Taking advantage of a gorgeous crisp winter’s WA day (after the heavy storms of the previous few weeks) we planned a similar outing down to Dwellingup last weekend. This time, however, the Steam Ranger train wasn’t operating – maintenance issues and finding volunteer drivers who have the time and qualifications to drive it are unfortunately proving to be a problem.
However, we were able to take the little diesel train, which trundles deep into the forest surrounding Dwellingup (the steam train goes in the opposite direction to Isandra Siding). The Forest Train took us on a ride through a part of WA’s history down to the little siding of Etmilyn, which in past times took the freshly-milled timber out to the coastal ports.
Unlike the Steam Ranger, the carriages are open to the elements (they have a roof but no enclosed windows). It’s wonderfully refreshing on a fine sunny day but obviously wouldn’t be as comfortable on a wild wet day! However it was pleasantly mild and we didn’t really need the heavy coats and scarves that we’d taken with us. You can almost touch the branches and bushes as the train gently chugs along.
There is a helpful map to accompany the journey. One of the most interesting places you pass by is the site of the former Holyoake Mill and Township. Once a bustling timber mill town it was destroyed by a devastating bush fire, which ravaged the Dwellingup area in 1961 and was never rebuilt. We kept looking round for old ruined buildings and huts but there was nothing there, only the jarrah trees, grass trees and wild bushland. It was somewhat eerie to see how the bush and forest have reclaimed the little township. A small plaque commemorates the town and mill, which stood here between 1910 and 1962.
Wending its way gently uphill through the thick forest, the little train comes to Etmilyn after about half an hour. You can stay on the train if you like whilst it turns round but we took the opportunity to do the circular bush trail that neatly skirts round the forest back to the waiting train (again it takes about half an hour and they do a head count before heading back to Dwellingup!). Our granddaughters had great fun helping to gather firewood so our arms were quite full by the time we got back on board again!
The train leaves at weekends and public holidays at 10.30am and 2pm (check the website for further details here). As we’ve done on previous occasions, we had an enjoyable lunch beforehand at the Dwellingup Tavern.
All in all a very enjoyable day out. We hope that the steam train will soon be up and running again – it’s not only fun to ride on but an important connection with WA’s past.
Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved