Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Mile posts come back to life

While project planning is underway, little is happening on the ground. Never one to sit idle, Ken Hanson has launched into an ambitious project to recreate mile posts for the entire length of the trail. “We only need 24 for the trail to Heathcote,” he says.

The posts were used by locomotive drivers to check their speed and keep the trains running on time. They measured the distance from Melbourne. When the railway line closed most of the mile posts were either recovered (line salvage contracts) or mysteriously disappeared.

Earlier this year, convenor of the Friends, Garry Long, was on the existing trail photographing an old timber water culvert when he found the original number 92 mile post in the scrub. It had been completely broken off at ground level and the top ‘92’ section lying partly obscured by leaf litter etc. With his keen interest in the history of the trail, Ken was the man who was called in.

Ken makes a handprint in the wet concrete

Maker’s mark: Ken decided the easiest way to add an identifier to his posts was his own handprint. If they ever go missing and appear elsewhere, they’re the only mile posts with such a unique “finger print”. Photo: Garry Long

Ken used the original post to make a mould and recreated the numbers using a font which was the closest match he could find to the original. Hanson Bendigo – ready mix concrete suppliers (and no relation) agreed to donate concrete. Every time they have some ‘left overs’, they call Ken who hooks up his trailer and drives the mould over to collect the concrete. The wet concrete settles nicely into the mould during the drive back.

Ken’s back yard now resembles the tombs of terracotta soldiers and he fondly refers to them as his concrete soldiers. Each one bears his hand print as an identifying mark should they go missing from the trail again.

“These posts will be unique to this trail,” says Ken. “No one else has recreated every single mile post for a rail trail.”

The full set of 11 for the trail from Bendigo to Axedale is nearly complete and when they’re fully dry they’ll be painted as the originals were. But installation will have to wait until the council’s plans are finalised. “When they’re ready to go all we’ll need to find is 11 holes,” he says. “We should start asking now if anyone has some lying around that they could donate!”

Ken standing beside eight mile posts in a line

Concrete soldiers: the Hanson backyard is being taken over by a silent army of concrete posts. Photo: Garry Long

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