Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Rail Trail Link To Wallan Feasible

The Bendigo Weekly has published an article in its 23 February edition “Rail Trail Link To Wallan Feasible” reporting on the Wallan to Heathcote Feasibility Study that is to be considered by the Mitchell Shire Council at its 19th March meeting.

This article included comments by a Pyalong resident and business co-owner, relating to concerns about the study consultant’s processes as well as perceived impacts that a rail trail may have in the Pyalong area.

Link to the paper’s on-line report

It is understood that the Mitchell Shire Council will make a decision at its March meeting, whether to accept or otherwise the recommendations in the study’s final report. Should a decision be made to accept the report, it has been indicated that such would not automatically commit the Council and its ratepayers to embark on implementing the report’s recommendations in the future, or to expend ratepayers rate revenue for the report’s proposed staged development of the trail.

Should the study be accepted by Council, this could become the basis for attracting significant external grants to the Shire to create employment of local people and contractors, be the basis of local discussions on how such a project could be implemented with the various parties involved including private landholders of the former railway alignment’s land.

O’Keefe Rail Trail fence and gate, for moving farm stock between paddocks.

When most rail trails are in the planned stage, there is need to consider many factors including detours or bypasses from the original railway’s alignment, whether such is due to road realignments, private land or land use changes i.e buildings, farming practices etc. The outcomes can be about a ‘win win’ for all involved, perhaps the farmer gains new fences/gates/screening trees, or an all weather joint use ‘internal road’ to access paddocks for stock movements, or the sale of a small parcel of unproductive land to add to the farmer’s superannuation fund, the leasing of land, or an upgraded sealed joint use road/trail. All of these examples listed here are what were negotiated by people involved with the recent extension of the O’Keefe Rail Trail between Axedale and Heathcote.

Upgraded sealed shared road - O'Keefe Rail Trail

A low traffic upgraded sealed joint use road/trail – The O’Keefe Rail Trail

The local Tavern/pub/General Store plus other small businesses continue to have ‘wins’ too. Local communities, rural school students, small walking groups have access their own recreational rail trail facility to help improve their own health and wellbeing, as well as attracting other walking and cycling trail users who bring economic benefits to the small towns involved. ‘Rail trail’ business could make the difference between a local shop or pub closing or not, with such lost affecting local farmers and residents. Rail trails are for the community including farming families, rail trails help support rural business and employment.

New Road Underpasses for Trail

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.

Spring Gully Trail extension 2018

Constructing three underpasses for the Spring Gully Trail on Back Crk, Bendigo. 14 Feb 2018

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.

Children learn to cycle

It is a great time to be out on the O’Keefe Rail Trail during the Christmas-New Year holidays, and for this family there were extra reasons. Santa had brought new bikes for the children, so where better to learn to ride those bikes than well away from busy road traffic.

Children learning to ride new bikes on the O'Keefe Rail Trail

Children learning to ride new bikes on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G. Long

With Christmas being celebrated at their rural property near Axedale, the only nearby road is the busy McIvor Highway. So the adjoining rail trail was the perfect safe place for the children and adults to be out together, as well as a bit of exercise for the family’s aging dog. From these lessons, could there be a future Australian cycling champion in the making?

Trail Riders had a Goal!

It was just after sunrise that some volunteers began mulching around new plants along a section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, so as to beat working in the heat of the day. These were members of the Longlea and District Landcare plus Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, all helping to restore a section of the trail’s natural environment in Junortoun.

Volunteers mulch new plants for the summer period. Photo: G. Long

Volunteers mulch new plants on O’Keefe Rail Trail, for the summer period. Photo: G. Long

Just as this work was nearing completion, a cycling group of mainly female members from a Bridgewater and Newbridge ‘spin class’ were assembling on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. The group had travelled to Bendigo for this planned outing, ‘escaping’ their usual gym class room. Of course as well as enjoying the social company, there had to be a goal for those involved, and this may not have been just to complete the round trip of about 30kms. Apparently the attraction for some was the mid-point lunch booking, at the Axedale Tavern!

The ride begins along the O'Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G. Long

The ride for the group begins, along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G. Long

Restoring a natural environment, improved a community’s health and wellbeing, and adding benefits to the local economy were just some of the day’s outcomes on the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Volunteers create a future natural environment trail corridor

One of the attractions of the O’Keefe Rail Trail is it provides an escape into a natural environment, a reserve that can be close to urban areas, be within forests, stretching across a lake, or adjoining farming properties. The landscape through which the trail passes is quite varied, which creates a special ‘formula’ that makes such trails popular and enjoyable.

Over a number of years, both the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail and the Longlea Landcare group have assisted to re-vegetate sections of the former railway reserve that had lost most of the native trees and grasses. For the 2017 National Tree Day, a section of trail close to the McIvor Hwy in Junortoun was selected to be re-vegetated with tube stock plants. The City of Greater Bendigo’s Parks staff supported the project, by deep ripping the soil in preparation and also providing 1000 trees and grasses.

Volunteers planting and mulching on O'Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun.

Volunteers planting and mulching along the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun.

While storm clouds drifted past in the distance, volunteers armed with shovels turned up to ‘get their hands dirty’ on the day, as well as enjoying some socialising with others. Thankfully the rain storm held off, and after just a few hours of effort, viewing a sea of tree guards protecting the new plants was a very satisfying sight for all those present.

With occasional care, the area will become a new section of natural ‘bush’, to be enjoyed by the local community and trail users. This will also provide native birds and animals with an area to breed, feed, and shelter in, part of a continuous natural corridor. Through the willingness of these volunteers on one day, their efforts will create a ‘win win’ situation for all!

Guest Speakers have an interesting story to tell!

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s Annual General Meeting will be on Tuesday 10th October at the Cycling Rooms, Tom Flood Centre, Water Street Bendigo, commencing at 6:45pm.

The public is welcome to attend the AGM (6:45 – 7:30pm), to hear of the various activities that the Friends’ group has been involved with over the past 12 months. Some of this activity has been associated with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, and general involvement to create better cycling opportunities in the Greater Bendigo area. After the AGM supper, there will be a General Meeting held which all are welcome to attend.

Andy Bos and Paula Ewing of Tread Harcourt.

Andy Bos and Paula Ewing of Tread Harcourt.

AGM guest speakers will be Andy Bos and Paula Ewing, sharing information about two interesting topics close to their hearts. The community involvement process in seeking approval and funding to develop a Mt Alexandra Mountain Bike Park, which resulted in positive outcomes now unfolding, and also the developing innovative ‘Tread Harcourt’, a centre for cycling, accommodation, and cycle tours.

Ride Easy Bike Skills

Ride Easy Bike Skills sessions
Want to ride your bike more but lost on where to start, or want to improve your existing skills and confidence?
Sign up for Ride Easy: four practical workshops – social, supportive, fun!

You’ll learn strategies for riding safely on the road, managing intersections and roundabouts, plus how to choose low-stress routes, how to carry stuff, and much more.  Be quick – the course starts Thursday 24 August. Limited places (course now open to general community, all welcome!)

Weekly sessions on Thursdays, 9.30am – 12pm from 24 August to 14 September 2017. Starts from the La Trobe University Bendigo bike hub.

– Session 1 – Thursday 24 August – Basic handling skills and using gears
– Session 2 – Thursday 31 August – Skills for riding in traffic part 1
– Session 3 – Thursday 7 September – Skills for riding in traffic part 2
– Session 4 – Thursday 14 September – Puncture repair and basic maintenance

Contact Nicola to register: / 0438 578 835

About Nicola
It was at uni that I became passionate about getting around on two wheels – and I’ve never stopped! My short rides to uni extended to riding around town, round the country and, eventually, round (bits of) the world. I love the freedom, the environmental, social and health benefits – and not paying for parking or petrol! Over the years, I’ve worked in a bike shop, edited a bike magazine, written Lonely Planet cycling guidebooks and taught workshops. I still ride for transport as much as I can (with or without my three children), and for fun and fitness with a social road-riding bunch.

Bike Bendigo - Ride Easy Bike Skills

Railway Gates Return to Heathcote

It’s not that long ago when motorists often faced wooden railway gates at road crossings within Melbourne’s metro train network, closed by VR staff to prevent motor vehicles proceeding when trains were scheduled.

Yet who would have guessed that most early regional Victorian Railway (VR) lines also had such gates at many relatively low traffic rural road crossings in the late 19th century. This was so for the original Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst line, built 1888-1890. At that time, each gate installation had a permanent Gate Keeper plus a railway house as well. One such Gate Keeper’s house still remains in Heathcote. Most rural railway gates were removed during the early part of the 20th century.

Seeking to reinstate elements of former railway historical infrastructure, on the now O’Keefe Rail Trail, Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members were keen to obtain a set of original railway gates. After a long search, an old set of stored gates in a poor state were finally located in Melbourne, and then subsequently approved for allocation to the group by PTV. With a City of Greater Bendigo Community Grant awarded, and assistance from Semi Trailer Sales Pty Ltd, Friends member Ken Hanson set about leading a project to rebuild these gates in Bendigo.

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

With additional assistance from Powercor, Council, Lions Club of Heathcote, and painter John Mead, the 6-metre-long gates were installed with their final coat of paint being applied at Heathcote. This siting was close to an original gates location at Herriot St, near the former Heathcote Railway Station.

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club's Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club’s Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

The gates now provide a ‘safe’ pathway for trail users into the Lions Club’s rail trail shelter area, a great place to meet people, and enjoy what the O’Keefe Rail Trail now has to offer.

Axedale’s Historical Trail

Looking for something to do after arriving in Axedale, perhaps before heading to the Axedale Tavern or Store for lunch, or a coffee n cake, or some refreshment before heading back on the O’Keefe Rail Trail? The Axedale Historical Trail is there to inform, to enable you to immerse yourself back in another time, to help understand what people may have done in Axedale in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Axedale Historical Trail

To help with your exploring this local trail, there is also a smart device Axedale Historical Trail app that can be downloaded. This app can send you back into a different period of time, with slower transport, ladies in flowing dresses, yet often challenging times for many. So enjoy the experience………….while your family and friends go back in history!

Rail trail reserve helping to retain endangered species

The O’Keefe Rail Trail is the focus of a project to install nest boxes along a section of the trail, for Brush-tailed Phascogales (Tuans) and Sugar Gliders. These new nest boxes, built by students at Catholic College Bendigo, should become homes to these small threatened animals in the trail reserve’s natural environment.

Brush-tailed Phascogale Photo: Jerry Alexander

Brush-tailed Phascogale Photo: Jerry Alexander

The location for these boxes is along the O’Keefe Rail Trail, between Knul-doorong Woodland (Somerset Park Rd) and the Junortoun Flora and Fauna Reserve (Trotting Tce) Junortoun. Funding for the project has been provided by a City of Greater Bendigo Council’s Community Grant, awarded to the Junortoun Community Action Group

The public can witness the boxes being installed, which is to occur on Monday 24th April at 2:15pm at the O’Keefe Rail Trail crossing on Wilkie Road Junortoun.

Media Release by Junortoun Community Action Group.