Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Ride to Support Local Communities

The ‘Cycle Dindi’ event returned to the scenic Great Victorian Rail Trail  on Saturday, 17 April 2021, this being its fifth year organised jointly by the Rotary Clubs of Yea and Alexandra. With the attractions of a Devonshire Tea in a shearing shed, a sheep dog demonstration, a BBQ lunch beside the picturesque Goulburn River, these were certainly reasons why some members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail decided to register for this event.

Deciding upon accommodation in Yea and riding the Yea to Alexandra event option, this saw a quite cool morning start for an 8.30am event registration next to the historic Yea Railway Station. Once completing the ride across the four Yea River curved aligned trail bridges, it was the gradual climb towards the iconic Cheviot Tunnel, the only tunnel on a Victorian rail trail, where riding through this impressive tunnel did not disappoint.

Cheviot Tunnel. Photo: G.Long

The option of being taken from the rail trail to the ‘Nutfield’ farm’s shearing shed for morning tea by tractor and trailer was an opportunity taken up by some riders, while others decided to cycle the farm’s short yet steep driveway!

A ride to morning tea! Photo: G.Long

After a group photo stop at the Eglington Gap, with a spectacular background view of the Cathedral Ranges, it was a downhill ride into Alexandra for a coffee and a snack at a local café.

Eglington Gap, Great Victorian Rail Trail

Not wanting to miss lunch, the group set off for the return ride back along the trail to arrive at ‘Cremona’ farm between Cathkin and Molesworth. The farm’s river setting against the Goulburn River was a real delight for lunch, which also providing a view of the historically significant Cremona concrete bridge in ruins, being built by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. (John Monash) in 1913.

Cremona Estate bridge in ruins. Photo: G.Long

After the second ride through the amazing Cheviot Tunnel, the final downhill section back towards Yea passed quickly for the riders. Arriving in Yea, this ended the group’s 77kms enjoyable day out riding that also helped in a small way to support the joint fundraiser for Rotary youth programs in the area.

Sunrise for School Students

With parents delivering bikes in cars or trailers, and children gathering together, the rural setting of Longlea’s Peppercorn Park was not the normal place for the Axedale Primary School’s Principle watching over her pupils. It was Thursday April 1st too, the last day before the school holiday break, so what was about to happen for these children, parents, teachers and members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail? Was it to be an April Fool’s joke, or something much more interesting?

With the time nearing 7.30am (daylight savings time) and the sun yet to rise, there was definitely a degree of excitement in the air for these children who were about to participate in this small rural school’s Ride2School activity using a section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Students gather at Peppercorn Park, Longlea. Photo: G.Long

After a final briefing that set out the ride rules, a line of riders headed off along the rail trail in the pre-dawn light. With differing ride abilities, these grades 3-6 children spread out in an orderly fashion as the sunrise created some magical images to be experienced.

Sunrise with Ride2School students on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G.Long

Some of the more confident riding children appeared very keen, perhaps to pass the two Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members who were ride leaders yet knowing that this was not permitted! While other riders filtered slowly towards the back of the group, to be encouraged and supported by parent and teacher riders. A short stop off at the trail’s ‘Axedale Station’ platform had the students exploring the inside area of the trail’s restored heritage railway wagon.

Students exploring the restored railway wagon. Photo: G. Ralton

As the Ride2School group neared the outskirts of the small town of Axedale, additional younger student riders from the lower grades then joined the ride to the finish this activity at the school. Hot toasted cheese sandwiches greeted the whole ride group, with many of the children very happy that they had finished this 8km ride. Listening to the students chatting, it was likely that bikes may have been a preferred choice of many during their school holiday break.

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.

Trail Signs for Reserves

What did you do on Friday 13th, perhaps nothing if you are superstitious! Yet six members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, plus one member from the Junortoun Community Action Group, were out on the O’Keefe Rail Trail on 13 Nov, installing place name signs.

With four public bushland reserves directly connected to the O’Keefe Rail Trail in the Junortoun and Axedale areas, most trail users would not know that such reserves existed. Those areas might have looked like a ‘bush block’, yet were they private property or public reserves?

Geoff Day (JCAG), Roy Speechley and Kevin Thiele (FBKRT) installing the signs Photo: Rob Jarvis

The Friends group approached the City of Greater Bendigo, highlighting the situation and seeking to have the council’s standard place name signs placed facing the rail trail at those public nature reserves. After consideration and investigation, the request was agreed to and the signs provided for installation. The signs were placed at the trail’s ‘Strathfieldsaye Station’ area, for the Junortoun Nature Reserve, at the Knul-doorong Woodland reserve (near Binks Rd and Somerset Park Rd), the Bennetts Rd Flora Reserve, and the trail’s ‘Axedale Station’ area of the Axedale Nature Conservation Reserve. With trail users now being well informed, its expected that these nature reserves are more likely to be explored and enjoyed.

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.