Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway is a must-do for little (and big) train fans! It's cheap, old-fashioned fun, with lots to amuse toddlers nearby so you can make it a half-day adventure.
The miniature railway is a hobby club that is staffed by volunteers, all of whom are very friendly. Every third Sunday of the month the railway is opened to the public so you can ride on the steam and diesel engines.
For $3 a ticket you get to choose a carriage pulled by a steam or diesel engine. Each trains winds around the 1.25km track in Elgar Park twice and the ride lasts for about 5 minutes.
Note that Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway is extremely popular so if you time it wrong you could be waiting up to 20 minutes for your ride. While the first train runs at 11am the ticket office opens about 15 minutes before so buy your tickets in advance (and more than one lot of tickets if you think you'll ride twice) and then hang out at the train-themed park next to the track until just before the first train. If you have more than one adult then split up – one to stay in the line and one to supervise the kids at the playground.
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The other tip for not waiting too long is to ride a diesel rather than steam train. There's single queue to begin with but then the queue splits to Platform 3 for diesel and Platform 1 and 2 for steam so don't make my mistake and blindly follow the crowd for the steam train platforms. The kids won't really care if they're riding a steam or diesel engine and in fact you get better photos from the diesel train as you see the steam trains running head on.
Both Lady AB and Baby 2.0 loved Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway – getting their little paper tickets clipped by the train conductor, the whooshing steam, the windy track over bridges and under tunnels. While the photos don't show Baby 2.0 smiling at all he enjoyed it in an intense kind of way, demanding to go on the train again as soon as we got off and having to be dragged away!
At the station there's a small kiosk selling snacks (including $1 lamingtons!) but best to BYO food and enjoy a picnic at the playground, where there is plenty of grass and two (unshaded) picnic tables.
- arrive before the first train at 11am and buy your tickets in advance so you can you can be on the first trains;
- peak hour is about 11:30am, you'll be waiting around 20 minutes for a ride;
- opt for a ride on the diesel train rather a steam train to cut down waiting time;
- no open toed shoes, sandals or thongs allowed on the train;
- tickets are cash only, babies under 12 years ride free;
- limited free parking on site, more parking in nearby residential streets;
- train-theme playground next to railway;
- BYO food, small kiosk and no cafes nearby (driving distance only);
- public toilets; and
- picnic tables and chairs.