The Puffing Billy Railway runs from Belgrave to Gembrook (24km or 15 miles). You will be driving on the 7.6 km (4.8 miles) section between Emerald and Cockatoo. You will travel the section from Lakeside to Cockatoo (4.1 km or 2.5 miles) twice, so the total distance travelled will be 23.4 km (14.7 miles).
The route is challenging, involving many sharp curves, and steep grades. It includes three trestle bridges, and four level crossings. From Emerald (altitude 318.5m, or 994 ft) the line steadily falls to Cockatoo Creek bridge (altitude about 160 m 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 is on a rising grade of 1 in 30 (33.3%) equal to the steepest on the line.
The Victorian Railways Curves and Gradients book shows forty curves in the section between Emerald and Cockatoo, seven of which are of 3 chains radius (200ft or 60m). Twelve curves are between 4 and 6 chain radius (264 and 400ft or 80 and 120m).
Description of the route
On leaving Emerald the railway immediately crosses Kilvington Drive by level crossing, then commences the descent to Cockatoo Creek, with long distance views toward Westernport Bay on the right hand side of the train. The line then crosses the Emerald-Beaconsfield Road by level crossing.
About half a mile from Emerald, 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 and wedding receptions.
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 3.5 km (2-1/4 miles) from Emerald. This station serves Emerald Lake Park, and was the terminus of the line from 1975 to 1998. Most trains from Belgrave terminate at Lakeside. This will be where your locomotive takes water, and you will have lunch.
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.
This station was built to serve the township of Avonsleigh, about two kilometres north. 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 24.4 m (80 ft) long and 7.6 m (25 ft) high.
The line then passes round a five chain radius curve before coming to the highest bridge on the railway, which is on a three chain radius curve crossing a deep gully. This bridge is of ten spans, and is 61 m (200 ft) long and 15.2 m (50 ft) high of ten spans.
After crossing that bridge another five chain radius curve takes the railway along the side of a valley, with views to the main Belgrave-Gembrook Road on the left hand side, and the Wright Forest on the right-hand side.
After a further one-and-a-half kilometres Cockatoo Creek is reached. This is crossed by a ten-span trestle bridge 45.7 metre (150 ft) long bridge, which is only 4.6 metres (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.