Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Review Flood Damage

With a number of communities, farms and businesses still being impacted by high river levels and flooding from various rivers in central and northern Victoria, those upstream seeing river levels lowering are assessing the damage to property and infrastructure. The City of Greater Bendigo council is currently prioritising its responses to the community and damaged infrastructure, including damage to the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

The trail’s Campaspe River bridge (water level was well above the bridge’s railings!) Photo: N. Shand 20th October

Council has advised that it’s staff are currently undertaking a review of the whole 50km length of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, to assess what damage has occurred from recent weather events and flooding. Council will then determine a priority to undertake the necessary repair work.

Damage to the Campaspe River trail bridge’s eastern approach. Photo: N. Shand. 20th October

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group’s President Colin Scott has offered the council assistance from its members, to help with certain works required to repair areas of the rail trail where deemed suitable for volunteers to carry out such work.

The rail trail’s western approach to the Lake Eppalock causeway. Photo: K. Davenport, 19th October

Two sections of the rail trail will remain closed to the public for a period of time, due to one bridge being damage and inundation from Lake Eppalock’s high water levels. These closures are at the trail’s bridge over the Campaspe River at Axedale, and the second being the trail’s causeway across Lake Eppalock at Derrinal. The remainder of the rail trail is open for use, with the trail’s surface being rated as in relatively good condition (considering the wet conditions!) for walking and cycling on suitable bikes.

Businesses that normally receive patronage from locals and visitors using the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail, look forward to trail users supporting them as service providers who have been affected by the floods.

Trail Sections Closed

Due to the current major flooding event that is occurring in the central Victorian region, this has impacted two sections of the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Very high water levels in the Campaspe River had impacted, and for a time closed the trail immediately east of Axedale (i.e. from William St to Ingham Rd). Initial indications are that high water flows and debris have caused the trail’s bridge to be impassable, and the bridge is closed until a full engineering inspection can be undertaken. Also the trail’s surface between Willams St and the trail bridge has sustained severe damage.

The adjacent section of the McIvor Hwy at the river crossing was also closed to all traffic, due to severe flood damage, yet as of 19th October the highway has been temporarily repaired and opened to road traffic at a restricted 40kph speed limit.

O’Keefe Rail Trail’s Campaspe Rv bridge (some sections of its railing now showing, as river level lowers ). Photo: Y. Lakey 16 Oct

The rail trail also remains closed at its crossing of Lake Eppalock, Derrinal, due to the lake’s inundation of the trail’s causeway. However the trail remains open for all other sections, i.e Bendigo-Axedale (20kms) and Heathcote to Ingham Rd Axedale (except the Lake Eppalock causeway).

Campaspe Rv & McIvor Hwy bridge (water levels were higher than the bridge deck). Photo: Y. Lakey 16 Oct

Whilst the rail trail and its surface has remained in relatively good condition for the remaining open sections, updated information can be obtained from the trail manager the City of Greater Bendigo council on 1300 002642.

AGM Postponed

Due to the current weather conditions and resulting flooding events that are occurring in central and northern Victoria, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s Annual General Meeting scheduled for the 19th October has been postponed. With a number of highways and other local road closed due to flood water inundation and associated damage, such is making travelling in these areas very difficult.

The group’s AGM and General Meeting have now been rescheduled to 16th November 2022, and will be held at the Bendigo Cycling Clubrooms, Tom Flood Centre (off Water St), Bendigo, 6.30pm. The General Meeting will follow the AGM at 7.30pm. As a coincidence, the meeting location’s name and the address have no connection with the current emergency event!

The President Colin Scott extends his thoughts and that of members to those residents and businesses that are currently, or may be in the coming days, being impacted by flood waters and related isolation. Emergency evacuation orders have been made to a number of communities, and residents have been asked to respond to such.

With the expected passing of the emergency and opening of certain roads in the coming weeks, the group’s members and the general public are invited to the rescheduled AGM and GM on the 16th November, with meeting agendas and reports having already been distributed or will be made available at the meeting.

Lake Water Floods Trail

From the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s Lake Eppalock section being highlighted by water, this same section is now submerged by higher water levels!

Just days ago, the rising water level of Lake Eppalock was creating an amazing experience for trail users, with water lapping right up to the trail’s lake causeway.

Yet as inflows have continued into the lake, the level has exceeded 102% capacity. This has now submerged the rail trail’s lake causeway, hence closing public access to just that section of the trail. The remainder of the 50km trail is in relatively good condition, despite recent rainfall events.

For only the rail trail’s Lake Eppalock causeway section
Required around the Lake Eppalock causeway section

The City of Greater Bendigo, as trail’s manager, has closed only this section of the trail at Lake Eppalock until both the water level lowers as well as a safety inspection clears this section for access. For O’Keefe Rail Trail related information, the council can be contacted on 1300 002642 or requests@bendigo.vic.gov.au

Art and the Wellsford State Forest

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s monthly Wednesday ride, an organised activity for its members, attracted eleven riders for the September ride. This activity had a number of reasons for riders to participate, especially being able to explore parts of the Wellsford State Forest in Spring. With the forest being close to both the urban area of Bendigo and the O’Keefe Rail Trail, getting to the ride’s starting point was made easy.

September’s Wednesday Ride group members. Photo: Judy McLaren

Even though there had been heavy rain the night before, the planned ride route using forest tracks saw those tracks in good condition, plus the weather on the day was ideal for being outdoors and on a bike. Ride leader Greg Ralton’s destination for the riders was The Forest Gallery, where Terry Jarvis has his art studio and house.

Artist Terry Jarvis addressing the Friends members over morning tea. Photo: Judy McLaren

Spring wild flowers were in abundance, and sitting within the gardens of the Gallery having morning coffee or tea plus cake was an added bonus of the activity. Terry gave the riders a talk on the history of the property and its buildings, plus his contribution to the art world.

The group enjoying The Forest Galley and the art displays. Photo: Judy McLaren

Thanking Terry for his hospitality and Greg for his planning, all riders enjoyed the experience and would happily do the same again. The next Wednesday ride will be on 26 October, with details to be advised to members.

Lake Water Highlights Rail Trail

With the passing of the Victorian winter, the Spring wild flowers and Lake Eppalock’s water level are both now showcasing the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

It’s been 6 years since the lake’s water level has been so high, lapping right up to the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s causeway across the lake. With Lake Eppalock near 100% full, this has created the perfect picture of water close by each side of the trail, such a unique experience for those fortunate to be out enjoying parts of Regional Victoria!

Lake Eppalock, from the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Peter Kennedy

Despite this year’s high rainfall, the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s surface has remained in great condition for both walking and cycling all or part of the trail’s 50kms length. Whether commencing the trail in Bendigo, Heathcote or Axedale to see the lake at its full capacity, the experience of being in diverse natural environments is a rewarding escape from busy cities and stressful lifestyles.

Riders view Lake Eppalock from the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Dave Richardson

Recent interstate visitors using the trail have said how great the trail is, and were so pleased with its condition despite the winter’s rainfall. With being able to view many points of interest, sample local wines and a pub meal, stay in amazing BnB accommodation, or visit the nationally acclaimed Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions, such experiences are within easily access for this rail trail escape.

The O’Keefe Rail Trail’s lake causeway crossing. Photo: Neil McKinnon

When planning for your one day or overnight rail trail getaway, be mindful of possible changing local conditions. Updated trail information can be obtained from Bendigo Tourism/Heathcote Tourism or the City of Greater Bendigo council.

Trails, Goldfields and Heritage Trains

It was the last day of winter, as cyclists gathered for the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Tail’s ‘Last Wednesday of the Month’ social ride. Selecting the 17.7km Castlemaine Maldon Trail for this ride, this is a trail that weaves its way through stunning natural surroundings while always within view of the historic Victorian Goldfields Railway.

Riders on the Castlemaine Maldon Trail. Photo: Judy McLaren

Starting at the Castlemaine Railway station in cool conditions, the meandering Campbells Creek Trail linked the riders with the start of the Castlemaine Maldon Trail. Heading towards Maldon, elements of the railway’s infrastructure including the Muckleford Creek timber pile bridge and the Muckleford railway station were seen. Following recent heavy rainfall, there were a few challenges had along the way while navigating sections of water and soft trail conditions.

“All aboard!” at the Muckleford Railway Station. Photo: Judy McLaren

After a quick look around the station, it was back on the bikes heading for Maldon’s Kangaroo Hotel where lunch had been arranged. Cycling past the heritage Maldon railway station, the former Beehive Mine’s chimney and viewing the historic town’s street scapes, it was a country pub lunch that was next to be enjoyed by the six riders.

Lunch at the Kangaroo Hotel. Photo: Judy McLaren

The return to Castlemaine ride plan had the options of either riding back along the trail or putting bikes on the steam loco hauled train to be immersed in early 20th century heritage travel. Some of the more energetic riders from Bendigo chose another option, and rode from Maldon on roads back to Bendigo via Lockwood South.

Bicycle Network backs Rail Trail Funding

Representing a number of regional communities, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail together with the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group call upon the Victorian State Government to prioritise future funding for the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail project, in accordance with Bicycle Network’s submission to the State Government’s 2022/23 budget.

2.1 Extend the O’Keefe Rail Trail (Submission extract from pages 9&10)

  • Bicycle Network recommends a funding commitment to extend Central Victoria’s O’Keefe Rail Trail from Heathcote to Wallan…….
  • A 2017 feasibility study outlined the strategic merit for advancing the WHRT project, concluding that the economic benefits ($23.1 million) outweigh the costs…….
  • Bicycle Network views the O’Keefe Rail Trail extension as an exciting enhancement of the O’Keefe Rail Trail which will pave the way for a number of exciting opportunities:…..
  • We strongly encourage the Victorian Government to support local businesses, historical societies, and the general bike riding public by providing the $17.18 million in funding to complete the extension.

While unfortunately the approved State Government’s 2022/23 budget did not included funding for this project, the President of the Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail Colin Scott said “It’s time for more investment in developing cycling and walking infrastructure in regional areas. Such investment will assist small tourist related businesses to employ and stimulate local economies.”

In 2021, the Victorian Government took action to support regional sectors by launching the ‘Stay Close, Go Further’ campaign, encouraging Victorians to get out and explore their backyard. “Rail trails do just this!” Mr Scott said, “Offering Victorians and visitors the chance to explore and spend in regional communities, whilst getting active.” With significant community support for ongoing investment in regional rail trails, the State government is encouraged to place such development as a priority in future budgets.

Off-Road Trail Network-Regional Victoria. Created by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

With Victoria hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, and Bendigo being one of four regional hubs selected to hold a number of the events, such a proposed trail link between Craigieburn and Heathcote (and Bendigo) would open up a high value regional trail network of international significance to compliment the Melbourne metro trail network. This web of trails would also provide regional active links with the public transport hubs of Southern Cross Station and the Melbourne Airport.

Like to have your input into regional trail developments for future State budget allocations, as well as investment in the 2026 Commonwealth Games to provide lasting infrastructure legacies beyond the competition period for regional Victoria? Then you could contact and email –

  •  Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, Hon. Jacinta Allan

jacinta.allan@parliament.vic.gov.au

  • Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Hon. Shaun Leane

shaun.leane@parliament.vic.gov.au

  • Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Mr Steve Dimopoulos MP

steve.dimopoulos@parliament.vic.gov.au

  • Minister for Regional Development, Hon. Harriet Shing MLC

harriet.shing@parliament.vic.gov.au

  • Coordinating Minister for Dept Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Hon. Ben Carroll

ben.carroll@parliament.vic.gov.au

Like to know more about the 2026 Commonwealth Games?

https://www.vic.gov.au/victoria-2026-commonwealth-games

Winter Weather Shines upon Friends Members

While the Victorian winter weather can be both challenging and difficult to predict, the monthly bike ride in July by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail was lucky enough to pick a perfect day to enjoy.

Friends gather in Huntly for the July Monthly Ride. Photo: Judy McLaren

Not only is the ‘Last Wednesday of the Month’ ride a chance for a social gathering while exercising, this particular ride also was lucky enough to have a former Huntly resident Lindsay Clay to inform all who participated about the history of Huntly as well as experiencing some of the surrounding local tracks.

The next Friends monthly ride is planned for 31 August, with details to be forwarded to Friends members. Prospective members are welcomed to join these rides, which are usually planned to be held along local off-road trails and tracks.

New Facilities for Forest and Trail Users

The Knowsley Forest’s Smart Track Day Visitor Area has recently had new facilities installed for users arriving in this forest enclosed environment. With this area just 800metres from the crossing point of the forest’s Smart Track with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, it is an easy wayfinding signed connection for trail users to walk or cycle to this visitor area.

Knowsley Forest’s Smart Track Day Visitor Area. Photo: Dale Hill

To complement existing facilities such as the toilets, a gas BBQ under shelter, and various seating/tables that were installed in late 2021 adjacent to the water dam, there has been new stainless steel designer bike racks installed.

Smart Track Day Visitor Area’s bike racks. Photo: Di Bourne

Also installed is an impressive new interpretive sign provided by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The outcome of the sign, with its focus on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, has been a collaborative effort between DELWP and Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group.

Smart Track Day Visitor Area’s interpretive sign. Photo: Tim Mayr

The Friends group contributed historical and informative content for the signage, while DELWP worked with a graphic artist and metal fabrication specialist to create an interesting metal art sculpture that integrates elements of the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s branding.

Smart Track Day Visitor Area’s interpretive sign. Photo: Tim Mayr

To also enable visitors in motor vehicles to share the space with trail users at this Smart Track Day Visitor Area, directional signs have been installed at the forest’s McIvor Highway entrances to enable easy access to enjoy this natural yet managed forest environment. The area’s users are reminded to take with them all items and any rubbish upon leaving, hence allowing others to also enjoy this forest and its facilities.