if you think about it, it’s kind of like a love affair with the past. except that it’s in the present. and you’re the third party falling for something you can never ultimately have, but settle for the pleasure it temporarily brings.
that’s how i see it, anyway. also how i feel at the sight of melbourne’s city circle tram — with its maroon paint and gold accent — slowly chugging along through the modern city like an arthritic old man who still has the grace and the charm to waltz his way into a young woman’s heart. i get palpitations. and whether or not we’re still talking about trams here, i don’t know. for a minute there, you lost me.
it’s not just trams. i get the same fluttery vibes with old houses too. and old things as well. you know, antique stuff. i like them for the unspoken stories they hold. (not the horror ones, thank you very much.)
then there’s also puffing billy.
no, puffing billy isn’t some dirty old bloke with occasional bouts of asthma. it’s actually a steam train. called such because of the puffs of smoke it releases, i reckon. as to why it’s called billy and not, say, edward, i have no idea.
now, if your attention span is as good as a goldfish’s and you prefer the shorter description as to what puffing billy is all about, here it is. it’s all you ever really need to know, anyway:
Puffing Billy is Australia’s favourite steam train and is one of the finest preserved steam railways in the world. This century old steam train is still running on its original 25 kilometre mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook, through the beautiful forests and fern gullies of the Dandenong Ranges. (source)
moreover, according to wikipedia, the line was opened in 1900 to serve the local farming and timber community. now, with the help of the puffing billy preservation society, it basically functions more for heritage tourism, shuffling eager tourists on and off different stations where souvenir shops and cafes are conveniently located to boost the local industry.
the deep-fried fish might be cholesterol-laden and the chips may be a bit soggy but for what it’s worth, the scenery you get along the way is definitely worth it. away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is what regional victoria looks like. and it’s beautiful.
we boarded the train at belgrave, the starting point of the line. they advise you to purchase your tickets ahead of time and try to be there at least 30 minutes before the departure schedule. it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment trip for us so i guess we got lucky that there were still tickets available at the station. luckier still that there was more than enough space in the first carriage right behind the engine, where i could open raven’s stroller and put her capsule back in so she’d be more comfortable. due to tight spaces and narrow doors, they recommend bringing only foldable strollers. i was worried about this at first but somehow we made it work — may-ann carried raven while dennis carried her stroller and i carried the capsule. problem solved!
the only issue we had to put up with next was the smoke coming out of the engine. that, and the growing cold. something you couldn’t really anticipate because, you know, melbourne.
our stop was at lakeside station. as the name suggests, there was a lake nearby. it was nice. but like i said, it was also getting cold. (and there i was wearing flip flops.) had a quick snack and off we went to explore the place before boarding the next train back to belgrave where we started. this time, at the second to the last carriage where we could see and hear the conductor on the car behind us shout “all aboaaard!!!” after every station stop. it was cool. i enjoyed that. reminded me of polar express.