How to visit historic Hotham Valley Railway – a valuable guide

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.

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Location of the Hotham Valley 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.

yellow weatherboard train station with a sign saying dwellingup
Dwellingup Train Station

How to get to Hotham Valley Railway

International and domestic visitors will fly into Perth Airport. Find details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety on our Australia page.

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.

black steam engine at a train station with a green carriage behind part of hotham valley railway
Hotham Valley steam engine at Dwellingup station

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 on a Wednesday & Saturday 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 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 steam 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.

black and white photo of a steam train pulling an old carriage
Hotham Valley Steam Ranger

Hotham Valley Railway Train Ride

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.

green rolling hills and forest on a cloudy day
Views of the surrounding countryside from our carriage

We went on the Steam Ranger, which travels 14 km to Isandra Siding. This steam train rides 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.

How to visit historic Hotham Valley Railway - a valuable guide

The Forest Railway 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.

a steam train passing through green lush fields

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.

Read: Lakeside Apartments South Yunderup Review

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

  • Sunscreen
  • 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.

cariiages and steam engine in a siding
Steam Ranger train at Isandra Siding

Western Australia Travel Guide

Save money planning your holiday

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 Trip.com and try different routes.

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.

Tours: We use third-party sites ViatorGet Your Guide & Klook due to their free cancellation policies, instant confirmation, price guarantees, and mobile ticketing. We occasionally book through Red Balloon too.

Travel Insurance: Cover-More protects the travel dreams and experiences of more than 15 million people worldwide every year (including us!). Part of Zurich Insurance Group, they cover 22 countries across five continents with leading positions in the USA, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Ireland, India and New Zealand. Protect your trip against several COVID-19 scenarios during the current coronavirus pandemic. 

How to visit historic Hotham Valley Railway - a valuable guide

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24 thoughts on “How to visit historic Hotham Valley Railway – a valuable guide”

  1. Such a beautiful and timeless experience. I’m sure the dinner on board would be amazing, but I’ll bet it’s costly too. It’s very considerate of them to consider fire risk when running the trains. Seems a great little adventure.

    Reply
  2. This is so cool, I’m kind a train geek, I love to travel by train. Steam trains are so interesting, I’d love to go on one again – I haven’t taken one since I was a kid. What a great looking place to visit

    Reply
  3. I do like riding these old trains Wendy, especially as I’m a nostalgic person 😀 A dinner here would also be so nice, while admiring the scenery.

    Reply
  4. I’m a big fan of historical trains and I would especially enjoy riding one in Australia. My first choice would be the Steam Ranger because of the steep landscape. Some of our best travel memories are from train rides.

    Reply
  5. And yet another amazing post that I’ve enjoyed reading!
    Trains are special for us, we love to travel on them. No better transport to enjoy the views.
    There is a fantastic train at north in Argentina that is call the Train of the clouds. Is the highest train in the world reaching 4200mts. Most likely when you reach to the top and you go out you will have serious breating issues. Luckily the train has oxygen bottles for who might need it haahah
    Great work as always Wendy!
    Keep it up!

    Reply
  6. I love steam train and it’s been a while since I was into one!
    this looks like an incredible and memorable experience, I had no idea this was possible in Australia but definitely something to remember for when we will visit!

    Reply

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