MUCH has changed since Puffing Billy whistled its way past Tivoli Farm at Clematis.
For one, Australasian Jam Company, the company for which Tivoli grew 50 to 60 tonnes of gooseberries a year, has since been rolled into household-name brand, IXL Jam.
- TIVOLI FARM
- Property: lifestyle
- Size: 20ha
- Price: $1.6 million-plus
- Contact: First National Real Estate Berwick, (03) 9707 6000 and Pat Rice & Hawkins Melbourne, (03) 9866 5588.
- Auction: Saturday May 12, 1pm.
- Pictures: Tivoli Farm
And the once rambling strawberry and gooseberry farms that dotted the countryside between Menzies Creek and Emerald have all but disappeared.
The Clematis district was settled in about 1880, but it wasn't until former St Kilda publican Michael O'Connor arrived in 1900 - the same year Puffing Billy was opened - that Tivoli was developed.
O'Connor planted an orchard and grazed dairy cattle before the property is believed to have been sold to the Australasian Jam Company in about 1915, after O'Connor died.
It was likely property manager for AJC, A.J. Williams, who planted Tivoli's first berries and laurel hedges - visible in a photo taken soon after 1915.
The berries were delivered to Melbourne via Puffing Billy, which was built to open up and serve rural areas in the mountainous district and operated until a landslide forced its closure in 1953.
It has since been reopened in sections, the most recent in 1998, and now shuttles tourists, not berries, from Belgrave to Gembrook.
Shire records about Tivoli were destroyed in the Sherbrooke and Fern Tree Gully bushfires of the early 1900s, precluding current owners Tanina and Logan Connolly from learning more about their beloved property and its association with Puffing Billy and AJC.
"We're not sure when they stopped growing berries on the farm; we think they went well into the 1920s or '30s. The berries are gone, but all the hedges are still here," Tanina said.
"We just fell in love with the building - it has the most magnificent return veranda - and it's a beautiful place to live."
Since buying Tivoli Farm 28 years ago, Tanina and Logan have updated the grand old homestead, installing a new kitchen and bathrooms and reinvigorating the 1910 design.
"It hadn't been touched since goodness knows when. We added a family room and made some minor changes internally to modernise it and add our own touch without dramatically altering the building."
The home includes four bedrooms (master with ensuite), magnificent banquet-sized dining room with French doors opening to the return veranda and formal lounge with open fire place (one of five).
The country-style kitchen includes granite benches, walk-in pantry with cellar and joins a conservatory with meals and family area.
Surrounding the house are century-old specimen trees including Irish strawberry, tulip, Cunningham pine, copper beech, chestnut, blackwood, maple and elm trees and a magnificent weeping elm.
Beyond the garden, the couple planted 600 hazelnut trees with the intention of growing truffles, but opted to concentrate on their respective gift card business and information technology consulting company instead.
So they converted the original berry sorting shed to office space and a packing area.
Tivoli also has a collection of other original buildings including storage and machinery shedding and a self-contained cottage suitable for family or overflow accommodation.
"We just use it like a big backyard; I can see someone coming here to start any number of boutique ventures though," Tanina said.
"If I was young, I would do a bit more with it with a view to the future, especially now that people are wanting more gourmet food, as these 50 acres (20ha) are so fertile and surrounded by creeks."
The 20ha property fronts Menzies Creek and the laurel-hedged paddocks would suit horses or cattle. Alternatively, other more intense horticulture pursuits could be explored.
Tivoli Farm is 50km east of Melbourne and close enough to hear Puffing Billy as it passes on its regular weekend journeys, but affords Tanina and Logan the privacy they have so appreciated for close to three decades.
"It's just a beautiful lifestyle property," she said.