We’re so thankful that we have children — they provide such a good excuse for indulging in excellent pastimes, such as taking a ride on the Zig Zag Railway. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and highly recommend it for families with children or any other transport enthusiast!

Considered one of the premier tourist attractions of NSW, the Zig Zag Railway runs from Clarence Station in the Blue Mountains down to Bottom Points in Lithgow. Taking about an hour and a half to make the return journey, the railway line zigs and zags its way down the mountain side by stopping the train and allowing the locomotive to move to the other side of the carriages so it’s always out in front.

The Zig Zag Railway operates as a cooperative and is mostly staffed by volunteers. This gives the whole enterprise a very family-friendly atmosphere, rather than that of a money-hungry tourist trap.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Trains run on the Zig Zag Railway every day of the week, but steam locomotives operate on weekends, Wednesdays and during NSW school holidays.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Soon after we arrived at Clarence Station, it was time to board the carriages for the trip.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
The railway cars are from decommissioned trains in other parts of the country. One carriage we rode in came from Beaudesert Rail, which is very close to our Brisbane home.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Very soon after leaving Clarence Station, the train passes through Clarence Tunnel — so it's pitch-black for about two minutes. Our girls were excited by the darkness and movement.

Delaney on the Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Delaney was especially excited by the action. It's an inspiration to be around children who display such a zest for life!

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
One of the best parts about the old-fashioned ride was being able to stick your head out the window and watch the scenery as it moved past.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
The Zig Zag Railway chugs over three sandstone viaducts that were built in the 1860s.

When it was originally first opened in 1869, the Zig Zag Railway was regarded as one of the world’s great engineering marvels. The innovative track system allowed a train to climb and descend a relatively steep mountain in a short distance. However, after alternative tracks were installed and more powerful locomotives were built, the Zig Zag was decommissioned in 1910. It then reopened in 1988 as a tourist attraction.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
The intercity line that connects Lithgow with Sydney metropolitan trains runs parallel to the Zig Zag for a short distance, albeit further down the mountainside.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Calista got soot in her eyes after one section of the ride where we were very close to the locomotive. That's one of the hazards of coal-powered transport, I guess.

The train makes several stops to allow the locomotive to reposition itself on the front of the train. Everyone alights and wanders around the little station. Bush-walkers are sometimes picnicking in the shade nearby, watching the action, and the atmosphere is very festive.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Several times during our trip, the locomotive disconnected and reconnected from the string of carriages in order to zig and zag its way down and up the mountainside.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
The steam-powered locomotive is painted to resemble Thomas the Tank Engine and on special "Thomas" days it wears Thomas' face on the front.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Steam-powered trains are much more exciting to watch than electric trains.

Riding the Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
At one stop, David and the girls got caught out on the wrong side of the tracks when we were about to head off. Thankfully they could simply cross the lines and climb up into the carriage.

Zig Zag Railway, October 2011
Clarence Tunnel is something that I used to play in as a young child. Although there were no tracks and the tunnel was boarded up, it was sufficiently dark and scary to us — we used to imagine trains were coming through and would run out, screaming in fright.

A couple weeks ago — while we were still in Brisbane — Brioni asked me if she could ride on a train because she doesn’t remember her last train trip several years ago. Although we deliberately don’t promise to meet our girls’ requests, somehow the circumstances line up so that each experience they deeply yearn for is met during our travels!