Here is your opportunity to drive one of our historic steam locomotives along the steeply graded, winding tracks for which Puffing Billy is famous worldwide.
You will have exclusive use of the 130-year-old steam locomotive, popularly known as No. 861, under the expert supervision of an experienced Puffing Billy Railway driver and fireman for the day.
With your own private carriage coupled to the locomotive, what could be better than to bring along your friends and family to share in this memorable day! As you wind through the steeply graded narrow-gauge railway through a variety of inspiring scenery between Emerald Town Station and Cockatoo Station, you will have the opportunity to take control and drive the locomotive over a challenging route.
As part of the experience, you’ll have the opportunity to…
- Help prepare the locomotive for the day, including oiling round and raising steam
- Learn about the operation of Westinghouse brake system
- Take control and drive the locomotive over a very challenging route
- Travel over three trestle bridges
- Refill the locomotive with water
- Read over detailed course notes which will be sent to you in advance
- Receive a Certificate of Completion
No previous experience is required. The 861 Drive a Steam Train Experience is available to anyone aged 18 years old or over who is of reasonable health and fitness.
The Puffing Billy Railway runs 24km (15 miles) from Belgrave to Gembrook. As part of the 861 Drive a Steam Train experience, you will be driving on the 7.6 km (4.8 miles) section between Emerald Town Station and Cockatoo Station. You will travel the section from Lakeside to Cockatoo (4.1km or 2.5 miles) twice, the total distance travelled equates to 23.4km (14.7 miles).
The guest driver is expected to arrive no later than 7am as preparation of the locomotive commences, the fire will be lit in the locomotive and steam raised.
The route is challenging, involving many sharp curves, and steep grades. It includes three trestle bridges, and four level crossings. From Emerald Town Station (altitude 318.5m, or 994 ft) the line steadily falls to Cockatoo Creek bridge (altitude about 160m or 520 ft) on grades varying between 1 in 40 (2.5%) and 1 in 61 (1.6%), but mostly between 1 in 40 and 1 in 44. The last 0.8km (half mile) from Cockatoo Creek to Cockatoo Station is on a rising grade of 1 in 30 (33.3%) equal to the steepest on the line.
About half a mile from Emerald Town Station, on the left hand side, is Nobelius Siding, where the Packing Shed of the former Nobelius & Co. nursery is located. This was built in 1904. From here products from the nursery - mostly fruit trees - were sent all over Australia, and overseas. The nursery closed in 1955, and the packing shed is now owned by the Puffing Billy Railway and used for special functions, such as dinners.
The railway now enters the Emerald Lake Park, and a series of sharp curves begins. Two kilometres (1.2 miles) from Emerald the small station of Nobelius is passed on the right hand side, then the railway goes round a large horse-shoe curve before arriving at Lakeside Station, which is 3.5km (2-1/4 miles) from Emerald. This station serves Emerald Lake Park, and was the terminus of the line from 1975 to 1998. This will be where your locomotive takes water, and you will have lunch. Lunch is provided for the guest driver by Puffing Billy as part of your package, which consists of local produce. We are able to arrange lunch for your guests prior to your day if necessary.
After leaving Lakeside the railway crosses the Emerald Lake access road by level crossing and enters the Wright Forest. The next section includes an unusually long straight stretch before crossing Wright Road by level crossing. Wright Road is a minor gravel road. After crossing the road, Wright station - a small corrugated iron waiting shed - is passed on the left hand side. Shortly after this station the first trestle bridge is crossed, passing over a small creek. This bridge of four spans is on a slight curve, and is 24.4m (80 ft) long and 7.6m (25 ft) high.
After a further 1.5km, Cockatoo Creek is reached. This is crossed by a ten-span trestle bridge 45.7me (150 ft) long bridge, which is only 4.6m (15 ft) high. Now the long falling grade from Emerald changes to a steep rising grade for the remaining 800 metres (half-mile) into Cockatoo station. The grade is 1 in 30 (3.33%).
At Cockatoo station you will use the loop siding to run the locomotive round the train. The original Cockatoo station was demolished in about 1961, and the present station accommodation is temporary.
It is at this time of day you depart Cockatoo for Lakeside, making a quick stop for the locomotive to take water, and then on again for Emerald.
The locomotive is sent back to its shed. Here it will take water, the fire will be dropped, and the locomotive will be cleaned, and put to bed in its shed. Your day will conclude at approximately 4pm.