The Hotham Valley Tourist Railway is touted as one of Australia’s best historic train experiences and a popular tourist attraction in Perth. This local’s guide provides all the information needed to make the most of this fun experience in Dwellingup, Western Australia.
Updated January 2023
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Location of the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway
The Hotham Valley Railway train services depart from Dwellingup train station in the Peel region.
Dwellingup is in the South West region of Western Australia, about 100 km south of Perth. This timber town is a perfect weekend country escape with plenty of outdoor activities.
How to get to Hotham Valley Railway
Dwellingup is about an hour and a half drive from Perth.
Train – The Australind train runs twice daily from Perth, stopping at Pinjarra. From here, you can pre-book a transfer shuttle to Dwellingup.
Best Time to Visit Hotham Valley Railway
If you want to ride on the Hotham Valley steam train, the best time to visit is from May to October. The steam locomotive fleet only run in the cooler weather due to bushfire danger. They operate every Sunday during this time and Wednesdays during the WA July & October school holidays.
However, the Steam Ranger will be replaced by a diesel locomotive if the fire risk is high.
History of Hotham Valley Railway
The West Australian Government Railway opened the Dwellingup to Holyoake railway in 1910 to service the Holyoake timber mill. The extension to Dwarda through Hotham Valley commenced in August 1913.
Sadly, in 1961, a massive fire tore through Dwellingup, leaving the station and most of the town destroyed. Holyoake and Nanga Brook, timber towns, were also burnt. The fire was the ending of the timber industry, and the railway line ceased to operate.
In 1974, four residents had an idea to preserve steam locomotives and the railway line from Pinjarra to Dwellingup. These heritage train enthusiasts formed the Pinjarra Steam & Hills Railway Preservation Society, which later became The Hotham Valley Tourist Railway. The members thought this line was special as it was a reminder of the pioneers’ hard work, it kept its original character, and was in a scenic place close to Perth.
Hotham Valley purchased four Mountain type ‘W’ class steam locomotives, plus Millars (WA) Pty Ltd donated a G class No 71 in 1977. A former WA Government Railways dining car was the first rolling stock to be purchased in 1975.
The first engine train to recommence on this heritage railway was in 1976. The Hotham Valley line was passed to the volunteer society in 1985 so preserving rail heritage for future generations. Volunteers are still mainly responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway WA.
Hotham Valley Railway Train Rides
There are three train services on these historic locomotives; the Steam Ranger, Forest Railway, and the Restaurant Train. All depart from Dwellingup station and travel through lush green farming country before heading into the jarrah forest. It’s incredibly picturesque in spring when the wildflowers are out, and the hills are green from the winter rains.
We went on the Steam Ranger, which travels 14 km to Isandra Siding. This slow train ride takes you along Western Australia’s steepest and most spectacular railway section, winding through the Darling Range. Once at Isandra Siding, it’s time to get off, stretch your legs and take some photos. You have 30 minutes here while the locomotive moves to the opposite end. If you wait on the platform, it’s great to watch the steam locomotive come past and see the volunteers at work.
The steam train has a licensed buffet car serving refreshments, which was nice to take advantage of on the return journey.
The Steam Ranger departs at 10.30 am and 2 pm on operating days. The tour is about two hours which I feel is the right length of time.
There aren’t any facilities at Isandra Siding, but we found the 30 minutes went quickly. Our daughters were intrigued by the steam train and how coal was powering the engine.
The Forest Train travels 8 km to Etmilyn using historic diesel locomotive hauled trains. At Etmilyn, there’s a 20-25 minute Forest Heritage Walk through the Jarrah forest.
The Etmilyn Forest Diner provides a five-course meal while travelling in a 1919 Vintage Dining Carriage or an 1884 Club Car. The Restaurant Train departs around 7.45 pm and returns to Dwellingup at approximately 10.35 pm. Seating is in tables of four but groups can be arranged for special occasions. Alternatively, you can book the Private Club Car for a maximum of 6 guests.
The Hotham Valley Railway website provides more details and how to book.
Accommodation near Hotham Valley Train
Where we stayed
Our family was staying the weekend in South Yunderup and made the trip to Dwellingup from there. It only took us half an hour by car, and there’s a more extensive range of accommodation in South Yunderup. We stayed at the Lakeside Apartments, which were good value but run down. I would look at private accommodation choices next time.
Stayz has a huge selection of properties in South Yunderup. We use Stayz as opposed to Airbnb as the same properties are usually cheaper.
Camping and Chalets
Dwellingup Chalet and Caravan Park is situated in the forest, providing a range of accommodation from camping to chalets. The campsite is within walking distance to Dwellingup town centre.
Families/Couples travelling together
Milltree Cottage is a 3-bedroom, newly built replica mill cottage located a few minutes’ walk from Dwellingup train station. It features a fireplace to cosy up in front of during the cool nights and air conditioning for the hot summer nights. I like the outdoor area as well. Have a look at the photos here.
What to take with you on the Hotham Valley Railway Tour
- Hat and Sunglasses
- Camera (I love my Nikon D7500 and Go-Pro)
- Walking Shoes
- A lightweight rain jacket if required
- Water Bottle like this Vacuum-Insulated Stainless-Steel one from Takeya that keeps your water cold all day
This free packing list is handy to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Save money planning your holiday
Click on the links which will take you direct to the website.
Flights: We use different sites to get the best possible price for flights. Check matrix.itasoftware.com to get an idea of the cheapest dates, but you can’t book through this site. Compare the cost of flights with Kiwi.com and try different routes.
Travel Guides: As well as using online resources, like other travel blogs, I like to flick through a paper travel guide too. I either rent them from our local library or buy them from Bookdepository if I want to take it with me.
Accommodation: We mainly use Booking.com for accommodation as they consistently have the lowest rates with free cancellation on most properties. We also book through Stayz for private accommodation as they are usually cheaper than Airbnb.
Car Rental: To compare rental car company prices, we use Discover Cars, an award winning car rental comparison website. They offer competitive pricing in over 10,000 locations worldwide and are highly-rated. Another option is Rentalcars.com
Campervan Rental:Drivenow is a good resource to compare campervan hire in Western Australia as it includes all the large companies like Britz, Maui, Jucy as well as smaller ones.
Tours: We use third-party sites Viator, Get Your Guide & Klook due to their free cancellation policies, instant confirmation, price guarantees, and mobile ticketing. We occasionally book through Red Balloon too.
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