Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

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Heathcote Students Ride2School

As the early sunrise produced shafts of light through the trees within the One Eye Forest, highlighting cyclists waiting on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, what were these riders waiting for? It was an exciting time for those Heathcote Primary Schools students as they arrived before the early 7.45am time, preparing to participate in the school’s official Ride2School activity for 2021.

With parents and friends watching on, Principle Kate Ballantyne introduced the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail volunteers who were assisting with the ride, and also mentioned reminders to ensure that students were aware of their responsibilities for a safe enjoyable ride.

Heathcote Primary School students enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Garry Long

Smiles were all around as the students chatted while riding along the rail trail, with some challenged only by the very slight gradients of the trail through the forest. With no wallabies or kangaroos sighted, the ride group was then joined by the younger aged student riders as all the riders then cycled through the urban area of the Heathcote township.

Arriving at the school after riding 5.2kms for the grades 3-6 students, it was time for an official group photo, then off to the school’s Breakfast Club for some before classes began.

The Ride2School participants, both students, teachers and supporters. Photo: Heathcote PS

It was a successful participation activity for this small country school, which is sure to encourage more of the students to regularly ride to school.

Needing a reason to escape to the country?

Planning a trail ride or walk over Easter with friends? Or wondering where to next explore rural Victoria that combines some exercise with enjoying food and refreshments at a cafe, a restaurant, winery or boutique brewery?

Of course there is the option to just chill out at a country B&B or hotel, after riding the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail!

O’Keefe’s connection with Tooborac?

Over the past 28 years, the O’Keefe Rail Trail has extended along the former ‘Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst railway line’ to be now approximately 50kms between Bendigo and Heathcote. A 2018 feasibility study’s report determined that a connected proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, broadly along the remainder of that former railway line, was feasible and would be a positive economic impact for those connected small communities.

The report’s Stage 1 development included building a trail section between Tooborac and Heathcote (17kms), bringing attractions such as wineries, breweries, bed and breakfasts, hotels, and public nature reserves within easy reach of rail trail users. Tooborac also has much past history to be explored as well, like seeking out remnants of the former railway’s turntable, or the former McIvor Timber and Firewood Company engine shed and manager’s residence.

McIvor Timber Co. Tooborac circ 1906 (SLV Image H96.160/1367) Photographer: George W Robinson

While little now remains within the former railway station yards, the Station Master’s residence (now a private residence) is a direct link to the importance that the former railway was to the Tooborac district.

Tooborac Railway Station, a ‘K’ Class goods awaits departure. 1962 Photographer: William Prince
Tooborac Hotel and Brewery. Photo TH&B

Local employment and businesses await the Mitchell Shire Council to prioritize progressing this proposed rail trail’s ‘Stage 1’ development, so as to benefit from the opportunities that such trails attract and provide. Inquires relating to this project can be made to the Mitchell Shire Council. as well as letting local member for Euroa Steph Ryan MP know of your support for this development that may assist COVID19 recovery for those impacted within the local community.

Experience the New Year with O’Keefe

What a year 2020 has been! So many challenges for the world’s population, including for those who love an escape to enjoy what off-road trails have to offer. Yet for many in COVID19 lock-downs, such trail experiences have at times been well out of reach.

For those who have endured such restrictions, to reduce the spread of this virus, thank you for what you have done to keep many communities safe and being able to adapt in these uncertain times.

As a reward, the O’Keefe Rail Trail awaits Victorians and visitors during the New Year holiday period and beyond in 2021, providing space to enjoy being safe amongst nature at a glance, along a continuous 50km trail that is perfect for walking, running and cycling. Oh and by the way, there are also wineries, breweries, bed and breakfast accommodation, and much more to explore and enjoy!

Stay safe and be vigilant over the coming weeks, while we hope the year ahead brings improved health conditions, happiness, and a return to doing the things we all love to do! So wishing all rail trail users, their families and friends some time to enjoy and share simple things that we now realise are important.

Bikes on Buses for O’Keefe Trail

Have you ever been riding or walking the O’Keefe Rail Trail and suddenly needed transport means back to your starting point? Perhaps you were planning for a one direction only, or had a bike mechanical problem, maybe your walking shoe had a ‘blow out’ and you couldn’t go any further along the trail? What’s next, an urgent phone call hoping for an answer in seeking help!

The State Government has approved the implementation of providing bike racks on the PTV buses, called the ‘Bikes on Buses Program’. Limited funding in 2019 was allocated for a conversion of a total of 62 buses, which included the Bendigo urban area bus routes. Yet unfortunately this program’s roll out for 2020 has been delayed by the COVID19 pandemic.

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail noted that the Bendigo – Heathcote PTV bus service, which includes some Bendigo urban suburbs, was not included in that Bendigo roll out. So the group made a specific submission request to local member Jacinta Allan MP, for this bus route to be included in the program. Such was not only to encourage integrated active transport for people serviced by this bus route, yet also to add an important transport option for users of the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Success!! The Minister of Public Transport Ben Carroll has advised the Friends group that the Bendigo – Heathcote PTV bus service will be included in the Bendigo Bikes on Buses Program roll out, once assessments etc have been conducted by the Department of Transport. While mentioning ‘later in 2020’, a specific implementation date for this service is yet unknown. This facility will provide a limited capacity of 2 bikes in a front rack mounted on each bus, which is great news for users of the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail that has seen significant increases in use during 2020.

Lions Club Promotes Heathcote to Trail Users

The O’Keefe Rail Trail users are now able to be more informed, about Heathcote’s points of interest and attractions. The Heathcote Lions Club recently initiated a project to have two new information boards designed and installed within the trail’s Herriot St shelter.

President Janette Dedman unveils the new information boards. Photo: Daryl Dedman

Under COVID19 restrictions conditions, Lions Club President Janette Dedman officially unveiled the notice boards witnessed by some Lions Club and Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members. Refer to this web’s ‘News Clippings’ page, for a related article published in the McIvor Times (28 Oct 2020)

The ‘Heathcote – An Interesting Place’ board depicts and describes six different locations to explore, all from within easy reach of the rail trail encouraging trail users to visit the town’s business area. The second information board highlights steps taken by the Lions Club to provide the rail trail with this amazing trail shelter, constructed from locally sourced forest timber. Details about the two co-located railway gates, restored and installed by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members, is also included with a photo and description.

Lions Club Shelter’s information boards. Photo: Daryl Dedman

Details contained in the two information boards, viewed via this link.

Seeking New Rail Trails

A new community group is advocating for the development of a Castlemaine – Maryborough Rail Trail in central Victoria.

This group are looking to transform the disused railway corridor between Castlemaine and Maryborough into a recreation rail trail, to enhance active travel and safe recreation, to aid the future prosperity for linked small towns of Guildford, Newstead, and Carisbrook.

With PTV passenger trains regularly servicing Maryborough and Castlemaine, those connections for users to this trail would be made so much easier. Being close to other established off-road trails, this becomes attractive for extended stays by visitors to the area that benefit trail related businesses and employment.

Just like the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail connected to the O’Keefe Rail Trail, these linked trails would also be serviced by passenger trains and road freeways at Wallan and Bendigo plus other access. Such transport options increases the tourist potential, hence visionary development by Governments to create a network of linked trails to support regional communities and business economies.

A Special Team Effort

On a sunny Bendigo winter’s morning, Peter the ‘Pilot’ and Alan the ‘Stoker’ set out to experience what such a Tuesday had to offer. Yet what were each of them about to do? Was Peter heading to the airport to fly a plane, and was Alan actually a train enthusiast about to fire up a steam loco at Maldon?

They were not heading off as individuals, because importantly they would be as one cycling team due to Alan having a condition, he is vision impaired.

With final checks ensuring that Alan’s off-road tandem bike was in full readiness for the ride, Alan stepped into the rear ‘stokers’ seat and then Peter was into the important ‘pilot’ role at the front. They then set off from Lake Weeroona, with a plan to cycle from Bendigo to Axedale via the O’Keefe Rail Trail and return, a total distance of 44kms.

Alan with the tandem bike, at the trail’s ‘Axedale Railway Station’. Photo: Peter

During the ride at various times, Peter would verbally provide key ride information, while both pedaled and shared in the beauty of being out immersed in the trail’s natural environment whilst in safety away from the highway road traffic. Even though the trail continued on to Heathcote, of course such a ride would not have been complete without a rest stop at their planned half way turn around point, at the Axedale Tavern for coffee and cake.

Alan and Peter enjoy a coffee break at the Coffee House, Axedale Tavern. Photo: Peter

Later, with the ride over and the pair back in Bendigo, they noted that their total moving ride time had been 2hrs 15mins at an average speed of 19.6kph! Upon reflection, Peter described the day as “A fantastic ride, the trail was very well sign posted in both directions, the people we met made us welcome, and the track surface is very good plus wide enough for safe passing.”

“Peter is a skilled rider, and his friendship is much appreciated” stated Alan, with a smile. “The Tavern’s service was excellent, the coffee enjoyed, and the staff were very friendly,” plus Alan also adding, “this ride had me truly feeling alive and I hope that we can do it again soon.”

Trail Towns TV visits Rail Trail

The producers of a new TV series Trail Towns (coming to SBS later in 2020) visited Bendigo to experience what the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail had to offer.

Trail Towns rolls into town!

After visiting some of Bendigo’s querky cafes and laneways, Paul and Deetz were impressed by riding through the rail trail’s historic brick ‘tunnel’ railway underpass. Heading eastwards, after 20kms the riders then took some time off the bikes at Axedale, to check out the amazing charm of the Axedale Tavern.

Following some rehydration for the next 30kms ahead, the riders were then immersed in the natural environment of Campaspe River reserve, before riding onwards towards the trail’s crossing of Lake Eppalock.

Trail destination Heathcote

Cycling through forests and cruising past wineries, the exploring group diverted into Heathcote’s Palling Bros Brewery to end what said to have been a fantastic trail experience. “We’ll definately be back!” said Deetz.

Paul and Deetz at Palling Bros Brewery

Lockington to Kotta Rail Trail Fun Run

**EVENT POSTPONED** Bet you would love to support this community event, the Kotta to Lockington Fun Run (or walk) on Saturday 28 March, 10am start. It should be fun!!