Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Menzies Creek: Puffing Billy's heritage station

The Puffing Billy Railway is Australia's, if not the world's, finest example of a fully preserved working steam railway. And Menzies Creek Railway Station has been hauling trainloads of delighted tourists from all over the world ever since the 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge railway reopened as a tourist railway in 1962.

Locomotive 14A prepares to uncouple from 6A at Menzies Creek to work a return train to Belgrave. 2015.

Back in 1962, Menzies Creek was the end terminus for the Puffing Billy trains from Belgrave, but it took just 3 more years for the tireless volunteer army of steam enthusiasts to reopen the line a further 3 km down the line to the town of Emerald.

Menzies Creek Railway Station on the Puffing Billy Railway as photographed in July 2015.

Situated 6 km from Belgrave, Menzies Creek Station was one of the original stations on the Gembrook line when it first opened back in 1900. It served as part of the Victorian Railways network, connecting with the 5 foot 3 inch broad gauge line at Upper Ferntree Gully until a landslide closed the narrow gauge line in 1953. Less than 10 years later however, the station was once more a hive of activity.

Even the amenities building built for visiting bus groups adds to the heritage feel of Menzies Creek, 2015.

Menzies Creek Station is the changeover point for day tour groups being shown the sights of Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges. Here the train is divided in two, with the front half proceeding to Lakeside and the rear half returning to Belgrave. As one throng of tourists leave the train to board the waiting road coaches, another group arrives to take their place, making Menzies Creek one busy little station.

Menzies Creek goods shed stands directly opposite the railway station, photo 2015.

While the tourists queue for a photo beside one of the century old narrow gauge steam locomotives, it is worth taking the time to look out the other side of the train window. You might just be able to spot the tiny Menzies Creek goods shed nestled among the towering eucalyptus trees.

A time-honoured walk. Puffing Billy Railway's Menzies Creek Station Master prior to departure, July 2015.

Menzies Creek is also the location of the Puffing Billy Narrow Gauge Steam Museum. First established in 1962, it is currently undergoing a massive refurbishment before it reopens to the public. But perhaps my best memory of Menzies Creek Station will be the sight of the Station Master ringing his bell while walking the length of the train shortly before pulling away for Lakeside. The sound of that bell followed by the shrill cry of the locomotive's whistle still plays in my mind whenever I close my eyes.

Menzies Creek and the entire trip aboard Puffing Billy are covered in my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne. Over 3 days of riding trains around Melbourne, I covered 365 km of rail line while visiting places such as Gembrook, Geelong and retracing Australia's first public railway to Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Designed as a window seat guide to exploring Melbourne by train, it is available from just 99 cents and can easily be downloaded onto your tablet or smartphone to turn an ordinary train trip into an extraordinary railway adventure of your own. If you enjoyed reading this post, then you'll enjoy all the facts, figures and interesting stories I dig up in my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne.

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