Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: Regional tourism

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.

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.

Trail Improvements for User Safety

While out exercising on the O’Keefe Rail Trail during COVID19 restrictions as a local resident, have you experienced the upgraded section of the trail close to Axedale? This aging 27 year old degraded trail section, with several potential hazards for users, has been a concern of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group for some time. With recent trail works undertaken by the City of Greater Bendigo council and its contractor M. Monigatti (Bendigo), focused on this Axedale section, the outcome has resulted in a significantly safer trail.

Upgraded trail section, Taig Rd Axedale. Mar 2020. Photo G. Long

As well as upgrading the trail’s formation plus the drainage and the trail surface, these works have also provided a greater trail separation from one specific concrete electricity pole, improved the trail approaches to the Hickey Rd crossing, and realignment of the trail’s crossing of a water channel.

Trail improvements – water channel crossing. Axedale Mar 2020. Photo G.Long

The improved outcomes are welcomed and are expected to be enjoyed by regular O’Keefe Rail Trail users and visitors, as well as being appreciated by the Axedale Primary School with it’s bike education program for students.

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

Give Now to Support

Imagine an off-road trail running all the way from Melbourne to Bendigo, through towns like Wallan, Heathcote Junction, Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac, Heathcote, Axedale and including the now O’Keefe Rail Trail. How can you help to have this development occur?

One way is to make a ‘Give Now’ donation right now, to assist community efforts in lobbying Local, State and Federal governments, as your donation will help to put this trail ‘on their front page for funding’. Your donation will assist highlighting what the development of this linking trail will do, to build healthier communities and stronger local economies.

Regional Victoria rail trail cycle tourism

Regional Victoria seeks more rail trail cycle and walking tourism

Go to Give NowBe a Trail Blazer appeal” (http://bit.ly/38xoI2u) to donate once or on a regular basis, as you or your family/friends could personally benefit from this trail’s development.

Tell Us What Excited You!

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

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?

So let us know, fill in what’s important to you about this trail using the on-line user feedback page (http://bit.ly/37rthv6). We’d just love to know what excited you the most or otherwise!

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.

Missing??

Have you been out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail recently and wondering where it has gone? What is missing? The historic railway wagon, previously relocated from the Korumburra station and placed at the former Axedale Railway Station site on the O’Keefe Rail Trail in 2018, has been removed.

The company BRW (Bendigo Railway Workshops), which is located at the former Victorian Railways North Bendigo Railway Workshops, is enthusiastic to be working with the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group to restore this ‘GY’ 4-wheel wagon. The wagon was transported by A2B Move It P/L to BRW this week. The planned work is intended to, as near as possible, return the wagon to its original condition when wagons were manufactured in the former VR railway workshops during the late 1950s.

The ‘GY’ 4-wheel wagon being delivered to BRW Bendigo. Photo: Rob Jarvis

This wagon’s original ‘spoke’ wheels had previously been replaced by the later ‘full disc’ type. With a set of the ‘spoke’ wheels located, and kindly made available by the Central Victorian Goldfields Railway, these wheels were then transported to BRW and will be installed on this wagon.

A set of ‘spoke’ type railway wheels are delivered to BRW. Photo: Ken Hanson

Stay tuned for news updates on the restoration of this wagon, which will be returned to Axedale as the only item of historic railway rolling stock on public display in the Greater Bendigo area.

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.

O’Keefe Trail Rated a Winner

Bendigo resident Keith Davenport definitely loves challenging himself, whether it is event running, road cycling in central Victoria, cycling in the French Alps, or jogging along beaches in his previous home country of New Zealand. His cycling interests also have broadened to include off-road gravel bikes that can be ridden along country roads, bush trails and rail trails.

Ride starts at the O’Keefe trail and Bendigo Creek Trail. Photo: K.Davenport 14 Aug 2019

A recent ride beginning and ending in Bendigo saw Keith include the O’Keefe Rail Trail to Heathcote for his first time, and after taking ‘time out’ at a Heathcote bakery, it was then off riding along quite country roads via Redesdale. The day’s total distance was to covered over 100kms. Asked what he thought of the rail trail section, Keith responded “It was actually much better than I thought, should have done it long ago”.

Site of the former Heathcote Railway Station is reached. Photo: K.Davenport 14 Aug 2019

“I really enjoyed riding this trail, it is well maintained and signposted. There is enough variety in terms of terrain and features that it doesn’t become boring in the way that some rail trails can. I really hope that it gets extended right through to Wallan” said Keith, “ as it would be great to be able to ride most of the way from Bendigo to Melbourne on these kind of safe, easy to ride trails.” No doubt Keith will return again, probably with family and friends, to enjoy what the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Axedale and Heathcote have to offer.