Belgrave the Dandenong’s first town

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The Dandeong Ranges are one of Melbourne’s most popular areas to ride.  They are home to some of the greatest climbing that metropolitan Melbourne has to offer.  The ranges consist of rolling hills.  Steeply weathered valleys and gullies covered in thick temperate rainforest (mainly tall Mountain Ash) and dense ferny undergrowth.

The Dandenong’s were first settled way back in 1851 in what is now known as Belgrave.  Originally the area was known as “Monbulk” and wasn’t known as “Belgrave” until around 1903.  The name was named after Mount Belgrave.  This was an 1870’s house built by an early settler family.  The Bensons which was named in reference with Belgrave chapel in Leeds, England.

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

The population really grew after a narrow-gauge Railway was open in the area in 1900.  This was built to help farmers transport their good to markets in Melbourne. This Railway played an essential part in the growth of the area.  This would one day become one of the Dandenong’s most popular attractions; Puffing Billy.

As cycling goes, Belgrave boasts one of the Dandenong’s most challenging climbs in Terry’s Avenue.  One of the original residents of Belgrave was Mr Terry. Who owned a lot of land which was known as Terry’s Hill. He sub-divided it into one and a half acre blocks which were sold for £15 each. A road was put through here which was later to be known as Terry’s Avenue.  There are two separate climbs on Terry’s Avenue, and with gradients peaking at around 20% in gradient.  Either climb could be considered amongst the Dandenong’s toughest climbs.

Terry’s has been used as the Queen climb in the Climbing Cyclists Dirty Dozen series in the Dandenong’s.

Distance: 3.2 km
Average Gradient: 8%
Elevation gain: 258 metres

 

View looking down Terry’s Avenue: Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

Belgrave is the gateway to the Southern part of the Dandenong’s, and has been central to climbing in the Dandenong’s.  The town is a popular rest stop for cyclists.  With its many Cafes & a Bakeries which are very popular amongst cyclists and tourists.

Belgrave Cycling Club 1930’s

Puffing Billy

Puffing Billy is an icon of the Dandenong’s.  Cyclists on the weekend may be lucky to see Puffing Billy along the many numerous rail crossings between Belgrave and Gembrook.  Its whistle can be heard from miles away.  Its a familiar sound to riding in the Dandenong’s on the weekends.  Puffing Billy is a narrow-gauge heritage Railway.  The train stopped running in 1953 after a landslide blocked the line between Selby and Menzies Creek.  And it was formally closed in 1954.  Thankfully it was kept in operation through the efforts of volunteers of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society.

Image courtesy of Long Zheng; Flickr

The train was re-opened on 28 July 1962 as a tourist railway.  Today the railway operates daily (except for Christmas).  Puffing Billy offers trips up to 24 km with original Steam Engines.  It is operated with some of the railway practices from the Victorian Railways 1900 to 1930 era.  Such as using conductors to check your tickets when you board the trains.

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