Project Description

Puffing Billy Visitor Centre, Lakeside


Project Commenced: April 2019
Project Completed: January 2021
Floor Area: Great Hall 313 sqm and landscape interpretation 440 sqm

Thylacine’s role

  • design management
  • interpretive design
  • graphic design
  • media design
  • lighting design
  • showcase installation
  • select fabrication


Shortlisted in the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards

Puffing Billy Railway is an icon of Victorian tourism, which required a new flagship Visitor Centre was needed to support the poppular historic train ride experience. The world-class amenity and interpretation of the railway’s rich history is designed to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly sophisticated audience. Thylacine’s interpretive installation at the new Puffing Billy visitor hub, Lakeside Visitor Centre, offers a dynamic and emotive connection to Victoria’s favourite railway. Synthesising design for spatial, lighting, digital, object, graphics, and effects, Thylacine’s Melbourne based team have created a captivating installation and experience which privileges the unique characters of Puffing Billy and its remarkable history, delighting audiences, young and old alike.

The centrepiece of our scheme is the ‘object theatre’ in the large discovery space, Lakeside Hall. A striking original engine, the famous 3A Loco is the focus of the space and the story and the star of the show! An important collection of historical artefacts is organised thematically around the hall as the supporting cast and includes a tea-trolley once used to serve patrons on the platform, working line signals that move and light-up as part of the show, and the old ticket printing machine that is used for demonstrations. In prime position, the 3A Loco is brought to life with a sound, light, and special effects show alongside a skillfully produced film, bursts of ‘steam’ punctuate the dramatic story. This show periodically takes-over the hall to tell the extraordinary tale of Puffing Billy, surprising and delighting visitors of all kinds.

Graphics have been developed to compliment the Railway’s new logo and identity, with bold colour and fonts that elevate the images and material culture of early 20th century leisure and transport.

Embedded in the hard landscape of the entry plaza at the visitor centre is an orientation map of the railway and its stations, materiality and proportions take cues from the locomotives and their era.

Our design ensures the Puffing Billy story embraces visitors with an engaging narrative and spatial experience that inspires everyone from locomotive buffs to curious day-visitors. Puffing Billy is an icon of Victorian tourism, its new visitor hub, Lakeside Visitor Centre, enhances visitor connection to the living history of the famous railway and to the spectacular Dandenong Ranges.

Project Partners – Lakeside Visitor Centre, Architects Terrior, Mental Media and Benjamin Cisterene

Photography by Peter Bennetts