Hotham Valley Railway Review & Guide 2024

Take a journey on one of Perth’s most popular tourist attractions – the Hotham Valley Railway. Located in Dwellingup in Western Australia, the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway has become an important part of the local history.

Overview of Hotham Valley Railway

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

Tourist Experiences on the Hotham Valley Railway Train Rides

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.

inside the steam room onboard the hotham valley railway

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.

the hotham valley steam train passing through green lush fields

2023 Special Events Hosted by Hotham Valley Railway

The historic railway offers an array of unique experiences for all ages, including special events hosted at the station throughout the year. From Thomas the Tank Engine parties and Halloween ghost trains to Christmas carol rides and vintage train exhibitions.

HVR’s Annual Train Kwiz

Friday 24th February 2023

A fun social night with great prizes, auction items, and giveaways. You don’t need to know everything about trains!

Tickets available individually for A$25 or for a full table of ten at A$250.

Time: Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.
Location: Swan Districts Football Club
Steel Blue Oval, Old Perth Road, Bassendean

Restaurant Dinner Train

Enjoy a five-course meal in a vintage 1919 dining car or a 1884 club car served from the wood stove, as our train meanders through the forest.
Departs from Dwellingup every Saturday evening from the 1st April 2023.

Hotham Valley Railway’s 47th Anniversary of Steam

Sunday 10th September 2023

The Annual Anniversary Festival is on again this year.

Attractions include:
•Steam Ranger and Forest Train Services departing at 10:30 am & 2:00 pm
•Food Trucks
•Arts & Craft Stalls
•Gift & Clothing Stalls 
•Railway Displays/Attractions 

2023 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon Masters

14th to 17th September 2023

The 2023 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon Masters World Championship (part of Western Australia’s largest mountain biking event, Dwellingup 100) is on in Dwellingup from the 14th to 17th September.

Dwellingup will be extremely busy this weekend, but Hotham Valley Railway are running plenty of train services, including the Restaurant Train, Steam Ranger & Forest Train.

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

History and Origins 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.

black and white photo of the hotham valley railway steam train pulling an old carriage
Hotham Valley Steam Ranger

Tips for Visiting Hotham Valley Railway

  • Check direct for train timetables and special events
  • Book tickets in advance
  • Consider staying overnight to explore more of the area
  • Get to the train station with plenty of time to spare
  • Pack sun protection such as hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses
  • Bring a lightweight rain jacket if rain is predicted
  • Take a refillable water bottle
  • Enjoy your ride on this Dwellingup train

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.

How to get to 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.

International and domestic visitors will fly into Perth Airport.

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.

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

Accommodation near Hotham Valley Train

Looking for accommodation in Dwellingup?

If you want to stay, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of the best accommodation options near Dwellingup. We find Stayz/VRBO cheaper than Airbnb 🏩

  1. Milltree Cottage– 3-bedroom, newly built replica mill cottage with wood fire. Rated 4.9/5⭐️
  2. Woodcutters Cottage – 1920 renovated original timber mill cottage Rated 4.9/5⭐️
  3. Dwellingup Mill Houseoriginal mill house in the Dwellingup Heritage Precinct. Rated 4.9/5⭐️
  4. Dwellingup Chalets & Caravan Park– a range of accommodation from camping to chalets in the forest.