Discover the history of Puffing Billy Steam Train in Melbourne’s magnificent Dandenong Ranges on a day trip from the city.

Just a short drive from Melbourne, amongst lush rainforest and quaint village towns, is an icon of Victoria – the Puffing Billy Steam Train. 

Ask any Melburninan about it and they’ll no doubt remember a time they climbed on board to make the scenic journey through the Dandenong Ranges. Puffing Billy’s steam engine billows smoke as you leave the stration and leaves a trail through the trees as you cruise along the tracks. 

Puffing Billy steam train operates on a century old railway with a proud history of serving locals, being preserved by volunteers, and creating memorable journeys for anyone who climbs aboard. 

History of the Puffing Billy Steam Train Railway Line 

In the early 1900’s four low cost gauge lines were opened up in Victoria to serve people living in remote areas. Therefore the section of line that Puffing Billy operates on today was part of a major line which was officially opened in December 1900. 

From the beginning it was a scenic attraction for people living in Melbourne. Excursion trains ran on weekends from the city to the Dandenong Ranges. Because of this, special passenger carriages were added. 

The main purpose of the railway however was to connect people living in the Dandenong Ranges with the city of Melbourne. On the outward journey from the city, the train would take newspapers, mail, house supplies, farm supplies and even livestock. When returning to the city it was loaded with timber and farm produce, in particular potatoes. 

However, in 1953 a landslide blocked the track and prevented the train from operating. It was only due to the hard work of volunteers that the line was able to be reopened. They bypassed the landslide and reopened the line almost ten years later. 

Puffing Billy Steam Train today

The Puffing Billy Steam Train and railway line is maintained by a dedicated team of volunteers. Today the century-old steam train still runs on the mountain track between Belgrave and Gembrook.

Today the steam train provides a memorable journey for tourists and locals alike. Travelling aboard a steam train is not like any other train journey. The magic is in the whistle blowing, the steam billowing and the train chugging out of the station. 

The journey through the Dandenong Ranges is what makes this an even more special experience. The Dandenongs have small villages where you will start and end your journey. In between you pass high above winding roads, on old wooden railway bridges. 

The lush rainforest ferns of the Sherbrooke Forest pass by. including trees ferns, ground ferns and the towering mountain ash eucalyptus trees. The area is known for having cool temperatures and is the perfect place to escape the summer heat. 

Sitting in the window sills of Puffing BIlly Steam Train 

Something that has made riding on Puffing Billy an exciting experience for many years is the tradition of sitting in the carriage window sills. It is fun with legs hanging out as you journey through the Dandenongs. 

After a short time where this wasn’t allowed – but it has returned to be part of the experience again. You can climb about the railway carriages, sit on the window sill with your legs hanging out, and be right on the edge as you pass over the trestles bridges, and past rolling hills. 

How to take a ride on Puffing Billy 

Join us on a Puffing Billy Penguin Parade day tour from Melbourne to experience the magic of this iconic steam train for yourself. 

Our tour departs from Melbourne CBD and just an hour’s drive will have you standing on the platform at Belgrave Station ready to climb aboard. You can enjoy the iconic steam train journey all the way to Menzies Creek station.

What else can you do on the Puffing Billy Penguin Parade tour from Melbourne? 

If you join us on tour, Puffing Billy is not the only iconic Melbourne experience you’ll have on the day. We also visit the award-winning Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. This is where you can take a guided wildlife walk and meet and hand-feed many species of native Australian animals. There’s the iconic species such as kangaroos, koalas, emus, and wallabies, as well as lesser-known favourites including quolls, owls, bandicoots, and Tasmanian devils.

After Moonlit Sanctuary we arrive on Phillip Island, where we’ll visit Point Grant. You can take in the spectacular views of The Nobbies and Seal Rocks in this location. Then it’s time for the world famous Penguin Parade. 

After sunset every night the world’s smallest penguins waddle ashore on Summerland Beach. The penguins emerge from the ocean and then pass right by as they waddle back to their homes. 

Highlights of the Puffing Billy Penguin Parade Tour  

  • Enjoy an exciting journey on the century-old Puffing Billy steam train through the Dandenong Ranges
  • Take a guided tour of the wildlife at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
  • Explore Phillip Island’s coastline and view Seal Rocks at The Nobbies Boardwalk
  • Watch thousands of Little Penguins waddle through the sand to their nests at the Penguin Parade


Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator