What did you do on Friday 13th, perhaps nothing if you are superstitious! Yet six members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, plus one member from the Junortoun Community Action Group, were out on the O’Keefe Rail Trail on 13 Nov, installing place name signs.
With four public bushland reserves directly connected to the O’Keefe Rail Trail in the Junortoun and Axedale areas, most trail users would not know that such reserves existed. Those areas might have looked like a ‘bush block’, yet were they private property or public reserves?
The Friends group approached the City of Greater Bendigo, highlighting the situation and seeking to have the council’s standard place name signs placed facing the rail trail at those public nature reserves. After consideration and investigation, the request was agreed to and the signs provided for installation. The signs were placed at the trail’s ‘Strathfieldsaye Station’ area, for the Junortoun Nature Reserve, at the Knul-doorong Woodland reserve (near Binks Rd and Somerset Park Rd), the Bennetts Rd Flora Reserve, and the trail’s ‘Axedale Station’ area of the Axedale Nature Conservation Reserve. With trail users now being well informed, its expected that these nature reserves are more likely to be explored and enjoyed.
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.
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.
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.
Planning to cycle or walk along the O’Keefe Rail Trail during Monday 1 June and Tuesday 2 June, whether for commuting or out for some exercise with friends? If your plans include one particular section of the trail in the East Bendigo area……then that section may be…….
A section of trail between Bobs St and Murphy St (adjacent to the Bendigo Railway Workshops [BRW/SSR] and the nearby former East Bendigo school) will be impacted by drainage works being carried in that area. These works will be dependent upon weather conditions.
Trail users are asked to observe closure signs, and to choose alternate routes such as via Murphy St-Powell St-Bobs St while these works are being conducted by City of Greater Bendigo’s contractor. With significant increases in trail user traffic currently highlighting the popularity of this rail trail, patience and understanding will be appreciated.
Stay well, stay safe while enjoying what this popular rail trail has to offer.
Being able to take time out, while out exercising and exploring the O’Keefe Rail Trail, to reflect upon elements of history and also more recent rail trail activity is one of the options currently available to trail users.
O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “The Timber Line”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long
With eleven (11) interpretive signs placed at various locations along the rail trail, these signs show reflective historical photos that allow the stories about the former railway’s connections to ‘come to life’. Past activities like wood cutting, loading hay or testing of locally manufactured guns of war, plus more recent links with the rail trail’s development, can take a reader back into a different place in time!
O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “Marking the Distance”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long
These signs were an initiative of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group, assisted by funding provided by the City of Greater Bendigo. The collaborative project team of Friends members and Council staff appreciated the support and material provided by various public members and historical sources, to achieve this overall quality outcome.
O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “Serving the Military”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long
Some of the researched and selected historic photos plus related information now on display, would not have been readily available previously for viewing by the general public.
For local users of the O’Keefe Rail Trail during the week 20 – 24 April, whether commuting or out for some exercise, there will be a section of the trail closed in the East Bendigo area.
That section of trail between Bobs St and Murphy St (adjacent to the railway workshops and the nearby former East Bendigo school), will be impacted by works being carried in that area.
Trail users are asked to observe closure signs, and to choose alternate routes such as Murphy St-Powell St-Bobs St while these works are being conducted by City of Greater Bendigo’s contractor. With significant increasing trail user traffic being currently observed on this rail trail, patience by all will be appreciated.
Stay well, stay safe, enjoy this popular rail trail.
For local residents using the O’Keefe Rail Trail for exercise during the COVID19 restrictions, you do need to plan ahead. This is in regards to accessing drinking water whilst out on the trail. With the available water stations located at Lake Weeroona Bendigo, Bennetts Rd Longlea, Axedale Park Axedale and Heathcote now having warning signs placed on them by council, these signs indicate not to use these stations for drinking water during the current restrictions.
O’Keefe Rail Trail water station notice. 2 Apr 2020 Photo: Les Lewis
Therefore O’Keefe Rail Trail users are encouraged to take sufficient water with you, for the whole duration while out exercising along this trail.
Bicycle Network has the following advice for bike riding. This advice was last updated on Wednesday 1 April 2020 and assumes that you are not sick or self-isolating. Guidelines can also vary from state to state.
You can go for a ride by yourself, with one other person, or with people that you live with. You should adhere to physical distancing guidelines and stay 1.5 metres apart if riding with someone you don’t live with.
Do not go on any group, organised training or bunch rides.
In some states it is now an offence to ride in groups and you can be fined by police, as per prohibited gatherings rules or stay at home guidelines.
Riding a bike to the supermarket, chemist or work is ok and a good thing to do. We should be limiting our trips away from home, so consider going for a longer ride and finishing at the shops or work so you get the 30 minutes of exercise adults need each day (for children and young people it’s 60 minutes of activity).
If you’re working from home and going for a ride to get your daily exercise you should avoid stopping and be mindful of where you place your helmet, glasses, gloves etc. Keep them with your bike or on your person rather than placing them down somewhere.
When you return from a ride, wash your hands thoroughly and wipe down your bike, helmet and any gear.
Keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from any other person you see while out on your bike.
If you’re self-isolating and feeling well, set up a stationary bike with an indoor trainer if you’ve got one.
Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) is conducting a study for the McIvor Highway in the Longlea and Junortoun area. What part will the O’Keefe Rail Trail and its user traffic play in this study’s outcomes?
During this month of March, RRV will be counting the number of pedestrians and cyclists within the Junortoun area through which this highway passes. The active transport study will assess the typical journeys of pedestrians and cyclists, to help understand how people travel and where they might be going. Such is expected to help RRV better understand where people choose to go in the future, especially if there were to be improved paths, crossings, underpasses, and on-road lanes to provide safer access.
As an O’Keefe Rail Trail user you shouldn’t be worried, as RRV is using a number of ways to record travel information therefore such will not identify individual people.
The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail have indicated to RRV and the City of Greater Bendigo, the future need for a trail underpass at the crossing point of this highway. It is assumed that such a study will highlight the current commuter and recreational user traffic on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, especially at that point where trail users need to cross this highway with its increasingly busy traffic.
Have you been out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail this Aussie Day long weekend, or recently, and would like to tell the world how good it was? Well if not the world, at least tell those who care and want to make this trail even better than many other rail trails in Victoria!
One Eye Forest, Derrinal-Heathcote section, O’Keefe Rail Trail
Perhaps there were little things that need a tweak, an improvement, so that your family and friends will enjoy this trail and its towns even more when they get the chance?