Puffing Billy Railway Lakeside Visitor Centre, Emerald Lake Park

By 2021, Puffing Billy Railway will have a new, state-of-the-art $20M Lakeside Visitor Centre at Emerald Lake Park in Emerald. The new Visitor Centre will enhance the Puffing Billy experience by featuring a café, function spaces, significantly upgraded toilet facilities, retail, food and beverage options and interpretation spaces for school groups and families.

The new site will become the hub of the railway and shall be instrumental in opening up the Lakeside to Gembrook section of the train line for use all year round.

Funding Sources

  • $8.2M from the Victorian State Government
  • $5.5M from the Federal Government
  • $6.3M from Puffing Billy Railway


About the Lakeside Visitor Centre (LVC) Project Governance Group (PGG)

Under the oversight of the Lakeside Visitor Centre (LVC) Project Governance Group (PGG), this project has now progressed from Design Development into the Construction Documentation phase. The PGG was formed with the introduction of the new Board and comprises of Board members, representatives of government and ETRB management.

This Group plays a critical role in reviewing key deliverables, timelines, costs, statutory requirements and ensuring that the result will deliver to the intent of the Master Plan and strategic goals of the railway. As is appropriate, any key actions and decisions arising from the PGG are then forwarded to the Board for formal ratification.


First internal renders released

Whilst minor design details are still being finalised, we are pleased to release our first artist impressions based on the architect’s current plans along with associated plans.

Upon viewing the artist's impressions, you will see that externally the Lakeside Visitor Centre is black and shiny like the locomotives that are the signature of the railway, which ultimately recedes into the shadows of the bush. The new Lakeside Visitor Centre is a silhouette backdrop - grounded in place - to the hero that is the Puffing Billy Railway.

This project has been through extensive formal public and internal consultation and the varying views have been taken into account.  The contemporary design, whilst notably in contrast to the usual heritage style of the railway, was selected by a broad panel comprising of internal stakeholders and external, independent experts and was determined to be the best design to meet the needs and expectations of the diverse range of stakeholders that enjoy Puffing Billy today.  The design and functionality have also been subjected to two separate reviews by the Victorian Design Review Panel of the Victorian Government Architect Office. Their advice was consistent with other architecture, government, design and heritage development specialists in strongly recommending against the creation of a “false heritage” design.

Please note: These are artists impressions only.

Puffing Billy - Lakeside Visitor Centre Great Hall

Image above: Great Hall

Render showing Puffing Billy's Lakeside Visitor Centre Cafe Corridor Render

Image above: Cafe corridor

Render showing Puffing Billy's Visitor Centre Entrance

Image above: Discovery Centre Entrance

Render showing the external view of Visitor Centre from the Emerald Lake Park Model Railway car park

Image above: External view from Model Railway car park

Render showing an external view of the Lakeside Visitor Centre

Image above: External view from lake

Render showing Puffing Billy Lakeside Visitor Centre - External view from Emerald Lake

Image above: Evening view from lake

Project updates

May 2021

Despite the interruptions and uncertainty of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Lakeside Visitor Centre Stage 1 construction works incorporating the main building, platform and rail side landscaping was completed as of the end of February 2021. Practical Completion for Stage 1 was achieved by Kane Constructions on February 24th, only two months after the original targeted completion date of December 2020, and the Occupancy Permit awarded just after.

Over the last couple of months, works have been primarily focused on internal finishing touches, with all trades finalising fit-off, commissioning, testing and cleaning. Unfortunately, with the finishing line in sight, on February 12th the snap five-day COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria placed all site operations on hold until Wednesday 17th February. Luckily this was a short period of interruption and following this, remaining floor finishes, painting and commissioning were all completed.

Site works also focused on:
  • The remaining 3A locomotive platform and metalwork shroud.
  • The Great Hall (pictured below) feature timber linings, paint coats, caulking, rail side landscape grading and a final builders clean to all areas.
  • Fire services were completed and commissioned.
  • The main building lighting and rough-in of interpretations lighting were also completed.
  • Furniture, fixtures and equipment fit-out including remaining hardware, external handrails and bin store gates, café benchtop equipment and defibrillator cages.
  • Remaining wayfinding signage has been installed and given final inspection.
  • Commissioning works have all since been successfully completed and reviewed by consultants for the production and handover of operation and maintenance manuals.
  • Witness testing and ETRB training with staff was conducted by Kane Constructions and subcontractors for electrical, security, hydraulic, mechanical and audio visual services, kitchen and specialist equipment.
External works included:
  • The new platform structural works, with asphalt pour were finalised late 2020 and tactiles installed in April 2021.
  • Surrounding landscaping including mineral mulch, light poles, bollards, landscape furniture, fittings and equipment and grading has been completed along the platform edge.
  • Stage 1 pathways were completed with surrounding mineral mulch now all in place.
  • Outstanding works including delayed planting works to suit seasonal planting timelines, were completed early in the new year.

While the final touches are placed on the centre, the fit-out of the interpretations and display items will be progressing over the next month, with completion due in late May / early June.

The centre is now looking incredible, inside and out. With the final Stage 2 landscaping, vehicle parking and pedestrian access works set to commence in May to nicely finish off the project, our aim is to deliver the full, final vision later in 2021.

The ETRB will be aiming to open the Lakeside Visitor Centre to the public earlier, targeting September, while the final external landscaping touches are completed in November 2021.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments of our team to respond to.

October 2020

With construction classified as a permitted industry under the Australian COVID-19 guidelines, major works have been able to progress at the site of the future Puffing Billy Railway Lakeside Visitor Centre under a strict high-risk COVID Safe Plan.

Initially, under the Stage 4 Lockdown provisions, workforce numbers had been significantly reduced to only nine persons on site. With the recent introduction of some relaxations in restrictions however, numbers have been allowed to return to 30 contractors and staff. While this is still only 50% of the peak activity staffing levels it is a significant improvement and has allowed progress to pick up significantly.

Despite the staffing reduction over the six weeks, activity has remained steady and undeterred, with the following works being carried out:

  • Finalisation of cladding and glazing
  • Installation of mechanical plant, ducting and fire services
  • Internal linings
  • Power and data installation
  • Release of Operations and Maintenance Manuals for review
  • Fit out of amenities
  • Final interpretations scope
  • Putting the finishing touches to lineside landscaping
  • Second stage carpark and landscaping, design and planning approvals

As we work safely and steadily toward completion, we remain positive that the Centre will be ready to open in the first quarter of 2021. Nonetheless, the health and safety of our workers and the community remains our key priority and we will tailor our construction activities to comply with restrictions and safety provisions.

Examples of the strict health and safety measures in place include temperature screening, additional protective equipment including masks, daily health screening of workers, enhanced cleaning, staggered shifts and break times, and physical distancing.

We are continuing to manage the number of staff and visitors attending the worksite. For more information about coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit http://coronavirus.vic.gov.au.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments of our team to respond to.

July 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically disrupted many aspects of life and production all around the world, the construction industry in Victoria has thankfully remained largely unaffected and hence, the Lakeside Visitor Centre (LVC) continues to make great progress.

Assisted by the availability of grant monies from the Victorian State and Australian governments, work is continuing across the site thanks to the ongoing efforts of the LVC project team and construction company, Kane Constructions. This includes the long-awaited installation of the visitor centre’s first key interpretation piece, the unrestored 3A locomotive.

Built in 1900, 3A is the first NA locomotive to be assembled at the Victorian Railways Newport Workshops. Painted in the then standard Victorian Railways two-tone green, this locomotive was deployed to the Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook line and was used on the line’s construction.

Over the years, it saw service on the Colac to Crowes and Moe to Walhalla lines, but it saw more service on the Gembrook line than any other. In 1954, it hauled the first 'Young Sun Specials' between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave as part of what was meant to be the farewell of Puffing Billy Railway. The immense popularity of these farewell trains led to the formation of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and the continued operation of the Railway.

3A was installed last Wednesday, 1 July, prior to the frame and roofing installation in this area.

Other LVC related works completed, or near completion, include:

  • Construction of Stage 1 of the project, being the main building, undercover walkway, platform, related civil works and trackside landscaping, is approximately 40% complete.
  • A new high-pressure water main diversion has been installed and the old pipe removed.
  • All structural concrete slabs and the alfresco dining area and building walkways have been poured.
  • Structural steel portal members and main building steel framing sections have been erected in the south entry, staff wing, retail areas, café and café walkway, with the Great Hall, Multipurpose Room, Kitchen & Amenities planned to be completed by end July.
  • Roofing is complete to 50% of the building and wall cladding has commenced to the staff wing and south entry sections.
  • The undercover walkway is structurally complete, roofed, timber lining and asphalt paving installed.
  • External landscaping works have begun in the rail corridor with the first stages of preparation complete for asphalt and timber decking.

Kane Constructions, alongside the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, Terroir architects, AECOM and our key external stakeholders continue to plan the reminder of works.

The Lakeside Visitor Centre is still on track for handover by early 2021.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments for our team to respond to.

March 2020

With the new year already three months in and the weather starting to cool off, the site of the new Lakeside Visitor Centre is starting to take shape!

To date works have been consistent in establishing the site, on the station side of Emerald Lake, safely secured with vision windows installed for the public to get an insight into construction works as they progress.

Working with local contractors in undertaking the re-diversion of a water main, the project has successfully completed early works including minor demolition and earth retention works.

Underground services have been installed in preparation for the ground slab, with the structure to follow in upcoming weeks.

Kane Constructions, alongside the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, Terroir architects, AECOM and Wood & Grieve Engineers, hope to continue this steady progress as preparation and planning continues for the remainder of works.

Currently, with all works proceeding as planned the Lakeside Visitor Centre is now anticipated to finish construction works for handover by Early 2021.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments for our team to respond to.

December 2019

On Tuesday 17th December, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula and Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing visited Emerald Lake Park to support and witness the early works on the $20 million, state-of-the-art centre which is due to open in December, 2020.

The event was attended by a group of esteemed guests, including the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, Cardinia Shire members, Terroir Architects, Construction company Kane Constructions, Engineering firm AECOM, Puffing Billy staff and Management and fellow residents and local business owners of Emerald.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments for our team to respond to.

November 2019

It's all systems go this month!

From Thursday 7th November, works on site commenced with access altered until November 22. While all arriving and departing trains, and its passengers, still had pedestrian access to Lakeside and the wig wag crossing, the site was and continues to be temporarily unavailable to buses on the station side of the lake. Alternative interim bus bays in the Lakeside car park have been arranged as part of approved Traffic Management Plans.

Stage one tree works began from Tuesday 12th November, including the first Saturday, to Friday 22nd November, with no works scheduled on Sunday 17th November. During this time, there were no trains stopping at Lakeside and the station side of the railway was closed. The opposing side of the railway remained open to the public, unless otherwise notified.

From Tuesday 19th November, water main diversion works commenced and were scheduled to take approximately 5-6 weeks to complete. This activity was finished before the Christmas break and did not impact train services running through Lakeside. Road access was impacted between the wig wag crossing and the lake nearest the Council Enviro Centre and footbridge. Pedestrian access across this crossing was and continues to be maintained by Puffing Billy and Council.

Parking will be disrupted until car park works are completed in early 2020. Alternate parking within the park is available at Lion's Den and Bellbird car parks.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments for our team to respond to.

August 2019

Builder appointed and construction on the way for Puffing Billy's new state-of-the-art Lakeside Visitor Centre in Emerald.

The iconic steam train, Puffing Billy Railway, is not the only one with momentum, with construction planning full steam ahead by newly appointed Kane Constructions, for the new state-of-the-art $20M Puffing Billy Lakeside Visitor Centre in Emerald.

In the first week of August, the project team began preliminary site establishment works including site amenities installation. As of the 26th of August 2019, the actual construction works commenced with early stage site preparation works, gradually increasing in activity over the next months with a scheduled completion date for the project of late 2020.

Car parking will be maintained and business within the park will continue operating during this time.

You can keep up to date with the progress on HERE. Here you will find regular updates on the construction work and you will be able to ask questions and leave comments of our team to respond to.

View the Proposed Site Plan (pdf) HERE

View the Ground Floor Plan (pdf) HERE

View Building Elevations (pdf) HERE


Should you have any specific project-related queries or would like to discuss any aspect of the project, please do not hesitate to speak with us. Feedback regarding the Lakeside Visitor Centre is always welcome and can be submitted via email at Nicoleta.Giurgiu@pbr.org.au.

Any updates will be provided on this site as they come to hand.


Stay up-to-date with our latest e-Motion Stakeholder Newsletters HERE.