Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: Trail Development

Rust Replaced By Railway Splendor

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 opening by Mayor Cr. O’Rourke.

New Natural Environment Being Recreated

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.

Caution – Works in Progress

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.

Rail Trail Bridge Naming

Some of the often admired engineering features of railway lines are the tunnels, bridges and cuttings. The former railway that the 50 km long O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote occupies did not have any tunnels, yet it did have cuttings and 50 timber bridges built in 1888-89.

Only one of those original timber bridges remains as a functioning structure, the Grassy Flat Creek bridge (East Bendigo). The O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote now has 19 bridges, 2 originals plus 17 being replacement trail only bridges.

The original Grassy Flat Ck timber railway bridge, with naming sign. Photo: Lindsay Clay

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail embarked on a project to have all the bridges named relative to the waterways they spanned. This evolved into a three-part project, the first part being to research and confirm all the officially named waterways. The second part being to fund, manufacture and install signs at both ends of bridges over officially named waterways.

Axe Ck bridge name sign, finalised by Project Team Leader Ken Hanson. Photo: Lindsay Clay

With eight (8) waterways confirmed as being officially named, the Friends’ Project Team set about having the bridge signs manufactured and installed. These waterways are Grassy Flat Ck, Splitters Ck, Axe Ck, Sweenies Ck, Hargreaves Ck, Campaspe R, Mt Ida Ck, and Parsons Gully. This part of the overall project was completed in early 2020.

The new naming sign just attached to the Hargreaves Ck bridge. Photo: Lindsay Clay

The third stage has been to research historical records, to identify possible names for the waterways that were never officially named by the State Government. This research included media publicity, to seek information from the general public and community groups. This last stage is ongoing and will require a formal submission to the City of Greater Bendigo to assess and recommend names to the State Government for formal adoption. This formal process is expected to take 12 months.

The final outcome will provide additional wayfinding assistance for trail users, important location information for emergency first responders when required, assist with the trail’s management and maintenance, as well as highlighting additional points of interest for visiting tourists and the general public.

New Life for Trail Seats

For the first 20 years, the original Bendigo-Axedale section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail had just four aging ‘recovered’ bench seats installed in 1994, as the only trail user facilities.

When the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail was formed in 2009, these four old seats were continuing to decay, becoming unused and unattractive compared to the new quality seat/table facilities that were progressively being provided by the group.

Rather than remove these aging seats, a 2020 decision was made to refurbish them. An application was made to the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise’s 2020 Community Grant program, for funding of this refurbishment project. The grant application was subsequently successful and a grant was awarded.

Men at work, Roy & Lindsay doing the installation at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

This project has utilised a recycled plastic and fibre product (commercial name ‘Modwood’) as a replacement for the failed timber components. Within COVID19 restrictions, the Friends group’s Project Team set about installing this low maintenance repurposed product, whilst also giving the seat’s metal frames a fresh look.

Trail users Lonain and Georgie came along just at the right time, to try out one of the newly refurbished seats at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

The members of the Friends group would like to acknowledge and thank the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise for their support, allowing these trail facilities to be upgrading and available for users of this popular trail.

Temporary Trail Detour

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.

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.

 

Seek Alternative Route

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.

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.

Looking for your rail trail feedback!

Perhaps you have just discovered what many have known about for years, the attractive O’Keefe Rail Trail in central Victoria! Yet there are also those who live in the local area and often think “I must check out the O’Keefe trail one day!”

Well as a local, who doesn’t need to undertake any unnecessary travel, perhaps now is the time to do just that. Pull on your walking shoes, or dust off that bike in the shed and head out onto the O’Keefe for some exercise or soak up the natural atmosphere. Then after having a take-away coffee, could you give some feedback on your experience of using this fantastic public recreation facility?

Click on this LINK (the same as is on this web’s home page) and complete the O’Keefe Rail Trail User Feedback survey, it may only take you about 5-10 minutes! We would love to hear from you, so that our community group can better understand the trail, about what you enjoyed, and ideas that you think will improve experiences in the future.