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Linking central Victoria via the old railway line
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Lake Eppalock section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail will be closed to the public from Monday 25th November to Friday 8th December, 6am to 6pm daily for track upgrade works.
This work will address the damage caused to the trail in 2016 when the lake’s water level exceeded the 100% full level. At that time, closure of the trail was required until the water level receded and council was able to carry out minor works to then allow safe access for trail users.
As no major repair/upgrade works followed, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail made a submission to the Council’s 2019-20 budget, to have restoration and upgrading works carried out on the trail’s causeway across Lake Eppalock. As a result of this submission, budget cover was provided enabling this planned work to now take place.
The City of Greater Bendigo council apologizes for any inconvenience that this closure may cause.
Construction work has begun on building new road underpasses, as part of improving the Bendigo urban off-road trail network. This work will link the Spring Gully Trail to the Bendigo Creek Trail, plus eliminate the hazardous crossing for pedestrians and cyclists on McIvor Road near the historic railway bridge.
The works will result in one underpass constructed under the Abbott St bridge, one under a narrow pedestrian bridge, another under the McIvor Road bridge, plus also under the communications ducts that cross above Back Creek.
This off-road trail extension will also improve the connection between the Bendigo Railway Station and the O’Keefe Rail Trail, for visiting cycling and walking tourists, with only the link between the station platform and Ewing Park now needing to be formalised.
Bike Bendigo and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community groups had sort improvements at this location, and so welcome the efforts of the City of Greater Bendigo in eliminating the ‘at grade’ crossing of McIvor Rd.
The popularity of commuting by bike or walking is on the increase in Bendigo. With past development of urban trails and paths in the Bendigo urban area, this has seen many of these pathways isolated so presenting difficulties with cycling and walking. In some cases, this has introduced hazards when needing to cross high traffic roads such as High St, Napier St and the McIvor Highway.
As a result of the increasing trail usage, there is currently a renewed focus to build safer connections between a number of these existing off-road urban paths and trails. How will this happen, is there a plan, and what outcomes have already been achieved?
Brett Martini, City of Greater Bendigo Council’s Manager for Infrastructure and Open Spaces recently shared some of the plans and progress for networking these trails, when interviewed on O’Keefe Rail Trail TV (episode 9). Brett also highlighted the Council’s future plans to improve urban pathway connections with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, such as an off-road path linking to the Bendigo railway station, the extension of the Spring Gully Trail, and improving the linked Bendigo Bushland Trail.
What do these three fellas have in common?
Too difficult to answer?
This new table-seat unit and bike hoop racks were purchased and installed by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, with grant funding provided by Strathfieldsaye and Districts Community Enterprise. The location is just off Wilkie Road Junortoun, at the site of the former Strathfieldsaye Railway Station. What a great contribution by the local community, and another trail user facility for the O’Keefe Rail Trail as it adds to the list of Victoria’s premier rail trails.