In 1994, inspired by stories of the old blues masters jamming it up on Mississippi freight trains as they travelled the deep south, local Bellarine boy Hugo T Armstrong joined forces with the renowned Pasquini's Deli of Point Lonsdale to create what has become a world-class tourism event. The Blues Train experience begins at historic Queenscliff station with a hearty meal. Then, as the steam engine fires up, it’s all aboard with revelers swapping carriages at each stop to experience each of the four great blues acts performing on the train that evening. With a capacity of 200 people (50 in each of the four carriages) it is one of the most popular attractions of the region, perfect for couples and small groups as well as offering a unique space for functions of up to 200 people including weddings, birthday parties, corporate events and Christmas celebrations.
In 2006 The Blues Train was recognised by Tourism Victoria and the RACV as one of the top ‘101 Things To Do In Victoria’, polling at number six on the list (out of a total of 75,000 votes). The roll of artists who have performed on The Blues Train include the who’s who of Australia’s most accomplished, award-winning performers including Mia Dyson, Ash Grunwald, CW Stoneking, The John Butler Trio, Jimi Hocking and Chris Wilson.
The 18th season kicked off with a bang last month with a Blues Brothers themed night. Artists performing this season include Claude Hay (currently on tour in the USA), Anni Piper, Qynn Beardman, Chris Wilson, Chubby Rae & the Elevators and the 2010 Victorian Blues Performer of the year Sweet Felicia & the Honeytones.
Behind The Blues Train is a man who has lived and breathed music for over 24 years. Hugo T Armstrong spent eight years as Director of the Queenscliff Music Festival (nationally recognised in the Tourism Hall of Fame) and 21 years presenting the popular ‘Now Dig This’ radio program on Melbourne's PBSFM.
The Blues Train operates Saturday nights from August to May, with a range of great packages just released, for those with modest budgets (two Blues Train tickets, one night’s twin-share accommodation and breakfast at the Queenscliff Inn for $165 per person) through to those wanting a little more luxe (two Blues Train tickets, one night’s twin-share accommodation and breakfast in the historic Grand Dining Room at the Vue Grand Hotel for $212.50 per person).
During December, The Blues Train operates Friday and Saturday nights, catering for staff Christmas parties and end of year break-ups. Group discounts for over 20 people are available through Ticketek; for bookings of 52 people and over, contact The Blues Train direct (further discounts apply).
For January 2012 shows only, when local accommodation can be tight, there is bus and ticket package providing a return bus service, ex Melbourne, for $138.20 per person. To purchase contact Ticketek on www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849.
For more information visit www.thebluestrain.com.au.
The Geelong Otway region incorporates a wide expanse of southern Victoria, including Geelong, The Bellarine, Surf Coast and Otways - spectacular regions which are home to food and wine, destination villages, nature activities, golfing, adventure sports, events, the Great Ocean Road, and more.