Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Nature and a bridge caused headaches!

The original contractor of the Bendigo to Heathcote section for the Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway probably had many sleepless nights when building the original railway bridge over Axe Creek. In 1887, when travelling along the surveyed route, Andrew O’Keefe may not have understood why there was a body of water at the surveyed site for the creek crossing. In the following year, the reason would be revealed, that being a natural rock reef forming a weir just downstream of the bridge site.

A natural rock reef weir on the Axe Creek. Photo: Les Lewis

A natural rock reef weir on the Axe Creek. Photo: Les Lewis

Not only would the water level to be a hindrance to Andrew O’Keefe’s bridge building crew, there was also solid rock just under the creek bed where the new bridge’s timber piles would normally have been driven into the earth. Plus, as fate would have it, a very wet winter in 1888 produced high flows in the Axe Creek that caused initial bridge works to be washed away on more than one occasion. This difficult bridge construction would add to major cost overruns, one of Andrew’s biggest headaches on this his first railway contract.

Today, many O’Keefe Rail Trail users may quickly pass over this natural waterway environment of Axe Creek, via the new trail bridge, perhaps not realising what occurred here more than 127 years ago.

The third Axe Creek bridge, built in 2012. Photo: Garry Long

The third Axe Creek bridge, built in 2012. Photo: Garry Long

Will the trail users know that this is within the traditional land in which the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung once travelled through, the reasons why the original railway bridge builders had so many headaches, that the current trail bridge is the third such built at this location (remnants of the former two still visible), and that a nearby natural weir has experienced centuries of high water flows and severe droughts?

This Axe Creek crossing is a great place to rest while on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, to soak up the natural environment, to enjoy a picnic with friends, and to reflect upon the history of the area.

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