A Grand Dining Experience

In the early 1900s, the heyday of Australian rail travel, nothing was more luxurious than travelling first class and being served the finest food and wine in a well-appointed dining carriage.

While dining carriages are a thing of the past on today’s railways, Puffing Billy’s historic dining trains ensure that everyone can still experience what it was like to be part of the ‘elite’ in a revolutionary period that changed the nation.

Puffing Billy volunteer, Larry James, has been with the railway for 42 years and was tasked with establishing its first dining service in the mid-1990s.

“We launched the very first dining service in July of 1995, and as the carriages weren’t heated it was a pretty cold affair back in those days– unlike the luxury dining cars of the past,” Larry said.

“As a huge rail fan, I always used rail services and visited rail attractions when I travelled and have watched countless documentaries and TV shows on railways, so I had a good knowledge of what other operators were doing in the dining space and what could work here at Puffing Billy. Our early services commenced as cold platters from local providers, sometimes a homemade soup which was lovingly prepared by our volunteers, or a Devonshire Tea from a local baker. Wine was always on the menu and we worked with local providers to showcase that aspect of the region to our diners.”

“As the service became more and more popular, it has grown into a completely professional affair. We now offer three-course dining and beautifully decorated carriages – and yes, they are even heated for winter! We have gone from serving drinks from buckets of ice to having refrigerators on board, and from volunteers preparing food to a professional catering service. We also provide a seasonal menu, and our new summer luncheon menu has just been released.”

“Despite the service coming on in leaps and bounds, one thing that hasn’t changed is the ambience of the train ride through the Dandenong Ranges, while listening to the sounds of the train on its journey. It’s like taking in Victoria’s history,” he said.

Puffing Billy’s Summer Steam & Cuisine Luncheon menu is now available and can be viewed online at www.puffingbilly.com.au. The fully enclosed dining carriages operate year-round with trains departing Belgrave station daily (excluding Victorian public holidays) at 12.30pm. The three-hour journey returns to Belgrave at approximately 3.30pm. A range of local wines, craft beers and other beverages are available for purchase on board. Bookings are essential.

To book, or to find out more about the dining experiences available at Puffing Billy, please visit www.puffingbilly.com.au or call 9757 0700.