave Station, 2015.

Today the former 2'6" narrow gauge line operates all the way to Gembrook, with preserved steam locomotives hauling trains through the forest in much the same way as they did when the line first opened 115 years ago. The Puffing Billy Railway is regarded as not only Australia's favourite steam train, but one of the finest examples of a fully operating steam railway in the world!

Who doesn't like a ride on a steam train? Taken on my previous visit in 2005.

Perhaps the biggest thrill for the hundreds of tourists that make the journey aboard Puffing Billy each day, is the opportunity to sit with your legs dangling over the side of the carriage while watching the scenery pass by. And after a day riding the train through the Dandenong Ranges to either Lakeside or the end of the line at Gembrook, getting back to Melbourne is as easy as walking the path back to Belgrave's Metro Trains Station. Provided you can drag yourself away from the gift shop.

Trains waiting at Belgrave's Metro Station for the return journey to Melbourne, 2015.

Belgrave really is a tale of two railway stations. A place where the old has managed to find a place alongside the new. Belgrave and the entire trip aboard Puffing Billy from Belgrave to Gembrook were also the focus for the final day of my Train Tripping Around Melbourne adventure. While seeing just how much of Melbourne I could see by train and tram in just 72 hours, I covered a total distance of 365 km. Puffing Billy, Geelong and Australia's first public railway line are all covered in my 3 day self-guided railway adventure, and best of all, the book is available to download onto your iPhone, iPad, tablet or eReader for as little as 99 cents. If you enjoyed reading this post, then I do hope you get yourself a copy of Train Tripping Around Melbourne. Who knows? You may even find yourself setting off on an easily affordable railway adventure of your own.


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