Puffing Billy Railway Visitor Centre

The iconic Puffing Billy Railway is a much loved tourist attraction located within the Dandenong Ranges, 40 kilometres east of Melbourne.  Located centrally on the line is Emerald Lake Park, a scenic destination for many on the railway.  The importance of this stop on the railway was recognised with the decision to build a new Discovery Centre consisting of a café, commercial kitchen, visitor information services, interpretations, function rooms, staff offices, retail, educational facilities and amenities.

TERROIR were shortlisted from an open tender as one of five firms to compete in a design competition, which we won in late 2018.  Our strategy was to focus not on building a "novel" visitor centre as a new attraction, but rather we focused on the existing railway line and platform - creating a visitor experience anchored within the authentic sights, smells and sounds of the railway.  We also responded specifically to the two unique landscape contexts, working with our landscape team at Tract Consulting to stitch together the bushland uphill of the project and the contrasting European park landscape in front.

The complex brief resulted in a building larger than any that would have historically been located on the railway line.   The decision was therefore made to insert a new geometry and spatial experience different to the smaller old stations, but one that still depended on the relation between visitors and the platform for its organisational logic.  The project brings together train enthusiasts and local park goers, creating a unique tourism amenity offering which collects the many users of the site in a single but complex building.

Renders by Doug and Wolf