Weston Langford Railway Photography

Documenting railways and related infrastructure since 1960

Puffing Billy

The Puffing Billy Railway is one of Australia's most notable preserved tourist railways. It was one of four 762 mm gauge steam operated branch lines of the Victorian Railways opened between 1899 and 1911. These four lines of which the Gembrook Line was one represented the last attempt by politicians to provide narrow gauge as a construction economy and much against the advice of Victorian Railways' management. The Ferntree Gully to Gembrook Line accidentally strayed into the mid 20th Century. The first official attempt to close it down occurred in 1936. However the government of the day had greater problems to engage its attention and the Railway failed to gain further official attention. It continued in operation until August 1953 when a landslide occurred between Selby and Menzies Creek Stations which brought about a supension of train services. By this time Puffing Billy had achieved public attention. A number of "Farewell" trips took place between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave which section of the line was unaffected by the landslide. Early in 1955 a citizens' committee proposed continued operation of the line by guaranteeing the Victorian Railways against financial losses which might be sustained. This proposal was accepted and regular operation commenced on Easter Saturday 9th April 1955. At this point it was the second preserved railway to turn a wheel in revenue service anywhere in the world and the first in Australia. This operation continued until February 1958 at which time the line was closed to make way for extension of the electrified suburban line to Belgrave. The Society then resolved to restore the line beyond Belgrave. Its efforts in restoring the line were of epic proportions. A new terminal at Belgrave and a deviation to bypass the landslide were constructed. Most of this was achieved by the efforts of Society volunteers initially using little more than their bare hands. External assistance came from the Citizens Military Forces (now the Army Reserve) and a number of other bodies. The line was reopened to Menzies Creek in July 1962. This was followed by extension to Emerald in July 1965 and to Lakeside in October 1975. Over all this time the railway was operated by the Victorian Railways supported by Society volunteers who took a progressively increasing role in the line's operation. In October 1977 the Railway came under the control of the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, a statutory body established for the specific purpose of managing Puffing Billy. The Society plays a major role in the work of the Board. Extension of the line to its ultimate destination at Gembrook took place in October 1998. This extension of 11 km was over formation abandoned in the 60's. Four bridges had to be rebuilt from scratch. This work which commenced in 1991 was again done, in the main, by volunteers with assistance from the Army Reserve. This gallery which is not a comprehensive treatment of the Railway includes photos of the 6 extant NA Class 2-6-2T Puffing Billy locomotives, some of the major events in the history of the Railway, some scenes along the Railway and a selection of the Railway's rolling stock.