Kids love trains. Shrink them down and make them small enough that they look like toys that kids can still ride and they are in heaven. Visiting miniature railways with kids is a cheap, easy way to spend a few hours together in the fresh air without requiring any exertion on the part of parents at all. And if you are on a family holiday in Australia looking for outdoor activities for toddlers and kids, there is an abundance of miniature railways in Victoria and Melbourne. Here is a comprehensive list.
Miniature Railways in Melbourne For Kids
Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria, Moorabbin
Open since 1941, the track work is quite sophisticated here – there are elevated railway tracks, crossing lights, an overhead walk bridge, tunnels and even a signal station that give this the look and feel of a real operational railway line.
The Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria is extremely strict about the closed shoe policy – all passengers must be wearing enclosed toed shoes. Crocs that have holes in the front or any shoes where you can see the toes will not be permitted. There are St John’s Ambulance staff onsite for cases of emergency. They are open on the first Sunday of every month (except in January) from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
Diamond Valley Railway, Eltham
The rides here are long – 2 kilometres – and run for about 15 minutes which is impressive value for money compared to some other miniature railways in Melbourne. The trains go through lots of different types of landscape including tunnels, across bridges and even up hills. Overhead walk bridges, a multi platform station and a level crossing complete with warning bells all add to the experience.
The other great thing about this miniature railway in Melbourne is that you don’t need a calendar to calculate which Sunday of the month it is and whether the miniature railway is open – they open every Sunday from 11am to 5pm (even in the rain) and also some Mondays and Wednesdays during the school holidays. Once a year there is also a charity run where the trains run from 11am to 11pm (this year’s date has already passed). Afterwards, there are plenty of facilities to keep you on site – two playgrounds, walking trails, a football oval, barbeques and picnic facilities and public restrooms.
[For more travel tips on a full sized operational steam train in Melbourne, see the suitcases&strollers story Family Days Out In Melbourne.]
Altona Miniature Railway, Altona
At 30 years old this year, this is a very established miniature railway. On their open days sizeable crowds can show up here creating a festive and very friendly atmosphere. Steam and diesel engines run along the 1.5 kilometres of miniature railway track at Altona and, unlike many other miniature carriages, here passengers sit inside an enclosed train body, rather than straddling the carriage with legs exposed. (This is a little safer if you are riding with kids who can’t follow safety instructions.)
[If your kids love trains, there is a great railway museum in the unlikely location of York, England. To find out more, see the suitcases&strollers story Europe Holidays: York With Kids.]
The trains run on the third Sunday of the month from 11am to 4pm in all weather conditions. Babies under one year old ride free. There is a public barbeque available for use on the days that the railway is open. A wood fired pizza stall is on site too serving refreshments and sometimes there is a coffee cart. There are also shaded picnic tables and public toilets.
Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway, Box Hill
Box Hill Miniature Railway has a good relationship with Diamond Valley Railway so you will often see trains from the sister miniature railway at Box Hill. As a result, some of the trains here are the more common ride where legs are exposed, while other trains will enclose the section where the kids put their feet.
The fleet of steam engines here is particularly magnificent and impressive as is their replica of the old Box Hill station.
The miniature trains run from 11am to 4pm on the third Sunday of the month, often with an additional day per month (such as public holidays or charity days).
This miniature railway encourage community interaction so during festive family seasons, such as Christmas and Halloween, expect to see passengers, staff and trains dressed up accordingly. Their trains are a mixture of diesel and steam engines and the whole feel is very relaxed and welcoming.
The small kiosk on site serves sausage sizzle, drinks and soups during the colder months. There are barbeque facilities if you prefer to bring your own food and a sheltered area with picnic tables. Trains are open on the fourth Sunday of the month from 11am to 4pm except in December. Kids under 4 are free if they ride with an adult or older sibling.
Campelltown Miniature Railway, Narre Warren North
The set up here is quite pretty with a miniature signal box, station and even V Line (the local regional brand) trains. The refreshing thing about Campelltown Miniature Railway is that it also runs on Wednesdays during the school holidays and public holidays, as well as the usual Sundays from 11am to 5pm (last ride at 4.30pm).
The rides are more expensive here than at other miniature railways (they start at AU$4.50 while most of the other railways only charge AU$2.50) and there are options for longer or shorter ride prices. There is a public playground for kids who need to expend their energy and, while there are no food facilities on site, families are encouraged to bring their own picnics.
Bulla Hill Railway, Bulla
There are two lengths of track here allowing train lovers to choose between the 5 inch or 7 and a quarter inch tracks. Clever use of the parklands makes it feel like the miniature trains are really running through the bushland over railways bridges that cross creeks and through the tall grasslands. Look out for the multiple dinosaur skeletons also roaming around the property.
There are plenty of facilities for barbeques, a public playground, a small kiosk and public toilets as well as a large football oval. The miniature railways are operational on the first and third Sunday of the month from 12pm to 4pm.
[If your kids love Thomas the Tank Engine, check out the theme park for kids that has an entire floor dedicated to the franchise in Malaysia for kids. Find out more in the suitcases&strollers story Theme Parks In Asia.]
National Steam Centre, Scoresby
Home of the Melbourne Steam Traction Engine Club, this museum actually houses much more than just a miniature railway. There are over 800 exhibits of various industrial steam engines including a walking dragline, many in operational order on the last Sunday of the month (with the exception of in December) so you can see and hear them at work.
The museum is open on weekends but the miniature trains for kids only run on Sundays. Entry is by donation. There are no snacks for sale but there is a wood fired barbeque and picnic amenities if you want to bring your own lunch.
Miniature Railways Outside Melbourne
Wodonga Creek Miniature Railway
Wodonga Creek, Lincoln Causeway, Wodonga, Victoria, Australia, +61 2 6025 2329
On the third Sunday of every month (except in January) the miniature Wodonga railway station opens for families to come for a ride. There is a sizeable fleet of miniature steam and diesel trains here set in a parkland and families often make an entire day out of it. The set up is quite charming; there are lots of details such as a bridge, tunnel and switch crossing guards to make the experience seem more real.
The ticket stall also sells (instant) coffee, tea and some snacks but most famillies bring their own picnics. Spare shoes are also provided for those who arrive in flip flops. The railway is not open when it is over 36 degrees Celsius and kids under 6 must ride with an adult.
[For more family travel tips on things to do in Albury and Wodonga with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Gippsland Model Engineering Society, Traralgon
Dogs as well as kids have been known to love to ride the miniature railways here. There is a restored and operational signal box signal box on site for super train enthusiasts.
Set in a big parkland, the local community has put considerable effort into incorporating the miniature railway in Traralgon with other family friendly facilities such as playgrounds, free barbeques and toilet facilities. The miniature trains run from 12pm to 4pm on the fourth Sunday of the month from February to November and on the fifth Saturday of the month where it exists.
Euroa Miniature Railway, Euroa
Hiding behind the local bowls club is the Euroa Miniature Railway. The set up is quite basic compared to some other miniature railways in Melbourne, but this also means that, if there are no queues, you can choose which train you prefer and even, occasionally, have the whole thing to yourself. Everyone in the family is welcome – even dogs have been known to take a ride.
There are toilets on site and a small store selling a few small souvenirs as well as cold drinks and a traditional style sausage sizzle. A couple of tables and chairs under the shade are also available right next to the station for parents waiting for their young passengers. Spare shoes are also available to borrow if you don’t have closed toed shoes with you. The Euroa Miniature Railway is open on the fourth Sunday of every month (except for December) from 11am to 4pm.
[If your kids really love trains, check out
this 1950s railway carriage converted into a hotel room in the suitcases&strollers story Quirky Family Friendly Accommodation: England, Ireland & Scotland.]
The Practicalities of Miniature Railways For Kids
Most miniature railways require all passengers to wear closed toed shoes for safety reasons, so don’t arrive in flip flops or bare feet. If you do forget your shoes, sometimes there will be spare shoes on site you can borrow for the duration of the ride.
Steam engines generally don’t run on total fire ban days – most miniature railways in and around Melbourne have diesel train options which are just as enjoyable.
While the ticket prices of the rides are usually quite low, some of the railways are quite flexible about families who are riding with small kids. If you want to ride with infants or small kids who can’t ride on their own, it’s worth asking, as some operators will waive the adult ticket price.
Do keep in mind that almost all of the miniature railways are non profit organisations for train enthusiasts that are open to the public as a community service, rather than to raise a business profit. The staff onsite are very often volunteers and should be treated with the requisite respect. Generally the proceeds all go back into maintenance of the engines and facilities.
Images: suitcases&strollers, Altona Miniature Railway, Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway, Sammy Daly, Euroa Miniature Railway, Kilmore Miniature Railway, Mooroolbark and District Miniature Railway and Steam Club, National Steam Centre