Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

New Life for Trail Seats

For the first 20 years, the original Bendigo-Axedale section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail had just four aging ‘recovered’ bench seats installed in 1994, as the only trail user facilities.

When the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail was formed in 2009, these four old seats were continuing to decay, becoming unused and unattractive compared to the new quality seat/table facilities that were progressively being provided by the group.

Rather than remove these aging seats, a 2020 decision was made to refurbish them. An application was made to the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise’s 2020 Community Grant program, for funding of this refurbishment project. The grant application was subsequently successful and a grant was awarded.

Men at work, Roy & Lindsay doing the installation at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

This project has utilised a recycled plastic and fibre product (commercial name ‘Modwood’) as a replacement for the failed timber components. Within COVID19 restrictions, the Friends group’s Project Team set about installing this low maintenance repurposed product, whilst also giving the seat’s metal frames a fresh look.

Trail users Lonain and Georgie came along just at the right time, to try out one of the newly refurbished seats at the Axe Creek crossing. Photo: Les Lewis

The members of the Friends group would like to acknowledge and thank the Strathfieldsaye and District Community Enterprise for their support, allowing these trail facilities to be upgrading and available for users of this popular trail.

A Special Team Effort

On a sunny Bendigo winter’s morning, Peter the ‘Pilot’ and Alan the ‘Stoker’ set out to experience what such a Tuesday had to offer. Yet what were each of them about to do? Was Peter heading to the airport to fly a plane, and was Alan actually a train enthusiast about to fire up a steam loco at Maldon?

They were not heading off as individuals, because importantly they would be as one cycling team due to Alan having a condition, he is vision impaired.

With final checks ensuring that Alan’s off-road tandem bike was in full readiness for the ride, Alan stepped into the rear ‘stokers’ seat and then Peter was into the important ‘pilot’ role at the front. They then set off from Lake Weeroona, with a plan to cycle from Bendigo to Axedale via the O’Keefe Rail Trail and return, a total distance of 44kms.

Alan with the tandem bike, at the trail’s ‘Axedale Railway Station’. Photo: Peter

During the ride at various times, Peter would verbally provide key ride information, while both pedaled and shared in the beauty of being out immersed in the trail’s natural environment whilst in safety away from the highway road traffic. Even though the trail continued on to Heathcote, of course such a ride would not have been complete without a rest stop at their planned half way turn around point, at the Axedale Tavern for coffee and cake.

Alan and Peter enjoy a coffee break at the Coffee House, Axedale Tavern. Photo: Peter

Later, with the ride over and the pair back in Bendigo, they noted that their total moving ride time had been 2hrs 15mins at an average speed of 19.6kph! Upon reflection, Peter described the day as “A fantastic ride, the trail was very well sign posted in both directions, the people we met made us welcome, and the track surface is very good plus wide enough for safe passing.”

“Peter is a skilled rider, and his friendship is much appreciated” stated Alan, with a smile. “The Tavern’s service was excellent, the coffee enjoyed, and the staff were very friendly,” plus Alan also adding, “this ride had me truly feeling alive and I hope that we can do it again soon.”

Trail Towns TV visits Rail Trail

The producers of a new TV series Trail Towns (coming to SBS later in 2020) visited Bendigo to experience what the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail had to offer.

Trail Towns rolls into town!

After visiting some of Bendigo’s querky cafes and laneways, Paul and Deetz were impressed by riding through the rail trail’s historic brick ‘tunnel’ railway underpass. Heading eastwards, after 20kms the riders then took some time off the bikes at Axedale, to check out the amazing charm of the Axedale Tavern.

Following some rehydration for the next 30kms ahead, the riders were then immersed in the natural environment of Campaspe River reserve, before riding onwards towards the trail’s crossing of Lake Eppalock.

Trail destination Heathcote

Cycling through forests and cruising past wineries, the exploring group diverted into Heathcote’s Palling Bros Brewery to end what said to have been a fantastic trail experience. “We’ll definately be back!” said Deetz.

Paul and Deetz at Palling Bros Brewery

https://www.facebook.com/trailtownstv/videos/304878334042064/?d=null&vh=e

Heathcote, the Hub of Trails

Thinking about visiting Heathcote, Victoria for a day or weekend, yet wondering if there are enough opportunities locally to cycle or walk? Well if you are looking for some serious challenges, then choose the access road to Mount Ida to cycle up, take in the views, and then do the down hill ride! Or put the boots on to do a spot of bush walking in the same area, capped off with panoramic views.

Apart from the many forest tracks in the One Eye Forest or Heathcote-Graytown National Park, perhaps you are looking for something a little more relaxing, closer to a brewery, a winery cellar door, a cafe or a bakery? Then there are five (5) local close-to-town trails, which are provided with helpful way-finding signage.

Heathcote’s Trail Map, at the O’Keefe Rail Trail head, Herriot St. Photo: G.Long

Can’t decide whether to do the Liquid Amber Trail, the McIvor Creek Trail, the Pink Cliffs Trail, the Viewing Rock Trail, or the O’Keefe Rail Trail (doing a local section, or further to Lake Eppalock/Axedale/Bendigo)? Then do them all within one visit, or the return trip to Heathcote! Details and directions related to these trails can be viewed on street located maps (e.g. at the rail trail head in Herriot St, or in High St), otherwise chat to the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centres in Heathcote and Bendigo.

World Bicycle Day

We may not be able to ride together as ‘normal’* during these uncertain times, but we can still

stay connected through our love of bike riding.

Jump on your bike Wednesday 3rd June for #WorldBicycleDay and send through a snap of your ride to show that we are a nation of bike riders. #JustRide #BicycleNetwork – https://bit.ly/2WLTnpB

*Note: As of 1 June, riding in groups up to 20 riders is allowed in Victoria (refer Dept of Health https://bit.ly/2M54rbr For other States, please refer to that State’s Health Dept COVID19 advice)

Temporary Trail Detour

Planning to cycle or walk along the O’Keefe Rail Trail during Monday 1 June and Tuesday 2 June, whether for commuting or out for some exercise with friends? If your plans include one particular section of the trail in the East Bendigo area……then that section may be…….

A section of trail between Bobs St and Murphy St (adjacent to the Bendigo Railway Workshops [BRW/SSR] and the nearby former East Bendigo school) will be impacted by drainage works being carried in that area. These works will be dependent upon weather conditions.

Trail users are asked to observe closure signs, and to choose alternate routes such as via Murphy St-Powell St-Bobs St while these works are being conducted by City of Greater Bendigo’s contractor. With significant increases in trail user traffic currently highlighting the popularity of this rail trail, patience and understanding will be appreciated.

Stay well, stay safe while enjoying what this popular rail trail has to offer.

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.