Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

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.

 

Reflecting upon the Past and the Present

Being able to take time out, while out exercising and exploring the O’Keefe Rail Trail, to reflect upon elements of history and also more recent rail trail activity is one of the options currently available to trail users.

O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “The Timber Line”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long

With eleven (11) interpretive signs placed at various locations along the rail trail, these signs show reflective historical photos that allow the stories about the former railway’s connections to ‘come to life’. Past activities like wood cutting, loading hay or testing of locally manufactured guns of war, plus more recent links with the rail trail’s development, can take a reader back into a different place in time!

O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “Marking the Distance”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long

These signs were an initiative of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group, assisted by funding provided by the City of Greater Bendigo. The collaborative project team of Friends members and Council staff appreciated the support and material provided by various public members and historical sources, to achieve this overall quality outcome.

O’Keefe Rail Trail interpretive sign “Serving the Military”. March 2020. Photo. Garry Long

Some of the researched and selected historic photos plus related information now on display, would not have been readily available previously for viewing by the general public.

 

New Railway Attraction on the O’Keefe Rail Trail

The impact that the Victorian Railways had on the economies of many small communities, as well as the larger cities during the 20th century, can easily be overlooked. Not only did the railways provide important transportation of freight and people, the government owned ‘VR’ railways also provided large employment across the State.

The three main Victorian Railway workshops were located at Newport Melbourne, North Ballarat and North Bendigo, which employed large numbers of people e.g. the VR Bendigo workshops employed a total of 720 in 1966.

One of the vehicles of rolling stock manufactured and used by the VR was the all-steel 22-ton capacity 4-wheel open wagon, of which a total of 6320 were constructed between 1939 and 1958 in Victoria, NSW, and UK. With only a very small number of these GY and HY type wagons now remaining, one such wagon HY16625 (GY16625R) has recently been restored.

HY16102 circa 1950. Official VR photo (refer www.victorianrailway.net)

As the only public static heritage railway display now in the Bendigo area, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group funded the ‘display’ restoration of HY16625 wagon by BRW Bendigo. On completion of the restoration, the wagon was recently relocated back onto the O’Keefe Rail Trail, at the recreated ‘Axedale Railway Station’ Axedale. This is now the only publicly accessible railway static display in the Greater Bendigo area.

The HY16625 Wagon Committee- Ken Hanson, Lindsay Clay, Rob Jarvis. 4/03/2020. Photo: Garry Long

A history of the Victorian Railway’s HY-GY wagon, and specifically the wagon HY16625, can be read on the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail web’s Railway History tab.

Seek Alternative Route

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.

Plan ahead during COVID19 Restrictions

For local residents using the O’Keefe Rail Trail for exercise during the COVID19 restrictions, you do need to plan ahead. This is in regards to accessing drinking water whilst out on the trail. With the available water stations located at Lake Weeroona Bendigo, Bennetts Rd Longlea, Axedale Park Axedale and Heathcote now having warning signs placed on them by council, these signs indicate not to use these stations for drinking water during the current restrictions.

O'Keefe Rail Trail water station notice 2 Apr 2020 Photo: Les Lewis

O’Keefe Rail Trail water station notice. 2 Apr 2020 Photo: Les Lewis

Therefore O’Keefe Rail Trail users are encouraged to take sufficient water with you, for the whole duration while out exercising along this trail.

Bicycle Network has the following advice for bike riding. This advice was last updated on Wednesday 1 April 2020 and assumes that you are not sick or self-isolating. Guidelines can also vary from state to state.

  • You can go for a ride by yourself, with one other person, or with people that you live with. You should adhere to physical distancing guidelines and stay 1.5 metres apart if riding with someone you don’t live with.
  • Do not go on any group, organised training or bunch rides.
  • In some states it is now an offence to ride in groups and you can be fined by police, as per prohibited gatherings rules or stay at home guidelines.
  • Riding a bike to the supermarket, chemist or work is ok and a good thing to do. We should be limiting our trips away from home, so consider going for a longer ride and finishing at the shops or work so you get the 30 minutes of exercise adults need each day (for children and young people it’s 60 minutes of activity).
  • If you’re working from home and going for a ride to get your daily exercise you should avoid stopping and be mindful of where you place your helmet, glasses, gloves etc. Keep them with your bike or on your person rather than placing them down somewhere.
  • When you return from a ride, wash your hands thoroughly and wipe down your bike, helmet and any gear.
  • Keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from any other person you see while out on your bike.

If you’re self-isolating and feeling well, set up a stationary bike with an indoor trainer if you’ve got one.

Trail Improvements for User Safety

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.

Upgraded trail section, Taig Rd Axedale. Mar 2020. Photo G. Long

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.

Trail improvements – water channel crossing. Axedale Mar 2020. Photo G.Long

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.

COVID19 Restrictions while Exercising

The COVID19 restrictions in Australia have impacted certain activities, such as closing outdoor gyms and boot camps etc. Public gatherings are being restricted, refer Department of Health for the latest information for your State.

Communities are being asked to stay at home where possible, except for essential activities like obtaining food and employment commitments. For the health and wellbeing of individuals, daily exercise is being encouraged while social distancing is being observed. Many will be asking themselves where can they exercise locally, while maintaining at least the 1.5m separation required?

Increasing numbers of family members and individuals are choosing to cycle, walk or run in their local neighbourhood, large public recreation areas and along trails. Like many, Justin and Brianna Maddern decided their local O’Keefe Rail Trail was a safe place, a means for their family to exercise in a natural environment.

The Maddern Family out exercising, O’Keefe trail. Photo G.Long 28 Mar 2020

Crossing the rail trail’s Axe Creek bridge while running at pace, Justin had his daughter Lilah peddling hard in keeping up with her dad, while mum Brianna was cycling with their daughter Sylvie tucked into the bike’s child seat enjoying the family’s activity.

Cycling on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. 28 March 2020. Photo G.Long

Cycling couples and individuals were being observed on the O’Keefe trail, while social distancing is easily able to take place on this popular trail. Take-away coffee facilities for trail users at Junortoun (McIvor Hwy crossing), Axedale and Heathcote add to the experience, perhaps as a well earned rest stop for some!

Of course the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail encourage first time and regular users of O’Keefe Rail Trail to provide feedback of their experience. This feedback can be easily be provided using the on-line O’Keefe Rail Trail User Feedback form, which may only take less than 10 minutes of your time.

Stay in touch, stay well

While these are unstable times, it is important to stay in touch with your friends and community.

With restrictions due to the COVID19 virus, people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus. While it is important to stay informed, the following are some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and each other during these difficult times.

Manage your exposure to media coverage as this can increase feelings of fear and anxiety

Follow a “calm yet cautious” approach – do you best to remain calm and be mindful not to contribute to the widespread panic

Show compassion and kindness to one another – these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty are when it is most important that we strengthen our sense of community by connecting with and supporting each other

Actively manage your wellbeing by maintaining routines where possible, connect with family and friends (even if not in person), staying physically active, eating nutritious foods and seeking additional support as required.

Keep in touch with Friends of Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail news posts. One means of being up-to-date is to enter your email address on the home page, click ‘Follow’ (then acknowledge sent email) and you will be emailed a brief alert when each news article is posted on-line (otherwise how would you know?). Wondering how do you do this, where do you enter your email address? See below –

How to stay alert of Friends of Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail web ‘News’ posts – Home page

Uncertain about the various tabs on the Friends of Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail web page? Most have a drop down menu, so do explore each of these –

Home page and tab functions highlighted

Looking for your rail trail feedback!

Perhaps you have just discovered what many have known about for years, the attractive O’Keefe Rail Trail in central Victoria! Yet there are also those who live in the local area and often think “I must check out the O’Keefe trail one day!”

Well as a local, who doesn’t need to undertake any unnecessary travel, perhaps now is the time to do just that. Pull on your walking shoes, or dust off that bike in the shed and head out onto the O’Keefe for some exercise or soak up the natural atmosphere. Then after having a take-away coffee, could you give some feedback on your experience of using this fantastic public recreation facility?

Click on this LINK (the same as is on this web’s home page) and complete the O’Keefe Rail Trail User Feedback survey, it may only take you about 5-10 minutes! We would love to hear from you, so that our community group can better understand the trail, about what you enjoyed, and ideas that you think will improve experiences in the future.