Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: Trail Development

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.

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

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.

Trees, Trails and Volunteers

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.

Signs for Clear Trail Directions

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!

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.”

Enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail

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.

Historic Forest Ride to Rushworth

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

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.

Bicycle Network Supports Rail Trail Development

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.

BN Logo

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.