Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

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.

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

https://www.facebook.com/trailtownstv/videos/304878334042064/?d=null&vh=e

Heathcote, the Hub of Trails

Thinking about visiting Heathcote, Victoria for a day or weekend, yet wondering if there are enough opportunities locally to cycle or walk? Well if you are looking for some serious challenges, then choose the access road to Mount Ida to cycle up, take in the views, and then do the down hill ride! Or put the boots on to do a spot of bush walking in the same area, capped off with panoramic views.

Apart from the many forest tracks in the One Eye Forest or Heathcote-Graytown National Park, perhaps you are looking for something a little more relaxing, closer to a brewery, a winery cellar door, a cafe or a bakery? Then there are five (5) local close-to-town trails, which are provided with helpful way-finding signage.

Heathcote’s Trail Map, at the O’Keefe Rail Trail head, Herriot St. Photo: G.Long

Can’t decide whether to do the Liquid Amber Trail, the McIvor Creek Trail, the Pink Cliffs Trail, the Viewing Rock Trail, or the O’Keefe Rail Trail (doing a local section, or further to Lake Eppalock/Axedale/Bendigo)? Then do them all within one visit, or the return trip to Heathcote! Details and directions related to these trails can be viewed on street located maps (e.g. at the rail trail head in Herriot St, or in High St), otherwise chat to the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centres in Heathcote and Bendigo.

World Bicycle Day

We may not be able to ride together as ‘normal’* during these uncertain times, but we can still

stay connected through our love of bike riding.

Jump on your bike Wednesday 3rd June for #WorldBicycleDay and send through a snap of your ride to show that we are a nation of bike riders. #JustRide #BicycleNetwork – https://bit.ly/2WLTnpB

*Note: As of 1 June, riding in groups up to 20 riders is allowed in Victoria (refer Dept of Health https://bit.ly/2M54rbr For other States, please refer to that State’s Health Dept COVID19 advice)

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.

Trail Becomes More Popular

The local communities along the O’Keefe Rail Trail have embraced the use of this trail during the current COVID19 restrictions. Both individuals, friends and families have been observed cycling, walking and running at various sections of the trail while maintaining ‘social distancing’.

Cyclists and walkers using the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun. 22 May Photo: G.Long

Whether accessing the trail from other linked trails, such as the Bendigo Creek Trail, or driving to one of the trail’s various carparks, people have been out exercising away from the ‘stay at home’ restrictions imposed. Local bike retailers have been swamped with bike repairs and new sales, such seeing family members out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail in a natural environment and away from motor vehicle road traffic .

A family out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail. 22 May Photo: G.Long

Trail traffic counters located on Bendigo area trails have seen an average of 100-120% increase in recent usage. Specifically, the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s cycling traffic count for March 2020 had seen an increase of 1000 cycle users (up 150%) on March 2019, and an even higher 190% increase for cycling during April 2020 compared with April 2019. With some users indicating that they were only aware of this rail trail for the very first time, it is expected that the increases in use of the trail will continue for both recreational exercise or commuting.

Trail Options to Explore

The Greater Bendigo area has many formal trails that await to be explored. While some of these trails are great for sharing a short walk or brief bike ride within urban areas, ie the Mulga Bill Trail, Back Creek Trail, there are other trails that allow for more challenging exercise over a greater distance i.e. O’Keefe Rail Trail or the Goldfields Track.

Back Creek Trail’s bridge art, Bendigo. Photo: Mar 2018 Garry Long

If an all-weather asphalt surfaced trail is the priority, then the Bendigo Creek Trail, Long Gully Trail, Back Creek Trail and Spring Gully Trail are some of the options available. Not only do many urban trails reveal ‘hidden’ points of interest, like under-bridge public art not able to be easily seen from urban streets, some trails enable a close connection with local lakes/reservoirs. The Grassy Flat Creek Trail, the Bendigo Creek Trail and Mulga Bill Trail link directly with local water recreational locations.

Grassy Flat Creek Trail, Kennington Reservoir, Strathdale. Photo: Feb 2020 Garry Long

More trail options and details can be found on this Friends’ web page ‘Local trail options, and on Bendigo Tourism’s web ‘Outdoors & Nature‘ page.