Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Funding for Trail Supports Tourism

Community determination and fund raising efforts has paid dividends, with the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail being the beneficiary of a feasibility report grant. The Victorian government’s Enabling Tourism Fund will invest $120,000, adding to locally committed funds, to enable an investigation into the proposed 55km rail trail.

Both the Mount Alexander Shire and Central Goldfields Shire had both previously committed study funding for this proposed trail located within both municipalities, which was then matched by the on-line fund raising efforts driven by the community group Friends of the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail.

The Bendigo Advertiser 11 June 2022 edition (page 7)

With the proposed trail to connect the towns of Castlemaine, Campbells Creek, Guildford, Newstead, Carisbrook and Maryborough, the economic tourism benefits for those town’s businesses will be one of the feasibility study’s critical matters to be investigated. The popularity of walking and cycling by local community members, as well as the growing active tourist market being attracted to regional areas, are both positive factors in favour of this rail trail’s development.

Exciting times are ahead for this proposed trail, which can be attributed to the continuing efforts of key individuals being supported by the local councils and communities.

Riders, Railway Bridges and Country Pubs

Getting up close to inspiring old timber railway bridges and enjoying a country pub lunch were just some of the experiences that riders had, while on the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group’s monthly ride for May.

Not only did the Tooborac to Pyalong ride’s route include sections of the former railway alignment that the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail may utilise, it also had the riders walking up ‘Gut Busters Hill’ on Basin Hill Road. Yes they walked, as it was so steep that no one managed to ride all the way to the top!! Ride leader Lindsay Clay summarised that achievement by commenting “What a beautiful view it is from here!”

Riders viewing the Hayes Creek railway bridge. Photo: Greg Ralton

Some of the other many points of interest experienced along the way were the impressive Mollison Creek ‘trestle’ railway bridge, the deep railway cutting with its pink cliffs south of Mollison Ck, and the Hayes Ck timber railway bridge just south of Pyalong.

Riders near the Mollison Creek railway bridge, Pyalong. Photo: David Atkinson

Former Mitchell Shire councillor David Atkinson was one of the riders enjoying this ride and commented on the Hayes Creek bridge. “Most of us had never seen that amazing bridge before, as it is so hidden from the Northern Hwy” said David.

The riders re-fuelled at the Pyalong Hotel for lunch, and shared stories with publican Scott about how fantastic the ride from Tooborac to Pyalong had been, and what important attractions Pyalong has with those two historic timber railway bridges. Scotty didn’t take up the chance to join the ride back to Tooborac, yet for the others there was the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery as the optional next experience!!

Community Walk Marks Trail

Community members shared a special goal with an historic walk to mark a section of the proposed Castlemaine to Maryborough Rail Trail. The walk took place along the closed former Castlemaine to Maryborough railway, between Guildford and Strangways.

Walkers on the impressive railway road bridge, Guildford. Photo: Supplied by CM.RT

The walk was a partnership between Castlemaine to Maryborough Rail Trail community group (CM.RT) and the Great Dividing Rail Association (GDTA). Co-founder of GCTA Professor Barry Golding said “There are huge opportunities created by this trail. Sustainable rail trails need funding to get started, but most of all they need committed people to do the ‘hard yards’, which CMRT can build on as a result of this walk.” The Shires of Mt Alexander and Central Goldfields have both given financial support for a trail feasibility study matching a CM.RT crowd funded community contribution. The combined local funds have enabled an application being made to secure a $120,000 State Government tourism grant for the trail study. An announcement on that application is expected soon.

The unveiled historic marker at Strangways. Photo: Supplied by CM.RT

During the walk, Mt Alexander Shire’s Cr. Matt Driscoll unveiled an historic marker at Strangways. This consisting of a weathered grey box marker with a simple plaque, set on public land and Dja Dja Wurrung country near the intersection of the Newstead-Guildford Rd and Strangways School Rd. This location is less than 100 metres from the Loddon River.

The plaque acknowledges the walk, and states the intention for the disused rail corridor to become a rail trail. More details about the walk, including photos and videos, can be found via this link (https://cmrailtrail.org.au/guildford-strangways-walk-2022/).

Trail Upgrade Works in Progress

Notice for all O’Keefe Rail Trail users. Trail upgrade works are underway in the section Bennetts Rd to Hodges Lane in Junortoun.

Please obey warning signs, respect any directional requests being made by the contractor’s staff, as well as being aware and respectful of machinery.

The time frame for this work is from Thursday 19 May, and the completion is expected to be by Friday 27 May (weather permitting).

Night Ride Lights Up the O’Keefe Rail Trail

The O’Keefe Challenge’s ‘Light The Trail’ 2022 night ride event saw riders being able to choose two distances to cycle after dark, both utilising the O’Keefe Rail Trail on Friday 13 May. One option was the full Bendigo to Heathcote distance of 50kms, while the more popular was an Axedale to High St Heathcote that had those riders cycling 27.5kms.

With rain threatening during the day, the night riders were still keen to be judged on the best presented bike and colourful cyclist’s outfit as they waiting at the start lines. While coloured lights were decorating bikes and riders, brighter lights showed riders a clear way ahead along the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Riders and light beams cross the O’Keefe Rail Trail bridge, Knowsley.

The final destination for all riders was Heathcote, and the finishing rider’s celebrations were held at Palling Bros Brewery that included a free BBQ meal and a live band performance.

The end of the ‘Light The Trail’ ride.

Some of the event’s riders who started from Bendigo extended their experience, by staying in Heathcote accommodation overnight. Then after a Saturday morning breakfast, the group rode the rail trail’s 50kms back to Bendigo. Those riders were definitely well prepared to enjoy all of what the event had to offer, while celebrating the success of the final O’Keefe Challenge event for 2022!

Marathon and More Run Rail Trail

Crowds watched the finish of the O’Keefe Challenge running events on Sunday 1 May in Heathcote’s Barrack Reserve, as event runners arrived from the Marathon (42.195kms), Half Marathon, 10km Run, 5km Run/Walk, 1km Kids Dash and a 500m Superhero Kids Dash to cross the finish line. These events had increased numbers of entrants, and were designed to cater for all levels of fitness and experience.

Runners of all fitness levels participated in the various events. Photo: AJTaylor Images, Photos of Bendigo

All events celebrated fitness, natural environments, and the community spirit of the Heathcote region, while raising funds for the Heathcote Dementia Village Project. The O’Keefe Rail Trail was again considered an excellent route and running surface for the Marathon and Half Marathon events, with many runners achieving their personal bests.

Ekiden Relay’s Team ‘Very Dangerous Over Short Distances’ came 7th(3:52:10). Photo: AJTaylor Images Photos of Bendigo

The first placed Marathon male runner across the Barrack Reserve finish line was Jamie Cook (time 2:32:38) and the first female runner was Erchana Murray-Bartlett (time 3:15:35). The Half Marathon event saw male runner Andrew Carey (1:14:22) and female entrant Kimberly Egan (1:36:40) cross the finish line to loud applause. Full event results can be found at https://bit.ly/39ld2FQ. Event photos can be obtained from Marathon Event Photos of Bendigo.

Explored the Forest in Maiden Gully

Well away from road traffic, exploring off-road forest tracks as well as the site of a former historic eucalyptus oil distillery, members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail enjoying this and more during their ‘Last Wednesday of the Month” ride activity in April.

Gathering in Maiden Gully, the nine members headed out on their bikes into the Bendigo Regional Park using made forest tracks. One of the points of interest to observe was where the Bullock Creek begins, a large dam and the remains of a former distillery. Some riders chose e-bikes for the ride, which enabled all to enjoy the varied natural scenery together.

The remains of the distillery being inspected by the group. Photo: Judy McLaren

Of course these monthly rides inevitably end with taking time out to socially review the ride over a coffee. So after riding a total of 21kms, it was time to park the bikes and place orders at the Maiden Gully bakery. The next Wednesday ride activity will be held on Wednesday 25 May.

Glow In the Dark Rail Trail!

The City of Greater Bendigo is trialling the installation of photoluminescent (glow in the dark) line marking along a section of the Bendigo Creek Trail as well as a connecting short asphalt section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, in partnership with the Department of Transport.

O”Keefe Rail Trail gets photoluminescent line marking. Photo: Garry Long

City of Greater Bendigo Engineering Manager Ian McLauchlan said “This new line marking product looks and functions like ordinary line marking in daylight but emits stored light which enhances its visibility when dark.”

It is believed that photoluminescent line-marking may provide a cost-effective solution to assist users to safely navigate pathways in low light and night-time conditions. The council will be evaluating the success of this trial, to see if this product can be used for safety purposes in other parts of Greater Bendigo in the future.

O’Keefe Rail Trail Attracts Funding

The City of Greater Bendigo council’s proposed 2022/2023 Budget has been made public for community feedback. In a media release by the council’s Mayor and CEO, this included a statement that “The proposed Budget includes a car park and toilet at Longlea Lane on the O’Keefe Rail Trail…”

Council has indicated that “The project will detail design and construct a 16 vehicle gravel carpark, 2 accessible & unisex toilets, shelter, seating, bike racks and a rainwater tank for community members to rest or begin their journey along the O’Keefe Rail Trail.”

City of Greater Bendigo’s media release

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group have been seeking council’s support for such a trail facility for a number of years, which is due in part to the popularity of the trail’s Longlea location. While it is indicated that this project is being allocated $250,000, council now seeks community feedback on its whole proposed budget, before a final version of the budget is adopted at council’s 20th June meeting. Feedback (and support for this O’Keefe Rail Trail project) can be made via Let’s Talk Greater Bendigo (https://bit.ly/36FQ9f6) until 5pm on Monday 16th May.

A Big Challenge happening on the O’Keefe Rail Trail

With the O’Keefe Challenge events to be held on the 29th Apr and 1st May, training efforts are gaining pace as marathon runners focus on the O’Keefe Rail Trail for results.

To assist with this event’s planning, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members have been identifying trail sections in need of maintenance, such as trail surface repairs as well as bridge decking. Working closely with the City of Greater Bendigo council, this cooperation has recently seen council’s contractors undertake upgrading works along the older Bendigo-Axedale section plus a section within the Heathcote urban area.

O’Keefe Rail Trail maintenance works in progress. Photo: Garry Long

The O’Keefe Challenge events will not only showcase this popular rail trail to entrants and visitors, the event’s generated funds will be directed to the Heathcote Dementia Alliance for its efforts in establishing the proposed Heathcote Dementia Village.

Whether a serious marathon runner, a 5 km run or walk participant or a cyclist attracted by the excitement of the ‘Light the Trail’ night ride event, all participants will appreciate having community volunteers manning the Aid Stations and as road marshals. The volunteers will be there to ensure the entrant’s safety, provide support, plus possibly helping them to achieve their personal goals.

Additional volunteers are still required for the Sunday 1st May events, so for spending just a couple of hours of your time will make a whole lot of difference for conducting the events. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Judy on hello@theokeefe.com.au or 0400390381, with your offer to be available.

Event registrations are still open, and can be made on-line at https://www.theokeefe.com.au