Scenic World: The world’s steepest railway

Australia is home to the world’s steepest railway line. There are a few caveats that I have to add of course: Australia is home to the steepest cable-driven funicular railway. The world is so awesome and awe-inspiring that these little caveats matter now. There’s probably a steeper non-cable driven funicular railway, butΒ who knows?

So if you want to feel like you’re adventuring where no man has gone before, whilst simultaneously trying not to freak the hell out because you’re sitting straight up BUT STARING OUT OF THE TRAIN ROOF, get yourself to Scenic World.

It’s nestled between the iconic Three Sisters rock formation and the town centre of Katoomba. You can probably guess the premise of Scenic World pretty easily – it’s all about the views.

Scenic World looks out onto miles of World Heritage Listed Blue Moutains bushland, over cliffs, onto the Kedumba River, and is close enough to the beautiful Katoomba Falls that make the area a must-see.

But back to the railway. We lined up behind a family with two young boys – one looking fairly anxious and the other full of beans. After a nice chat with the staffΒ they were ready to roll. I, however, wasn’t particularly enamoured by what looked like a sheer drop into a dark tunnel.

The view was worth a bit of heart-pounding adrenaline and the Indiana Jones theme playing over the PA made it that little bit more exciting. But you came here for the pictures, didn’t you? Well, here they are…



That’s my hand being a fraidy cat. And the window you’re looking out of there, is actually the roof of the train, so you can imagine what angle we’re at here. A frighteningly steep one, but also an awesome one.

But then you get to the bottom and get a panoramic view of the valley and the three sisters rock formation. It’s named for an Aboriginal legend about three Katoomba tribe members, named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo who had fallen in love with three brothers from another tribe.

Their relationships were doomed, in a Romeo and Juliet-esque fashion, as tribal law forbade the unions so the brothers waged war to try to capture their loves. But the Katoomba tribes’ witchdoctor turned the sisters to stone to protect them from danger. He was later killed in battle and was never able to return them to their human form.

You don’t just ride down to turn around and come straight back up (although you can) – there’s a whole Jurassic period rainforest to explore on the Jamison Valley floor! And a 2.4km (1.5 mile) wooden walkway to take you around in comfort and style.

Did I mention it’s a great way to tire the kids out as well? It tired me out anyway, although I’m guessing that the young’uns these days have slightly more stamina then my old legs.

This is where you get snippets of the railway’s history – it was first built in the 1880s as a way for coal and shale miners to transport their spoils up from the valley floor.

Check out the replica miners’ hut and get a photo on the bronze pony. I’ll spare you mine. But trust me, it’s fun stuff. From here you get get a lift back to the top via the cableway.

The 510-metre ascent gives you views of the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls, with a little bit of history thrown in by the cableway operator.

The gentle ascent/descent is perfect for those who are a little more reticent of tackling the steepness of the railway.

Lastly there’s the Scenic Skyway, that runs across the valley and allows you to take some side adventures to lookouts over the valley and hikes to Echo Point.

It also features a liquid crystal glass floor that turns from opaque to clear so that you can watch the bush below drift by.

Scenic World was, by far, one of my favourite parts of the Blue Mountains and is well worth the visit!

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70 thoughts on “Scenic World: The world’s steepest railway

    1. So it’s all fresh in your mind Ingrid! We went in January so it was pretty humid but we still had a great time.

    1. Oh wow, you did four days in the mountains! That’s awesome. The views there are just breathtaking. We stopped at Govett’s Leap on the way hope and I’m so glad that we did. Thanks for visiting Sue.

  1. That’s a great blog post…and I think the owners of those attractions should know about it!! I have been on both the scenic railway but so long ago I cant recall. It was dramatic alright…and I have been on the thing that went across the valley. Thanks for sharing the 3 Sisters story. I knew part of it but not all. Denyse

    1. I will be tweeting Scenic World post haste! Can you believe that I’d never been there before? We sent my parents to Katoomba for a weekend away years ago, and they went to Scenic World and loved it.
      Apparently there are a few different Three Sisters legends, but that one was my favourite and the story that they told us on the Cableway so it’s the one I went with πŸ˜€

  2. The views are incredible but I would probably freak out about the glass floors and the height. Seems to be really worth it for the experience though!

  3. Thanks for your comment on my Red-winged Blackbird post. I was really lucky with those photos of the male Blackbird. We were leaving a restaurant and there in some bushes beside the parking lot, birds! I think they were so used to cars pulling in and out that they were not alarmed when I stopped and rolled the window down for photos. Then I cropped the photos to make them look closer.
    Hope you are having a wonderful day!

  4. Beautiful views from your scary train ride (that would not be for me)! Couldn’t figure out if you were still living in San Francisco (that’s only 3 1/2 hours away from me), and if you weer in Aust. for a visit, or back living there…?

    1. I’m an international woman of mystery! Hehe, I’m an Australian who is living in San Francisco at the moment. I went home for a bit of a vacation in January and was showing my American boyfriend the sites. Figured I might as well share them here as well!

  5. I was confused for a moment when you said it went downwards – I would expect it to be going up a mountain or something! Looks like a great trip. Very neat attraction – adding it to my wander list. #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Well it goes down into a valley. But what goes down must come up, so you can catch it back up the mountain as well πŸ™‚

  6. Ha – the hand made me laugh, that would be me! I’ve been on a few steep funiculars before and all I can think is the cable is going to snap (partly because most have been in old European cities where health and safety aren’t exactly top of the list)
    But, hey, weren’t the views worth it! #FlyAwayFriday

    1. I get the same way with those cable seats where your legs are just dangling in open air. I’m always sure that the cable will snap of the car will come off the rails.
      Haha, yes, good news! I didn’t die and I got good views. πŸ™‚

  7. Wow! So steep! I got really nervous on the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway (a hanging gondola)… I think being on a rail car would be a little more reassuring, being connected to the ground and all, but this experience still looks thrilling as well as beautiful πŸ™‚ #WeekendWanderlust

    1. Those gondolas scare the living bejesus out of me. But I still go on them because I have this stupid little thing about facing my fears. I’ll have to visit the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway one day πŸ˜€

  8. We did this on our honeymoon but I had forgotten all about it till I read this! I’m not sure the glass floor was there then though? Perhaps that’s a recent addition. Thanks for the lovely honeymoon memory! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  9. Oooh, the world’s steepest railway looks incredibly exciting and thrilling! Looks like there are some amazing views after such an adrenaline rush! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  10. This is definitely going on my list of things to do when we visit the blue mountains – looks awesome and terrifying at the same time!! #wkendwanderlust

  11. Wow, looks like a roller coaster track. Does the train go fast? It looks pretty scary to me, but the views definitely look worth it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. It is great! They actually built a coaster there at one point, and you can see the tracks too. But the year they were supposed to open it, Australia changed their coaster safety laws and it didn’t meet the test.

  12. What a great post on a favourite of our family, the Scenic Railway. We have a part share in Hartley Valley Farm so have spent many a weekend walking the Blue Mountains and visiting lots of attractions. My kids have been walking the 1000 steps around to the railway for amost 15 years now, and I can’t think of a nicer place to enjoy the Australian Bush. Fab photos Katherine. You really captured the rides well.

  13. So, it has a glass floor. I get very nervous while riding attractions like these. The floor will add a bit of pain. But, I think I like pain because I will ride this without thinking about it. The views of the Three Sisters and the falls are amazing. BTW, I love those biggest, longest and steepest facts! #WeekendWanderlust

  14. I’m pretty afraid of heights, but I still try to do things like this! Like you said the view is more than worth it! Still I think I would have also freaked a bit over that drop into the dark tunnel!

    1. It helped to have those two little kids in the seats in front of us to be honest. I couldn’t freak out and scare them as well! Plus I had to keep my cool in front of my awesome sister in law πŸ˜‰

  15. i think i would choose the steep railway over the glass-bottom cable car. Looking for like that would be too much for me. Looks like a great excursion at any rate! #weeklypostcard

    1. Ooh, good choice! ALTHOUGH, only a section of the cable car has a glass bottom, so you can still ride on it and feel like you’re on solid ground.

    1. Plus you’re in Australia so you can keep an eye out for cuddly animals (that you should never try to cuddle).

  16. I could feel my knees giving out! I have such trouble with glass floors that I don’t think I could get through this railway. It is in a very beautiful part of Australia though that I really want to visit πŸ™‚ Thank you for joining #flyawayfriday this week and we hope to see you on May 5th!

    1. You might be fine on the train, but you might want to skip the other attractions….or not look down πŸ˜‰

  17. I was SO hoping you were going to write about this, after I saw your photo on Instagram! Wow I’m not generally afraid of heights but I think this would definitely give me the chills…..yet I still really want to do it, is that weird? Haha! Thanks for sharing and joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week! xo

    1. Haha, I’m all about facing my fears so I do things that freak me out all of the time. I’d say it’s not weird at all!

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