Dec 27, 2019
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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.
Aug 27, 2019
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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.
Aug 22, 2019
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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!
Jul 26, 2019
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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.”
Jun 19, 2019
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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.
May 29, 2019
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What to do on cool yet sunny autumn Sunday in central Victoria? Well ten riders from the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group (MBUG) and ten riders from the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail headed out to ride all or part of a route between Heathcote and Rushworth.
The riders were able to experience the Heathcote-Graytown National Park, pass by Mt Ida, Mt Camel, and the Gobarup Nature Conservation Reserve, as well as through the Whroo Nature Conservation Reserve. As the planned morning tea location, the major attraction of the Whroo Historical Area is the significant Balaclava Mine, which is an open-cut mine in the now Australian ‘ghost town’ of Whroo. Mining in this open cut ceased in the 1920’s, yet the site remains a visual reminder of the former gold rush era.
Grass Trees in Heathcote-Graytown National Park
Due to a timing issue (was it a head wind, or distractions on route?), unfortunately the two groups did not meet as planned to share a cuppa and Anzac biscuits at the Whroo Historical Area, yet Rushworth businesses definitely benefited as the group members enjoyed lunch at either the MotoFinish Cafe or the Rushworth Bakery in Rushworth.
Rider’s lunch at Rushworth. Photo Greg Ralton
A good coffee and some home-cooked food was a great way to finish exploring this part of a proposed Heathcote to Murchison Trail, for which the Campaspe Shire Council is currently seeking funding for completing the current open section of the Waranga Rail Trail.
Mar 20, 2019
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Connecting the Melbourne trail network directly into regional central Victoria, via safe off-road trails proposal has the full support of Bicycle Network. The key missing link is the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail proposal.
Seeing first hand the enthusiastic work by community groups, like Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, Mitchell Bicycle User Group and Bike Bendigo, who are involved with this proposal had Bicycle Network’s CEO Craig Richards amazed. “What this would do for bike riding in Victoria is extraordinary” said Craig, from his recent visit to Bendigo and the O’Keefe Rail Trail. The network linking of the O’Keefe trail, the Goldfields Track, and a proposed Heathcote to Murchison Trail would open up many opportunities to explore wine regions and country hospitality for cyclists and walkers.
Bicycle Network’s newsroom article Friends of the rail trail show the way tells how passionate community groups support improving the health and wellbeing of their communities, as well as small businesses involved with the active tourism market. With the City of Greater Bendigo council and Mitchell Shire council supporting the rail trail proposal, a staged development of this linking trail will depend upon support and funding by the Victorian State government.
Melbourne based Bicycle Network’s CEO Craig Richards recently ‘escaped’ the capital city, to see what it was like to cycle in the regional Victorian city of Bendigo. Accepting an invitation by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail to visit Bendigo, Craig was surprised when experiencing some of the urban off-road trails, such as the Back Creek Trail with its creative artistic displays and Bendigo Creek Trail, and to see how these were providing a continuous safe route for cycling commuters.
Back Creek Trail (Williamson St underpass), Bendigo. Photo: Craig Richards
Riding a section the O’Keefe Rail Trail from Bendigo to Axedale with the Friends members, Craig was not able to spot a platypus in the Campaspe River yet lunch at the Axedale Tavern was certainly another highlight. Time did not permit exploring the trail’s latest 30km extension to Heathcote, perhaps a reason for another visit in the future!
Inspecting the former Axedale Railway Station development, O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Les Lewis
The ‘country escape’ for the CEO certainly provided an awareness of how Bendigo is striving to become Victoria’s regional ‘City of Greater Cycling’, to improve both its community’s health and wellbeing as well as attract more of the active tourist market.
The Campaspe Shire council is in the planning stages for extending the Greater Shepparton City Council’s current ‘Murchison Rail Trail’ on to Rushworth and Heathcote.
Former railway bridge. Goulburn River, Murchison
This extended trail section, when formally constructed, could link the O’Keefe Rail Trail (Heathcote to Bendigo) to the Murchison East railway station. A Heathcote to Murchison Trail proposal brochure has been produced by the Campaspe Shire.
Grass Trees in Heathcote-Graytown National Park
Support by community, businesses and trail users for this trail is to be encouraged, so have your say, contact the Campaspe Shire council, the Greater Shepparton City council and your local State Government representative.
Help for cyclists needing to fix their bike on the O’Keefe Rail Trail has just been installed, perhaps a first for a rail trail in Australia! The provision of a Bike Repair Station has been the initiative of Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group, with funding for two units due to the support provided by Strathfieldsaye and Districts Community Enterprise. (refer: 15 Dec 2018 Friends’ web News post).
O’Keefe Rail Trail’s Bike Repair Station tested by member Les Lewis. Photo: G.Long
A second funded repair station will soon be installed at Axedale Park Axedale by the Friends members, close to and about mid point of the rail trail.
Also planned for Heathcote is a third such station, to service both rail trail users as well as the local community who do not have a Heathcote based bike shop. Centred on Barrack Reserve, this location is close to the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s ‘Trail Head’, with the repair station being generously funded by three local Heathcote community organisations.