Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Axedale tunnel nears completion

Man standing on concrete ramp leading to tunnel under a road

Ramp it up: it will soon be a smooth ride from one side of McIvor Highway to the other

On our way back from the Wallan Market yesterday, we stopped to check progress on the Axedale tunnel. It now features a lovely concrete ramp on both sides. Can’t wait to roll down there on a bike.

New section of trail heads to Knowsley

Trail winding down a hill towards a pedestrian bridge.

Looking back: the view from the new section of trail to the Campaspe bridge and Axedale

While the Axedale cycle tunnel nears completion, work has just been completed on the first section of trail to the east of the Campaspe River bridge.

The new trail section connects the bridge to Ingham Road (old McIvor Highway). From there the trail will follow Ingham Road up to Browne Lane. Council’s contractor completed the new section in the last week of January. The council has done some patch resealing work on the damaged asphalt sections of the trail on Inghams Rd, so trail users can now use the new trail section from the bridge to the eastern end of Inghams Rd.

Zoom in on this map and you’ll see Ingham Road and the route of the new section.

The trail contractor is expected to begin the next section of trail construction towards Browne Lane this month.

Old building with the roof fallen in.

Ruins: the old Deans Hotel on Ingham Road. Once a nice spot for a cool one on your way to or from Heathcote.

Light at the end of the Axedale tunnel

After a long weekend of work, there is now a tunnel under the McIvor Highway. When it’s open to pedestrians and cyclists (very soon) you’ll be able to take the trail down along the river reserve and under the highway to the new bridge over the river.

Sunday morning saw the pre-formed concrete tunnel put in place in the hole dug out the day before.

Concrete tunnel with workers and machinery in background

The pre-formed concrete sections laid in the gap dug through the McIvor Highway. Photo: Garry Long

Top of tunnel sections with workers

Bedding in the tunnel sections. Photo: Garry Long

By Sunday afternoon, the road base was back in place.

Concrete tunnel with water tanker

Road base has been laid over the tunnel. Photo: Helen Cronin

And on the other side of the road it looks just as beautiful! Photo: Helen Cronin

And on the other side of the road it looks just as beautiful! Photo: Helen Cronin

Re-sealing works are taking place over the next couple of weeks.

Works in the pipeline for 2014

Getting to Knowsley Forest

From February you’ll be able to get under the McIvor Highway and over the Campaspe River. That’s when plans start for the next section of trail that will take you the eastern boundary of the Knowsley Forest. Stay tuned for announcements.

Lake Eppalock-Mt Ida Creek crossing

This will be the iconic part of this trail running down the old railway alignment right at the lake’s edge. Building of this section of trail must wait for the water level of the lake to lower (as it does naturally in summer).  Once it’s low enough large machinery can enter the area and the planned trail alignment. Best estimates (unless it’s going to be particularly wet summer!) is that work will start in March or April 2014.

The route will follow the original railway alignment across the lake, but Lake Eppalock didn’t exist when the railway was built. The height of the new trail will need to be raised with about 90,000 m3 of earth fill to keep it above the high water level. When it’s complete there’ll be a causeway across the lake with a 90 m long bridge over the Mt Ida Creek in the middle.

The Avenue: the causeway across Lake Eppalock will be an iconic section of the new trail.

One Eye Forest

Concerns raised by some Heathcote residents mid-year have resulted in a full review of the planned trail project section in the One Eye Forest, from Mia Mia-Derrinal Road to Speed Street in Heathcote. A meeting of key stakeholders will be held on Tuesday 11 February who will be briefed on the council report. A final report is then expected to go to a council meeting (possibly in March) for a resolution.

Upgrading maintenance on the existing trail

Council is currently prioritising the list of maintenance requirements on the existing Bendigo-Axedlae section of the trail. Those deemed highest priority will see some work done in the first quarter of 2014.

Trail goes under the highway at Axedale

The gap between Axedale river reserve (where the rail trail currently ends) and the pedestrian bridge over the Campaspe on the other side of the highway is currently closed while a tunnel is constructed under the road.

Preparation work started on 6 January 2014 and over the weekend Saturday 11 January and Sunday 12 January the highway is closed. This will allow the pre-formed concrete underpass to be put in place. The remainder of the work – resealing the road, concreting ramps and so on will be done during the following week.

Machinery digging through the bank of the highway

The digging starts: the process digs right through the highway. (Photo: Ken Hanson)

Large square sections of pre-formed concrete tunnel

The tunnel: pre-formed concrete awaits installation. This forms the tunnel under the road. (Photo: Ken Hanson)

Digging machinery breaks a hole right through the highway

Breakthrough: the space for the underpass is dug out. Next step will be installation of the concrete tunnel. (Photo: Ken Hanson)

Advisory signs in the area give alternative routes for various vehicles. See also the City of Greater Bendigo’s public notice about the closure.

Hardworking committee re-elected

Members of the Friends have re-elected their hardworking committee at yesterday’s AGM. These people will be steering us through the next year:

  • President: Garry Long
  • Vice-president: Les Lewis
  • General secretary: Colin Campbell
  • Treasurer: Colin Campbell
  • Minutes secretary: Jill Russell

The Friends also have a five sub-committees or action teams:

  • Activities
    All work and no play makes everyone dull – this team plans fun social outings and activities
  • Projects
    Hands-on, on the ground, getting things done team – they do things like recreate platforms and old railway infrastructure, source reproduction station signs and outdoor furniture for recreation reserves.
  • Communications
    Getting the word out team – website, social media, posters, flyers, submissions, reports.
  • History research
    Finding the stories behind the old railway – this team talks to people who remember it, digs out old photos, newspaper reports and documents.
  • Strategic planning
    The where-to-from-here team – who do we need to talk to, lobby, engage with?

All the teams are open to new members, so if you’d like to give a couple of hours a week in an area that interests you or in which you have skills and experience, we’ll be reviewing the teams at our next meeting on 15 January 2014.

Wandong to Heathcote trail makes tracks

Mitchell Bicycle Users Group and the Friends have been jointly working to raise the profile of a Wandong to Heathcote rail trail. And the BEAM MItchell Environmental Group, Wandong and Heathcote Junction Community Group, and the Pyalong Restoration Group have thrown their support behind the idea as well. We’ve made presentations to Rob Mitchell MP for McEwen and Jeff Saker (Director Engineering and Infrastructure at Michell Shire), as well as candidates before the last federal election.

Mentions of the trail are now found in Mitchell Shire Council documents:

It’s also shown up in the Hume Region Significant Tracks and Trails Strategy 2013-203 – draft, and the North Central News item “Trails missing link” in October last year.

Axedale Tavern opens a cafe

The Axedale Tavern has opened a new cafe. Now you can ride to Axedale, recharge your batteries with a great coffee and slice of something delicious before heading back. Or you could start from Axedale with a great coffee on board and have another when you return! Check it out when you’re next in Axedale.

740 people support car-free trail

Best practice for rail trails is to close them to motorised traffic – they’re designed for walkers and runners, cyclists and horse riders. But a recent 135-signature petition called for the council to keep the trail through the One Eye Forest open to cars and towed equipment. The move threatened the development of the trail as a safe, traffic-free facility – and possibly its popularity in the future.

In response, the Friends have collected 740 signatures from people who want to see it developed as a traffic-free trail. The petition was tabled at the council’s 2 October meeting. Thanks for all those who didn’t take it for granted that the trail will be designed and built according to current best practice. Now we await the outcome.



New bridge coming over the Campaspe

In late February the tender to construct a new trail pedestrian/bike/horse bridge over the Campaspe River at Axedale was awarded. The bridge-only construction work is expected to be completed in about five weeks, assuming various permits and approvals are provided on time.

The ‘T’ beam concrete bridge will be constructed with railings that will ‘fold’ down in event of a major flood. A design common for water crossings that are at risk of inundation, it reduces the bridge’s resistance to possible flood waters. When all’s clear following a flood, the hand rails are reinstated with new sheer pins.

Once upon a time the railway line ran between the through what is now the Axedale golf course, over the Campaspe River and across the river flats on the other side. (You can still see many of the original timber piles of the former 2000 ft long timber bridge marching away over the paddock on private farm land.)
The trail can’t follow the original route of the railway line on the east side of the Campaspe River as there’s now the operating Axedale Quarry in the way. Instead, the current section of the rail trail takes you into the heart of Axedale (past new public toilets under construction for a little relief). Stop at the Axedale General Store for supplies or the Axedale Tavern for lunch, before heading along the sealed section of the new trail down to the river reserve.

Each new bridge on this trail is more exciting than the last, so we’ll definitely be shouting the news when this one, which will be the trail’s largest, is open.

Remnants of bridge pylons in a creek

Relics: the old railway bridge over the Campaspe is long gone. The new rail trail bridge will cross further downstream.