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Trains, Planes and Automobiles for Kids

Day Out with Thomas at Railway Workshop Museum

Does your child have a passion or a deep-seated curiosity with trains, planes, or automobiles?

Trains hold a timeless fascination for children, captivating their imaginations and sparking a sense of wonder unlike any other mode of transportation. There’s something inherently magical about the rhythmic chugging of a locomotive, the clickety-clack of wheels on tracks, and the promise of adventure that awaits beyond each bend. But what is it about trains that ignites such fervent enthusiasm in young hearts?

Hogwarts Express at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

You could say pop culture has played a part in giving trains a special place in the collective consciousness of childhood. Thanks to their presence in magical films like The Polar Express and famously in Harry Potter with the daring escapades of Hogwarts Express, which can now be experienced at Warner Bros Studio Tour in London. Even earlier than this was The Railway Series, written by Reverend W. Awdry for his son Christopher, which has since become Thomas the Tank Engine™, arguably the biggest icon of adventure, friendship, and the power of imagination captivating generations of families since the 1940s.

Even without the movie magic, it can seem like a train magnet is drawing our children in. For those in their younger years, it can become an “extremely intense interest,” a label given by psychologists when children are fixated on a particular interest or object like horses, princesses, bulldozers, and dinosaurs. Research has found these intense and passionate interests are more common for young boys than for girls and evident in one-third of pre-school-aged children.

For children, trains represent more than just a means of getting from one place to another; they embody a sense of freedom, exploration, and discovery. From the thrill of boarding a train and peering out the window as the world whizzes by to the excitement of embarking on a journey to new and unfamiliar destinations, trains offer a sense of limitless possibility that stirs the imagination.

But perhaps most importantly, trains provide children with a sense of connection—to the world around them, to the past, and to each other. A lesson in history and social studies. Whether it’s sharing stories with fellow passengers, waving to bystanders as the train passes by, or simply spending quality time with family. It’s through warm responsive relationships that our children learn vital information about themselves and their world.
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To foster curiosity for trains and forge lasting memories, keep reading to discover some of the best train rides for kids in Queensland and around Australia.

Queensland Train Experiences for Kids

Mary Valley Rattler restored steam train

Mary Valley Rattler

Mary Valley Rattler

Starting our journey north of Brisbane at the far end of the Sunshine Coast with the Mary Valley Rattler. Climb aboard the C17 steam train in Gympie, just 50 minutes from Noosa, for a scenic tour that takes you through the lush rolling hills to the charming town of Amamoor. The Mary Valley Rattler makes for a great weekend adventure or half-day holiday activity perfect for primary ages and older as this is a three-hour round trip. You can even bring your fur baby along for the ride!

Moreton

One of the Sunshine Coast’s hidden gems, The Ginger Factory, is, in fact, the world’s largest operating ginger factory. It’s here you can take a trip on Moreton, the 120+ year-old steam train that had spent its working life transporting sugar cane. On this train ride, you’ll get to explore the 9 hectares of lush tropical grounds of The Ginger Factory. This is a relaxed way to experience the magic of a steam train with littles, with plenty of other activities and attractions to keep everyone entertained. Get your bundle ticket for the Overboard Boat + Train for just $20.

The Workshops Railway Museum

The Workshops Railway Museum

Queensland Workshops Rail Museum

Dedicate a day to this one, as you’ll discover opportunities for fun but also to foster the love of learning. A fantastic place with something for everyone from the captivating 90m² Queensland Model Railway, the Nippers Railway active play space for children to role-play operating the train network, and a swag of activities during the school holidays, including special visits from Thomas the Fat Controller. The whole family can visit for just $44.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Train

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Train

Train at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Combine the love of animals and a miniature train ride when visiting Queensland’s multi-award winner Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. All included in your ticket, this place is fantastic value for pre-primary and primary-aged children who will love feeding the kangaroos, visiting the new Outback Springs and be mesmerized by the Wild Skies free Flight Bird Show. Get your family pass or tickets here.

For more railway museum ideas found locally in South East Queensland, visit Brisbane Family Explorers.

New South Wales Train Experiences for Kids 

Katoomba Scenic Railway

Discover the thrill of a 52° (128%) incline in open terrain riding the steepest passenger railway in the world, the Scenic Railway. Recognised by Guinness World Records for its remarkable gradient, the Scenic Railway promises an unforgettable adventure for those seeking an adrenaline rush. Witness the beauty of the Blue Mountains from a unique perspective, immersing yourself in the awe-inspiring landscapes of this iconic Australian destination, just 50 minutes west of Penrith.

NSW Rail Museum

The home of Australia’s largest collection of historic railway carriages and locomotives. You can visit the museum and take a train ride at the NSW Rail Museum located just 50 minutes northwest of Wollongong or a 90-minute drive from Sydney. Tickets start from $15 for children,. Heritage steam train rides run on the historic Loop Line EVERY WEEKEND.

Victoria Train Experiences for Kids

Puffing Billy

The whole family will love the thrilling experience of a journey through the lush rainforest of the Dandenong Ranges on board the legendary Puffing Billy steam train. Just an hour west of Melbourne, behold the breathtaking vistas and breathe in the fresh, crisp air, taking in the beauty of the historic locomotive as it chugs along on its hour-long expedition from Belgrave to Lakeside. The narrow-gauge line survives as one of the most intact examples of pioneering railway infrastructure in Australia.

The Swan Bay Express 

The Bellarine Railway offers a scenic ride along picturesque Swan Bay, allowing passengers of all ages to immerse themselves in the passing landscape. Departing three times daily from the historic Queenscliff Station, the fully enclosed carriages provide comfort while still offering the option to raise a window for a more traditional experience. The 45-minute return trip to Lakers Siding offers a glimpse into the region’s natural beauty and historical charm. Take your family of 4 for just $55. Why not make a day of it and stop in at Basils Farm, just 12 minutes away, where you can enjoy a family friendly lunch stop.

 

South Australia Train Experiences for Kids

National Railway Museum

Embark on a captivating journey through Australian railway history at the National Railway Museum, where over 100 exhibits spanning State, Commonwealth, and private operators await. Experience the awe-inspiring size of giant steam engines, explore elegant carriages frozen in time, and engage with interactive displays that blend education and fun. Plus, enjoy complimentary rides their small train, running every half hour, and take in the scenic Semaphore Train along the breathtaking coastline. You can even host your child’s birthday party amidst the museum’s unique atmosphere. With something for everyone, the National Railway Museum promises an unforgettable experience for families and history enthusiasts alike.

Western Australia Train Experience for Kids

1841km out to sea on Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty Train

Busselton Jetty is the Southern Hemisphere’s longest timber-piled jetty. You can take a 1.7-kilometer journey across Geographe Bay on the Ray White Stocker Preston Express electric jetty train, which took its maiden voyage in June 2017, is powered by solar panels, and is the first of its kind in Australia! If you have a few hours, make sure you get the Observatory + Jetty Train ticket so you can visit the underwater observatory 8 meters beneath the water’s surface to view around 300 individual sea creatures in their natural habitat.

Did you know?

  1. In 1873, the agency, now known as Thomas Cook and Son, launched an international railway timetable, still published today, and by 1890 they were selling more than 3 million rail tickets annually.
  2. Today’s bullet trains can top 300 mph. When Englishman Richard Trevithick launched the first practical steam locomotive in 1804, it averaged less than 10 mph. Today, several rails are regularly traveling 30 times as fast. When Japan’s first Shinkansen or “bullet trains,” opened to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, they were capable of running at speeds in excess of 130 mph.
  3. The Electric Tilt Train, the fastest train in Australia, operates between Brisbane and Rockhampton in Queensland, a distance of 615 km.

With all these options and the enthusiasm within the young and young at heart, trains will continue to captivate. From the enchanting steam locomotives of yesteryear to the modern marvels hurtling across landscapes at breathtaking speeds, trains continue to inspire wonder and fascination. Through the rhythmic chugging of engines and the clickety-clack of wheels on tracks, children embark on journeys of imagination and discovery, forging connections with the world around them and creating cherished memories that last a lifetime.

Whether it’s a leisurely ride through picturesque landscapes or an exhilarating adventure aboard historic railways, the magic of trains transcends generations, inviting us all to embark on a journey of exploration and nostalgia. So next time you hear the whistle blow and feel the rumble of tracks beneath your feet, embrace the opportunity to hop aboard and experience the timeless enchantment of train travel.


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