A lack of identity and wayfinding signage for the O’Keefe Rail Trail, since the trail’s last 30km extension was completed in 2015, has seen this situation improved in July 2021. This change is due to actions of a community project, driven by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group’s planning and their application to Fosterville Gold Mine’s 2020-21 Community Grant program.
This project grant application was successful in being awarded $5,000, enabling the manufacture and signwriting of 29 new ‘Whistle Post’ signs for installation along the rail trail between Axedale and Heathcote.
The design of these signs relates back to the original railway and steam locomotives, where similar ‘whistle posts’ were located along the railway to alert the locomotive driver of an approaching road crossing. This visual alert then required the train driver to sound the loco’s whistle, as a warning of an approaching train to road users.
Manufactured and finished with modern 21st century materials, these signs indicate the identity of the rail trail and also the formal name of the road crossed by the trail at that location. Such location information may assist trail users in knowing the name of a nearby road, should there be a requirement for emergency first responders to attend.
With the community Friends’ group contributing its own funds plus members’ volunteer time and resources towards the project, together with the Fosterville Gold Mine company’s grant, such has enabled the project’s completion without incurring any expenditure by the trail’s manager, the City of Greater Bendigo council.
It is these signs that will now further assist in promoting this trail as a quality popular tourist attraction, as well as an attractive local recreational facility. In addition, the exponential increase in this trail’s user traffic numbers since 2019 is a strong encouragement for business, community and councils to advance the progress for this trail’s further extension. Such an extension will directly link this trail with the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, creating an important identified network of connected trails within this region of Victoria.