Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: History

Reflecting upon the Past and the Present

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.

 

New Railway Attraction on the O’Keefe Rail Trail

The impact that the Victorian Railways had on the economies of many small communities, as well as the larger cities during the 20th century, can easily be overlooked. Not only did the railways provide important transportation of freight and people, the government owned ‘VR’ railways also provided large employment across the State.

The three main Victorian Railway workshops were located at Newport Melbourne, North Ballarat and North Bendigo, which employed large numbers of people e.g. the VR Bendigo workshops employed a total of 720 in 1966.

One of the vehicles of rolling stock manufactured and used by the VR was the all-steel 22-ton capacity 4-wheel open wagon, of which a total of 6320 were constructed between 1939 and 1958 in Victoria, NSW, and UK. With only a very small number of these GY and HY type wagons now remaining, one such wagon HY16625 (GY16625R) has recently been restored.

HY16102 circa 1950. Official VR photo (refer www.victorianrailway.net)

As the only public static heritage railway display now in the Bendigo area, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group funded the ‘display’ restoration of HY16625 wagon by BRW Bendigo. On completion of the restoration, the wagon was recently relocated back onto the O’Keefe Rail Trail, at the recreated ‘Axedale Railway Station’ Axedale. This is now the only publicly accessible railway static display in the Greater Bendigo area.

The HY16625 Wagon Committee- Ken Hanson, Lindsay Clay, Rob Jarvis. 4/03/2020. Photo: Garry Long

A history of the Victorian Railway’s HY-GY wagon, and specifically the wagon HY16625, can be read on the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail web’s Railway History tab.

Railway Wagon Returns to Rail Trail

A proud day for the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members, to finally have the only locally manufactured item of heritage railway rolling stock now on public display in the Bendigo area. This wagon was transported under the watchful eye of the Friends’ project committee members to Axedale by heavy road transport, due the wagon’s size and 9 ton weight, and then placed as a static display on the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Axedale.

While previously locally stored steam engine locos and rolling stock, manufactured and/or serviced by former local Victorian Railways employees having been scrapped or ‘given away’ by council, this wagon is now the only specific reminder of the economic importance that this industry had on the Bendigo region. The involvement of BRW (Bendigo Railway Workshops) company staff with the restoration, funded by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group, has also been greatly appreciated.

With years of rough working treatment, followed by decades of rust and neglect after being removed from Victorian Railway’s rolling stock, much work was required to bring this wagon back to its original look, markings and its “wagon red’ paint finish.

Railway 4-wheel wagon HY16625 placed at the replica Axedale Railway Station platform. Photo: Colin Scott Mar 2020

Railway Wagon Restoration Progresses

The restoration of the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s heritage railway wagon has progressed, under the watchful eye of Bendigo Railway Workshops’ (BRW) Alan Nicolson and Mark Birchmore. Sandblasting of the known areas of metal rust corrosion has revealed that overall the wagon is structurally sound, although with some plate sections being affected by severe rust.

The extent of metal corrosion was not unexpected, due partly to the likes of bulk material such as superphosphate or open to rainwater laying inside these wagons for extended periods while stationary in railway sidings. Then for this wagon, what followed was decades of being stored in Gippsland, unused, until the wagon was allocated by PTV and retrieved from the Kurumburra Station yards.

To date the work has involved sandblasting the severely rusted sections, replacement steel plates welding into the internal floor, as well as the tarp stanchions being straightened under heat.

Inspecting work progress being undertaken by BRW. 18 Dec 2019. Photo: Rob Jarvis

The aim of the project is to restore the wagon to as near as possible to its original design specifications, with components such as the existing wheels being changed out for spoke cast wheels, repainting from the later Hansa Yellow to the original VR Wagon Red colour, and then finally applying the white identifiable VR markings.

Interested in Railway History?

Rail trails evoke the interest of many people, some for their health and wellbeing/fitness, some exploring and experiencing the local natural environment or food/wine, while others seek out elements relating to the former railway. To assist with exploring such railway history, this Friends’ web pages have a separate page telling some of the history relating to the former Victorian Railway’s cross country ‘Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst‘ railway that one section closed in 1958 and the last in 1968.

Railway construction, believed to be at Axedale Racecourse Platform. Photo: ‘Axedale Railway Line 01_BHS1265’

That page ‘Railway history‘ has recently been updated, with some additional new photos and text. Of course some may say history is just a combination of stories and lies that people have agreed upon! While this compiled page may possibly have some elements of this, corrections with related supporting information are always welcomed.

The recently installed eleven new interpretive information signs, placed at various points of interest along the O’Keefe Rail Trail are impressive, which are definitely a must see!

Do you know of any related ‘stories’, perhaps the whereabouts of an historical photo of the Axedale Railway Station, or the name of the chap with the bowler hat in the photo above? If so, we would love to know about such or receive a copy of any related railway photos.

History Revealed on Rail Trail

A glimpse back into how railway transport helped develop communities and businesses, aided rural farmers plus gold exploration, can now be seen via new interpretive signs along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Working closely with the City of Greater Bendigo, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group have sought to bring elements of history back for the benefits of the rail trail users.

As a result of much research, the outcome has seen 11 interpretive information signs being placed at specific locations along the O’Keefe trail. Such reveals the current trail’s connection to the past, for the Heathcote to Bendigo (Sandhurst) section of the former ‘Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway’. The history highlighted covers the period from 1887, for the railway’s construction, to more recent times of rail trail development. Trail users can imagine going back in history, living in a different period, without even leaving the trail!

Greg and Glenda Ralton, Brett Martini, and Paul Ferguson at the signage launch. Photo: Andrew Perryman

At the official launch of the new information signs, the City of Greater Bendigo council’s City Engineering Manager Brett Martini said “The O’Keefe Rail Trail is a wonderful asset for the Greater Bendigo that provides unique opportunities for residents and visitors to walk and cycle the total 49kms between Bendigo and Heathcote.”

Trail Ride and Heritage Train

While dressed for a cool Victorian winter’s day, clear blue skies saw members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail (FBKRT) heading out to ride the Castlemaine to Maldon Trail. This 18km trail was opened in 2017, and shares the railway easement with the historic goldfields branch line still used by the Victorian Goldfields Railway (VGR).

The ride arrives at Muckleford Station, as did a VGR train. Photo: Paul Ferguson

While there is an annual event ‘Race The Train’ held, such was not the plan by FBKRT members enjoying the natural environment and observed historic timber railway bridges while riding at a slower pace. After arriving at the Muckleford station, the trail’s mid-point, the group were delighted to observe a family of Spotted Pardalotes near the station seemingly not concerned by a passing tourist steam train.

VGR train to depart Muckleford station for Castlemaine. Photo: Christine Scott

The planned destination of the historic Maldon was reached by the ride group for a well-earned coffee, with lunch had at the historic Kangaroo Hotel while observing the vistas of Victoria’s first notable town. It was then a short ride to the Maldon station to load the bikes onto the VGR steam loco hauled train, for the return trip to Castlemaine. It was agreed the trail was achievable for most riders on MTB or similar gravel bikes, the day really enjoyed and definitely a ride to be repeated.

U3A Connects with Rail Trail

The O’Keefe Rail Trail attracts all age groups, so it is no surprise that the U3A Bendigo Bushwalking group utilise this popular trail for planned walks. For the unaware, the acronym U3A stands for the University for the Third Age, and it is all about shared learning in mature years.

On 13 December, 15 members of the group gathered at the Axedale Park, although stormy weather was threatening their planned walk on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Not to be deterred, the members set off to enjoy the natural environment that the trail provides. It wasn’t long before the umbrellas were out, as the walkers neared the former Axedale railway station area on the trail.

Bendigo U3A Walking Group. O'Keefe Rail Trail Axedale. 15 Dec 2018

Bendigo U3A Walking Group. O’Keefe Rail Trail, Axedale. 15 Dec 2018. Photo: Joy Clusker

Here an inspection of the historic railway wagon recalled some past memories, such as standing on similar station platforms waiting for a steam train or observing shunting of such wagons.

U3A member Graeme Balaam inspects the railway wagon. 15 Dec 2018

U3A member Graeme Balaam inspects the railway wagon. 15 Dec 2018. Photo Joy Clusker

With thunder and lightning occurring in the distance, this prompted an unplanned turnaround back to Axedale. Nearing the Park, and having walked for about one hour, it was most likely the thought of a coffee at the Axedale Tavern that quickened the return walking pace!

Even though it had rained, all the members enjoyed the scenery and how well the trail was maintained. The group also came across a couple of cyclists while on the trail, who cheerfully shared the path with the walkers. More information about the U3A Bendigo Inc can be found on their web page.

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.

New attraction for the O’Keefe Rail Trail

The former Wallan to Bendigo railway had trains carrying passengers and goods for most of the 70 years for the Bendigo – Heathcote section, between 1888 and 1958. The O’Keefe Rail Trail has been located on sections of this former railway reserve since 1992.

An initiative of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group was to create another link between the rail trail and that former railway, with an historic static display of a 20th century railway wagon. The location for this display was to be the former Axedale Railway Station site, where a replica platform had recently been constructed by the group. Not only is this an historic link with a past means of transport, it is also expected to be an educational opportunity for school children and younger adults.

This project has just recently taken another step forward from the planning stage, with the delivery of a former Victorian Railways ‘GY’ 4-wheel wagon. Also as an added historic link to the Bendigo area, this particular wagon was one of a number manufactured at the VR North Bendigo Railway Workshops between 1955 and 1957.

A 'GY' Railway Wagon returns to Axedale. Photo: G.Long

A ‘GY’ Railway Wagon returns to Axedale. Photo: G.Long

The transportation of the wagon to Axedale was made possible by a community grant provided by the Fosterville Gold Mine and Kirkland Lake Gold. This grant has been very much appreciated by the group, as was the assistance provided by local transport company A2B Move It. The project’s next stage will see the refurbishment of the wagon for public display.