As tourist attractions go, Puffing Billy stands alone. It impressively manages to simultaneously be both incredibly iconic and somewhat lame.
The last time I rode Puffing Billy was way back in 1979 (or thereabouts) and it hasn’t changed a bit.
The train still chugs along the same track, it still gets stopped a few times along the way for impromptu maintenance (“is the handbrake off now, Geoff?”) and kids still hang their feet out of the windows.
In fact, I suspect it’s barely changed since the track first opened in 1900.
Despite attempts to jazz it up, like Wedding packages, the Thomas the Tank Engine trips and the oddly named “Wizard and Witches Express” (presumably Harry Potter’s people weren’t as amenable to licensing as Thomas’ were) it’s still just an old steam train which chugs along a century-old track through the foothills of the Dandenongs.
And ever may it remain so.
The brochures are all about the scenery, but really that’s only a small part of the deal.
It’s more about the sense of history.
When train journeys were slow and uncomfortable. When you could throw tons of carbon into the atmosphere with gay abandon.
And when kids could stick their feet out of the train windows.