Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: City of Greater Bendigo Council

Trees, Trails and Volunteers

The old saying that “many hands make light work” is often true when it comes to volunteering, and this was the case for the 2019 National Tree Day (NTD). Planning by the City of Greater Bendigo council’s Parks and Open Spaces staff identified the O’Keefe Rail Trail in East Bendigo as one of three Bendigo sites for this annual tree planting activity. Together with council support, the Longlea Landcare Group chose the Axedale River Reserve as a NTD site, which is also closely connected with the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Volunteers at National Tree Day 2019, Axedale River Reserve. Photo: Longlea Landcare

As with previous local NTD activities involving this rail trail reserve, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members were again keen to be involved along with other community members. With 70 volunteers at Axedale successfully planting 700 trees, and 80 volunteers at the O’Keefe Rail Trail site East Bendigo planting 3000 plants, it was a great community effort.

Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members Rob and Nola Jarvis. Photo: Paul Harrison. 28 July 2019

As world leaders currently attempt to address the issue of large scale burning of Brazil’s Amazon Forest, such concerns are based upon the science that trees and plants provide many environmental benefits like improving air quality. Trees also help to control the heat in cities and urban areas, as well as countless health benefits for individuals such as reducing stress and promoting physical activity.

At a local level, the O’Keefe Rail Trail reserve’s environment will again benefit from the outcomes of the 2019 National Tree Day in the future, not only for trail users yet also helping to improve habitats for native animals and birds.

Signs for Clear Trail Directions

Not being familiar with any trail can sometimes have some users becoming confused or at worst believe that they are lost! A review of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members, found certain sections may introduce ‘choices’ or uncertainty for those first time users.

The review’s outcome was then highlighted to the trail’s manager, the City of Greater Bendigo council, who’s staff agreed to assist improve the trail’s wayfinding signage. Members of the Friends group then worked with council staff to create a new wayfinding sign design, specific to the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

New wayfinding signs on O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Rob Jarvis

With the required new signs manufactured and installed at identified locations near Axedale and Heathcote towns, it is expected that visitors and locals will continue to rate this as one of the best rail trails in Victoria …..if not Australia!

Enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail

Looking for a place to enjoy a picnic or a quick snack while cycling on the O’Keefe Rail Trail? Need to top up your water bottle, whilst out walking along the trail in the peaceful surroundings of its natural environment?

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail continue to work with the City of Greater Bendigo, to provide important trail user facilities along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Council’s contractors have recently upgraded access to the trail’s Axe Creek bridge picnic area, providing a new gravel surface whilst also improving the storm-water drainage.

Access upgrade for the rail trail’s Axe Creek picnic area, June 2019. Photo Ken Hanson

The trail’s new water station near Bennetts Rd Junortoun has also seen its access area upgraded with a new gravel surface, which has improved the adjoining picnic table and seats’ immediate area. Not only great facilities for the general public, this section of trail is often used by the likes of SCOPE Loddon Mallee for its Bendigo client’s outings.

New potable water station and picnic area, Bennetts Rd Junortoun, June 2019. Photo: Ken Hanson

A second water station has recently been installed next to the trail’s Bike Repair Station at Axedale Park, providing facilities for both trail users as well as those enjoying the Park.

Councillor reflects on “Rail Trail Tourism”

Greater City of Bendigo Councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth’s published blog on 20th October 2018 has made reference to attending the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail AGM and the benefits to be gained from rail trail tourism.

Link to blog –

A year in review and still more to come!

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Cr Wrigglesworth also made reference to the Victorian National Party Deputy Leader Steph Ryan’s announcement to fund the Murchison to Rushworth (Heathcote) Rail Trail, if elected to government in November 2018.

Perhaps there will be a similar announcement made for the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, by candidates running for the same Victorian State Government elections!

History Photos Sought

Seeking links to history is what a current community assisted project for the O’Keefe Rail Trail is needing. An interpretive information sign project, funded by the City of Greater Bendigo council and assisted by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, is currently being developed. This project will see a number of information signs placed along the rail trail in the very near future, displaying old photos, information and facts for trail users.

The theme of the project is the former railway, showing how this influenced both community and business/farm development, employment, and how such may have impacted upon the environment.

Derrinal Railway Station (including Post Office). Approx date 1900

Derrinal Railway Station (including Post Office). Approx date: 1900

This project needs your help, and is seeking any historic photos relating to this former ‘Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway’ (the Heathcote-Bendigo section 1888-1958), local communities and business life, as well as information connecting individuals and events to this former railway. So check out that old shoe box of grandma’s photos or Uncle’s old photo album, just one photo could tell a real story to many! Copies of photos (or information) can be emailed to bendigokilmorerailtrail@gmail.com or sent to Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail at PO Box 578 Bendigo, Vic, 3552.

National Tree Day at Axedale

From grandparents to grandchildren, community volunteer participation was the highlight for the 2018 National Tree Day event held at Axedale on Sunday 29 July. This site event was coordinated by Longlea and District Landcare, with support from the City of Greater Bendigo.

Approximately 70 volunteers planted out about 1600 native trees and grasses at the selected Campaspe River Reserve area. National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day combine to make Australia’s largest community tree planting event. aiming to inspire, educate and recruit Australians to actively care for this unique land.

Rail Trail volunteers Zeke, Maika and Mal Ward, Nancy Jarvis, Ken Hanson, and Rob Jarvis

Rail Trail volunteers Zeke, Maika and Mal Ward, Nola Jarvis, Ken Hanson, and Rob Jarvis

With the O’Keefe Rail Trail passing close by the event site, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members assisted other community groups, local school children and individuals for the planting activity. Of course the socially engaging event finished off with a tasty BBQ lunch to be remembered. This new planted area is expected to enhance this river environment, to be enjoyed by rail trail users, fishermen and local walkers in the future years. This may also have a positive impact on the local bird and platypus populations too!

Mayor says “Thank You”

The City of Greater Bendigo council thanked its volunteers with a special morning tea held at Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre on 24 May, as part of National Volunteer Week.

In 2018, the City has more than 500 volunteers who contribute around 30,000 hours per year to assist delivering important services to the community and the local region.

National Volunteer Week, City of Greater Bendigo Morning Tea 24 June 2018. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

National Volunteer Week, City of Greater Bendigo Morning Tea 24 June. Photo: City of Greater Bendigo

Some of the enthusiastic Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members joined with others to hear the Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke extend a big “Thank You” to all who were present as well as those who were unable to attend. It was also an opportunity for attendees to meet other volunteers, to hear of their positive contributions being made not only to benefit the local community yet also adding to the experience of visitors to the region.

Bendigo and Bikes Recognised

The Bendigo community’s love of cycling has helped it to snare an award not made to a city outside of the United States, until now.

The Greater Bendigo has become the first community in Australia to become a Bicycle Friendly Community, accredited by CycleLifeHQ.

Bendigo’s silver accreditation recognises Bendigo’s community engagement and bicycle education, the inclusion of bicycle facilities as part of road infrastructure projects, maintenance of off-road cycling facilities and the integration of bicycle planning with community facilities.

The Bicycle Friendly Community accreditation program has been run in the United States for more than two decades by the League of American Bicyclists, with more than 430 Bicycle Friendly Communities recognised in the USA.

Bendigo city snares an award – Channel Nine Central Victoria News

Bendigo will also host two major cycling conferences in 2018, cementing its reputation as a leading bike-friendly destination. In October, Bendigo will host the Australian Walking and Cycling Conference and the Bicycle Tourism Conference sponsored by CyclelifeHQ, both of which have never been hosted in Victoria before.

New Road Underpasses for Trail

Construction work has begun on building new road underpasses, as part of improving the Bendigo urban off-road trail network. This work will link the Spring Gully Trail to the Bendigo Creek Trail, plus eliminate the hazardous crossing for pedestrians and cyclists on McIvor Road near the historic railway bridge.

Spring Gully Trail extension 2018

Constructing three underpasses for the Spring Gully Trail on Back Crk, Bendigo. 14 Feb 2018

The works will result in one underpass constructed under the Abbott St bridge, one under a narrow pedestrian bridge, another under the McIvor Road bridge, plus also under the communications ducts that cross above Back Creek.

This off-road trail extension will also improve the connection between the Bendigo Railway Station and the O’Keefe Rail Trail, for visiting cycling and walking tourists, with only the link between the station platform and Ewing Park now needing to be formalised.

Bike Bendigo and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community groups had sort improvements at this location, and so welcome the efforts of the City of Greater Bendigo in eliminating the ‘at grade’ crossing of McIvor Rd.

Railway Gates Return to Heathcote

It’s not that long ago when motorists often faced wooden railway gates at road crossings within Melbourne’s metro train network, closed by VR staff to prevent motor vehicles proceeding when trains were scheduled.

Yet who would have guessed that most early regional Victorian Railway (VR) lines also had such gates at many relatively low traffic rural road crossings in the late 19th century. This was so for the original Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst line, built 1888-1890. At that time, each gate installation had a permanent Gate Keeper plus a railway house as well. One such Gate Keeper’s house still remains in Heathcote. Most rural railway gates were removed during the early part of the 20th century.

Seeking to reinstate elements of former railway historical infrastructure, on the now O’Keefe Rail Trail, Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members were keen to obtain a set of original railway gates. After a long search, an old set of stored gates in a poor state were finally located in Melbourne, and then subsequently approved for allocation to the group by PTV. With a City of Greater Bendigo Community Grant awarded, and assistance from Semi Trailer Sales Pty Ltd, Friends member Ken Hanson set about leading a project to rebuild these gates in Bendigo.

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

With additional assistance from Powercor, Council, Lions Club of Heathcote, and painter John Mead, the 6-metre-long gates were installed with their final coat of paint being applied at Heathcote. This siting was close to an original gates location at Herriot St, near the former Heathcote Railway Station.

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club's Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club’s Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

The gates now provide a ‘safe’ pathway for trail users into the Lions Club’s rail trail shelter area, a great place to meet people, and enjoy what the O’Keefe Rail Trail now has to offer.