Memories of winding through forests and rolling hills on the Puffing Billy Railway are likely to remain with anyone who’s boarded. Revisit this much-loved attraction, on a route less travelled.
Why begin your Puffing Billy journey at Lakeside Station? We’ll let you in on a little secret; this is your opportunity to sit back, relax and escape the crowds to enjoy an outing on the Lakeside to Gembrook section of Puffing Billy.
Park the car at Lakeside Station in Emerald Lake Park and take some time to enjoy what’s on offer at this beloved stop on the Puffing Billy Railway line. For many years, Lakeside was the end of Puffing Billy’s line and in its early days consisted of a quaint concrete platform with not much more than its Lakeside sign. These days, it’s right in the heart of a family destination full of fun — Emerald Lake Park.
Set up by the lake with some morning tea — there’s an onsite cafe offering coffee and food, or you can BYO snacks and thermos — and let the kids enjoy all the activities on offer. Take to the paddle boats and race across the scenic Emerald Lake, or take it easy and pedal at your own pace while taking in the view.
Once off the water, enjoy your morning coffee while the kids go wild on the playground or enjoy some ball games on the expanse of lush lawn. During the warmer months, the wading pool also opens its doors to help keep little passengers cool in the summer heat. If you’d rather get in touch with nature, take a stroll along one of the trails that surround Emerald Lake Park and take note of the native and exotic flora and fauna, then head back to Lakeside Station at your leisure.
Round up the kids and make a beeline for the Lakeside platform where your chariot awaits — it’s time for your steam train adventure to begin! Take a snap with the conductor or station master and board the heritage steam train. Puffing Billy’s fleet comprises of a number of NA and G class locomotives (as well as other classes for special events) so be sure to locate your train’s builder’s plates if you want to find out more.
Step inside your carriage and shot-gun prime viewing position by the window for the stunning landscapes that you’ll be passing by. Your journey will see you travelling over three trestle bridges, one of which is the tallest on the Puffing Billy line, with the lush gullies of Wright Forest below you. Be sure to keep an eye out for Wright Station — consisting of just a Mallee shed and its station sign, it will give you a taste of the area’s history. As you approach Gembrook, enjoy the views of rolling hills and wide-open farmland. It’s safe to say, you’ll want to have your camera at the ready for the many photo ops on your journey.
Welcome to Gembrook! Jump off the train, stretch your legs and keep your eyes peeled for Thomas the Tank, who visits this station during autumn and spring. If you want to take a ride on this childhood favourite locomotive, as well as his friends Percy and Diesel, time your visit to coincide with Puffing Billy’s Day out with Thomas.
The town of Gembrook has a quaint, historic appeal and is surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees, making for the perfect country escape even if it’s just for the afternoon. Let the kids run wild on the train-themed playground while you enjoy the natural surrounds.
Take a short stroll along Main Street to your lunch spot, Spencers Store — a charming rustic cafe inside a weatherboard house that’s so warm and welcoming you’ll feel like you’re visiting an old friend. The menu here is simple but delicious. Expect items like tasty burgers, bagels and baguettes accompanied by coffee made with Code Black beans. Don’t forget to check out their cabinet of sweet treats for a dessert to your lunch; homemade muffins, cakes and fluffy scones are often on rotation.
When everyone is full, head back out to Main Street to continue exploring the stores in this lovely town. If you’re a sweet tooth, you’ll love the recently opened Mr Sherbert where you can pick up old-fashioned lollies and chocolates for your journey home. Be sure to also stop in at Willow Fields Shoppe and browse its colourful range of homewares, flowers and accessories. If you’d rather make the most of the natural surrounds, take a stroll along one of the many signposted walks around Gembrook and take in its beauty.
Image credit: facebook.com/spencersstoregembrook
All aboard! It’s time to jump back on the historic Puffing Billy Railway for your journey back to Lakeside. Enjoy the views of Wrights Forest one last time and have your camera at the ready to snap any scenes you missed on the way up, all while enjoying a sugar hit courtesy of Mr Sherbert. Wave to car drivers and passersby and all too soon you’ll find yourself back at Lakeside. Before you go, ask one of Puffing Billy’s friendly volunteers to take one more happy snap of you and your family in front of the historic locomotive that has been your chariot for the day. If you feel so inclined, stop in at the gift store and pick up a memento of your fun-filled day revisiting this much-loved Melbourne attraction, before starting your journey home.