Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Seeking New Rail Trails

A new community group is advocating for the development of a Castlemaine – Maryborough Rail Trail in central Victoria.

This group are looking to transform the disused railway corridor between Castlemaine and Maryborough into a recreation rail trail, to enhance active travel and safe recreation, to aid the future prosperity for linked small towns of Guildford, Newstead, and Carisbrook.

With PTV passenger trains regularly servicing Maryborough and Castlemaine, those connections for users to this trail would be made so much easier. Being close to other established off-road trails, this becomes attractive for extended stays by visitors to the area that benefit trail related businesses and employment.

Just like the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail connected to the O’Keefe Rail Trail, these linked trails would also be serviced by passenger trains and road freeways at Wallan and Bendigo plus other access. Such transport options increases the tourist potential, hence visionary development by Governments to create a network of linked trails to support regional communities and business economies.

Rust Replaced By Railway Splendor

Rusting away for decades at the Korumburra Railway Station yards, one HY/GY railway wagon was fortunate to be ‘rescued’ by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group! Being one of a total of 6320 of its type manufactured for Victorian Railways, after many years of service carrying basically any freight that would fit, this wagon (GY16625R) was taken out of service in 1998 and survived being scrapped.

The wagon initially delivered, hiding its real state of decay. Photo: Les Lewis Mar 2018

With the assistance of a Fosterville Gold Mine community grant enabling the 9-ton wagon to be transported from Korumburra to Axedale in Mar 2018, the private company BRW (Bendigo Railway Workshops) was contracted in late 2019 to repair and repaint it in its original ‘Wagon Red’ scheme. Being transported to the former VR North Bendigo Railway Workshops, this was where that wagon was originally manufactured (as HY16625) in 1956. With this work completed by March 2020, the wagon was then transported back to the Friends group’s O’Keefe Rail Trail’s recreated ‘Axedale Station’ onto their laid section of track.

In the spray booth after a fresh coat of ‘wagon red’. BRW, North Bendigo. Photo: Rob Jarvis. Feb 2020

The project’s next stage was to provide all abilities access for the public into the wagon’s internal area, where freight was once carried. With the new ramp manufactured and installed just prior to a relaxation of COVID19 restrictions, an official opening by City of Greater of Bendigo Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke was able to take place on Sunday 20 Sept being witnessed by a small number of invitees.

Officially opened by Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke, assisted by FBKRT Vice Pres Colin Scott. Photo: Les Lewis 20 Sept 2020

“As the only item of heritage railway rolling stock now on public static display in the Bendigo area, this is an important asset for Bendigo as well as a great point of interest for the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail” said Cr O’Rourke.

This Link is to a video of the official opening that was carried out by Mayor Cr. O’Rourke.

New Natural Environment Being Recreated

A piece of forgotten land within the industrial East Bendigo area and adjacent to the O’Keefe Rail Trail, which had consisted of an informal drain and non-native plants due partly to the impacts of the 19th century gold mining era, is now being transformed into a natural reserve environment.

As a consequence of damage caused by a fire earlier in 2020, rehabilitation of the area is being undertaken by the City of Greater Bendigo’s Parks and Natural Reserve unit staff. The landscaping has included removal of pampas grass remnants, as well as shifting and contouring tonnes of soil to create ponds and waterways for frogs and other native animals.

Earthworks have created ponds and connecting waterways. Photo: Paul Ferguson

Recent planting of hundreds of native trees and shrubs, by State Government funded unemployment scheme (related to the current pandemic), has occurred between the O’Keefe Rail Trail and the Bendigo Railway Workshops (BRW). The plantings and mulching should see a significant change to this steep embankment area adjacent to the rail trail, having seen land use changes by the former Victorian Railways Workshops built in 1917.

Tree plantings along the embankment adjacent the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Paul Ferguson

While the rail trail users can still experience local historical points of interest, like going through the 1863 brick railway culvert or observing two amazing 1888’s railway related red brick lined drains, the transformation of the area will both encourage a return of native animals as well as be enjoyed by the public into the future.

Caution – Works in Progress

Upgrading of a 26 year old section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, by the City of Greater Bendigo’s contractor, is currently in progress. This section is between Wilkie Rd Junortoun and Longlea Ln, Longlea.

Due to recent weather conditions and the unavailability of specific material, completion of the upgrading works has been delayed. Trail users are advised to take addition care in this section, due to muddy trail surface conditions, plus a little patience until the work has been completed.

Advice indicates that this work is expected to be completed within the next 10 days, yet that is dependent on weather conditions.

Rail Trail Bridge Naming

Some of the often admired engineering features of railway lines are the tunnels, bridges and cuttings. The former railway that the 50 km long O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote occupies did not have any tunnels, yet it did have cuttings and 50 timber bridges built in 1888-89.

Only one of those original timber bridges remains as a functioning structure, the Grassy Flat Creek bridge (East Bendigo). The O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote now has 19 bridges, 2 originals plus 17 being replacement trail only bridges.

The original Grassy Flat Ck timber railway bridge, with naming sign. Photo: Lindsay Clay

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail embarked on a project to have all the bridges named relative to the waterways they spanned. This evolved into a three-part project, the first part being to research and confirm all the officially named waterways. The second part being to fund, manufacture and install signs at both ends of bridges over officially named waterways.

Axe Ck bridge name sign, finalised by Project Team Leader Ken Hanson. Photo: Lindsay Clay

With eight (8) waterways confirmed as being officially named, the Friends’ Project Team set about having the bridge signs manufactured and installed. These waterways are Grassy Flat Ck, Splitters Ck, Axe Ck, Sweenies Ck, Hargreaves Ck, Campaspe R, Mt Ida Ck, and Parsons Gully. This part of the overall project was completed in early 2020.

The new naming sign just attached to the Hargreaves Ck bridge. Photo: Lindsay Clay

The third stage has been to research historical records, to identify possible names for the waterways that were never officially named by the State Government. This research included media publicity, to seek information from the general public and community groups. This last stage is ongoing and will require a formal submission to the City of Greater Bendigo to assess and recommend names to the State Government for formal adoption. This formal process is expected to take 12 months.

The final outcome will provide additional wayfinding assistance for trail users, important location information for emergency first responders when required, assist with the trail’s management and maintenance, as well as highlighting additional points of interest for visiting tourists and the general public.

New Life for Trail Seats

For the first 20 years, the original Bendigo-Axedale section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail had just four aging ‘recovered’ bench seats installed in 1994, as the only trail user facilities.

When the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail was formed in 2009, these four old seats were continuing to decay, becoming unused and unattractive compared to the new quality seat/table facilities that were progressively being provided by the group.

Rather than remove these aging seats, a 2020 decision was made to refurbish them. An application was made to the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise’s 2020 Community Grant program, for funding of this refurbishment project. The grant application was subsequently successful and a grant was awarded.

Men at work, Roy & Lindsay doing the installation at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

This project has utilised a recycled plastic and fibre product (commercial name ‘Modwood’) as a replacement for the failed timber components. Within COVID19 restrictions, the Friends group’s Project Team set about installing this low maintenance repurposed product, whilst also giving the seat’s metal frames a fresh look.

Trail users Lonain and Georgie came along just at the right time, to try out one of the newly refurbished seats at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

The members of the Friends group would like to acknowledge and thank the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise for their support, allowing these trail facilities to be upgrading and available for users of this popular trail.

A Special Team Effort

On a sunny Bendigo winter’s morning, Peter the ‘Pilot’ and Alan the ‘Stoker’ set out to experience what such a Tuesday had to offer. Yet what were each of them about to do? Was Peter heading to the airport to fly a plane, and was Alan actually a train enthusiast about to fire up a steam loco at Maldon?

They were not heading off as individuals, because importantly they would be as one cycling team due to Alan having a condition, he is vision impaired.

With final checks ensuring that Alan’s off-road tandem bike was in full readiness for the ride, Alan stepped into the rear ‘stokers’ seat and then Peter was into the important ‘pilot’ role at the front. They then set off from Lake Weeroona, with a plan to cycle from Bendigo to Axedale via the O’Keefe Rail Trail and return, a total distance of 44kms.

Alan with the tandem bike, at the trail’s ‘Axedale Railway Station’. Photo: Peter

During the ride at various times, Peter would verbally provide key ride information, while both pedaled and shared in the beauty of being out immersed in the trail’s natural environment whilst in safety away from the highway road traffic. Even though the trail continued on to Heathcote, of course such a ride would not have been complete without a rest stop at their planned half way turn around point, at the Axedale Tavern for coffee and cake.

Alan and Peter enjoy a coffee break at the Coffee House, Axedale Tavern. Photo: Peter

Later, with the ride over and the pair back in Bendigo, they noted that their total moving ride time had been 2hrs 15mins at an average speed of 19.6kph! Upon reflection, Peter described the day as “A fantastic ride, the trail was very well sign posted in both directions, the people we met made us welcome, and the track surface is very good plus wide enough for safe passing.”

“Peter is a skilled rider, and his friendship is much appreciated” stated Alan, with a smile. “The Tavern’s service was excellent, the coffee enjoyed, and the staff were very friendly,” plus Alan also adding, “this ride had me truly feeling alive and I hope that we can do it again soon.”

Trail Towns TV visits Rail Trail

The producers of a new TV series Trail Towns (coming to SBS later in 2020) visited Bendigo to experience what the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail had to offer.

Trail Towns rolls into town!

After visiting some of Bendigo’s querky cafes and laneways, Paul and Deetz were impressed by riding through the rail trail’s historic brick ‘tunnel’ railway underpass. Heading eastwards, after 20kms the riders then took some time off the bikes at Axedale, to check out the amazing charm of the Axedale Tavern.

Following some rehydration for the next 30kms ahead, the riders were then immersed in the natural environment of Campaspe River reserve, before riding onwards towards the trail’s crossing of Lake Eppalock.

Trail destination Heathcote

Cycling through forests and cruising past wineries, the exploring group diverted into Heathcote’s Palling Bros Brewery to end what said to have been a fantastic trail experience. “We’ll definately be back!” said Deetz.

Paul and Deetz at Palling Bros Brewery

https://www.facebook.com/trailtownstv/videos/304878334042064/?d=null&vh=e

Heathcote, the Hub of Trails

Thinking about visiting Heathcote, Victoria for a day or weekend, yet wondering if there are enough opportunities locally to cycle or walk? Well if you are looking for some serious challenges, then choose the access road to Mount Ida to cycle up, take in the views, and then do the down hill ride! Or put the boots on to do a spot of bush walking in the same area, capped off with panoramic views.

Apart from the many forest tracks in the One Eye Forest or Heathcote-Graytown National Park, perhaps you are looking for something a little more relaxing, closer to a brewery, a winery cellar door, a cafe or a bakery? Then there are five (5) local close-to-town trails, which are provided with helpful way-finding signage.

Heathcote’s Trail Map, at the O’Keefe Rail Trail head, Herriot St. Photo: G.Long

Can’t decide whether to do the Liquid Amber Trail, the McIvor Creek Trail, the Pink Cliffs Trail, the Viewing Rock Trail, or the O’Keefe Rail Trail (doing a local section, or further to Lake Eppalock/Axedale/Bendigo)? Then do them all within one visit, or the return trip to Heathcote! Details and directions related to these trails can be viewed on street located maps (e.g. at the rail trail head in Herriot St, or in High St), otherwise chat to the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centres in Heathcote and Bendigo.

World Bicycle Day

We may not be able to ride together as ‘normal’* during these uncertain times, but we can still

stay connected through our love of bike riding.

Jump on your bike Wednesday 3rd June for #WorldBicycleDay and send through a snap of your ride to show that we are a nation of bike riders. #JustRide #BicycleNetwork – https://bit.ly/2WLTnpB

*Note: As of 1 June, riding in groups up to 20 riders is allowed in Victoria (refer Dept of Health https://bit.ly/2M54rbr For other States, please refer to that State’s Health Dept COVID19 advice)