Journey into Yesteryear - Places where you can enjoy the Romance of Steam in Australia
You’ve guessed it. I am in love with trains and really wish there were a lot more of them here in OZ. I suppose I shouldn’t encourage coal use, but for the amount of CO2 produced – no doubt a lot less than people travelling in their petrol -guzzling cars, I’m happy to make a few sacrifices in other areas for the small pleasure of an occasional bit of nostalgia. Of course en masse steam trains are dirty, bad for the environment and start bushfires, but I do think it’s a terrible tragedy that we no longer have passenger trains in Tasmania due to their short -term unprofitability. Imagine being able to travel by train along the Great Western Tiers or all the way down the West Coast. I’d quite happily settle for electric or some of the battery -operated trains coming out of the EU and the US. Yes, they’d be expensive, but what a fantastic investment in our future they would be.
If you are longing for a whiff of coal smoke and a bit of cinder in your eye, below are some places in Tasmania and other states where you can still enjoy a ride on a steam train.
"Wee Georgie Wood, Tullah, Tasmania
Click here for "Wee Georgie" running times.
Other places in Tasmania for steam train encounters
The West Coast Wilderness Railway from Queenstown to Strahan uses the original rack and pinion system needed to haul ore from Queenstown to the coast. It takes you through some rugged country and spectacular rainforest as well.
The Don River Railroad
in the North is a shorter and less expensive option, does a 30 minute
trip to Coles Beach, several times a day on four days of the week (not
Mon - Wednesdays). It also has a museum.
Sheffield's Steam and Heritage Centre, about 26 Km south of Devonport, usually does a run on the first weekend of the month and holds an annual Steamfest.
The Tasmanian Transport Museum in Glenorchy,
near Hobart also has a number of scheduled steam train rides as well
as an interesting collection of trains, trams and other exhibits.
Located in the far South of the state and about the same size as "Wee Georgie Wood, The Ida Bay Railway
is typical of the little railways and tramways which crisscrossed the
state, particularly in mining and wood cutting regions before roads and cars came along.
Steam Trains around Australia
After a bit of a recess, Puffing Billy has returned to the
Dandenong Ranges (about an hour North East of Melbourne) where it once served the
local community by carrying timber and dairy products. It is one of the
original steam train experiences in Victoria, taking people from Belgrave to Emerald.
It now offers grazing boxes and a range of additional experiences as rumbles through
lush forests and over trestle bridges on its one-hour journey. Find out more
here. See Timetable
and Fares here. You can get to Belgrave by train.
Victorian Goldfields Steam Railway runs between Maldon and Castlemaine. It sounds like an excellent experience with murder mysteries and other delights such as “Ales on Rails.” Diesel replaces steam on fire ban days.
The Yarra Valley Tourist Railway operates a variety of vintage trains from Healesville (66 km from Melbourne) including a Santa Special and a Ghost Train. See their timetable here
Bellerine Peninsula Railway (Queenscliff, near Geelong, 106 km from Melbourne) runs a variety of trips on all kinds on all kinds of heritage trains. It even has a Thomas the Tank for children. Other Novelty trains include the Blues Train and the Teddy Bear Special. There is even one with a magic show. Check them out here.
The Bulla Hill Railway, near Mount Macedon – home to the haunting
film “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” would be a great one for kids. It’s Dinosaur Line has a miniature steam train (diesel on hot days) which runs on the first
and third Sunday of the month.There's also a picnic area and a train themed playground.
Victoria’s SteamRail ,
runs a great variety of excursions throughout the year to various places e.g. Bendigo
to Echuca, along the beaches from Moorabbin to Carrum/Kananook, along a number
of suburban lines and Snow Trains. Check out the full list here.
South Australia has no less than nine places where you can enjoy steam train rides. I'll only be mentioning a few here, but check the website for more. Due to the very real risk of bushfires some only run in the winter months while others substitute diesels. I have not done any of these, but will look out for them, next time I’m in South Australia.
The South Australia’s SteamRanger Heritage Railway runs a variety of vintage train trips on around 200 days a year, though again, in summer they are more likely to be pulled by diesel engines. The South Coast Wine Train uses diesel in summer and steam in winter. It travels to vineyards between Adelaide and Mt. Barker with some trips taking in small towns, wineries and a craft brewery and also serving lunches. Its Cockle Train goes on to coastal towns such Victor Harbour and Goolwa.
The Semaphore to Fort Glanville Line also does a coastal run every Sunday, on public holidays and school holidays between September and April.
The Pichi Richi Railway runs frequent winter steam train services between Quorn and Port Augusta through the spectacular Flinders Ranges.
The Moonta Mines Tourist Railway operates on the northern end of the Yorke Peninsula – around 136 km from Adelaide. It has a 50-minute ride for around $12. The town itself has a large number of substantial heritage buildings from when Moonta the centre of a copper boom and South Australia’s second largest town.
South Australia also boasts a number of miniature railways which you can check out here.
Narrow Gauge Sugar Trains still operate along much of the Queensland coast, but modern ones are mostly diesel, some have lost their mills and some operators have switched to road transport, leaving some really interesting small steam engines behind. At Bundaberg you can see and ride on some of these and there is a small run around the Botanic Gardens at Gympie.
|The Bundaberg Team|
The Mary Valley Rattler has a regular 3 hour run out of Gympie and offers a
variety of experiences including dining, riding with the driver, VIP Club Car and so on.
The Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway based at Ipswich offers a range of tours including Picnic and Market Day trips
Between May and October, the Hotham Valley Railway’s SteamRanger takes you up through the Darling Range from Dwellingup to Isandra, a distance of around 14 km Dwellingup is around 105 km south of Perth.
New South Wales
New South Wales has two Picnic Trains departing from Penrith or Sydney. One route goes along the base of the Blue Mountains, while the Kiama Picnic Train picks up from several stations and travels to the beach via the South Coast.