Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail!

Where will it go?

The original ‘cross country’ railway left the North Eastern (Melbourne to Wodonga) railway line at Heathcote Junction, and snaked its way through Kilmore to Heathcote and onto Bendigo (or Sandhurst as it was then known).

The O’Keefe Rail Trail is located on a section of that former railway, between Bendigo and Heathcote, for a total distance of approximately 50kms.

The proposal is for the O’Keefe trail to be linked to a new trail, named the ‘Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail’. Together both would span a total of 127 kms connecting Wallan, Heathcote Junction, Wandong, Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac and Heathcote.

Representing sections of the community, the Friends group and the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group (MBUG) have put forward that the proposed trail follow as closely as possible to the original railway alignment. Such may not always be possible, to follow the original route exactly, as parts of the original alignment are now privately owned or the land use has changed. So it is expected that such a trail could include some diversions, which is not an uncommon feature of developing rail trails.

Where’s all that in relation to Melbourne?

Just to put this into perspective, the map below shows central Victoria in relation to Melbourne. With proposing to have a rail trail between Heathcote and Wallan, such a trail would be less than 30kms distance from the existing Craigeburn’s Galade Tamboore Trail connection to the Merri Ck Trail and the whole Melbourne trail network. With the future planned extension of the Merri Creek Trail towards Wallan in the urban growth strategy, this could make an off-road connection from Melbourne to this rail trail even closer!

Networking to other trails

Networking the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail with other trails, such as the Great Victorian Rail Trail at Tallarook (just south of Seymour on this map), the Murchison to Rushworth (Waranga) Rail Trail/ Heathcote to Murchison Trail, the Goldfields Track (Victoria), the Bendigo Bushland Trail, and of course the O’Keefe Rail Trail, is an important strategic consideration. The Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail is the ‘missing spine’ connection to a great network of regional Victorian trails (refer map).

Regional Victorian Off-Road Trail Network. Graphics: Rob Jarvis

Trail Feasibility Study

A funded feasibility study, looking at the proposals for a Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail and networking this with other trails, was formally completed in December 2017. This report was then considered by the Mitchell Shire Council on 19th March 2018, with the Mayor Rhonda Sanderson saying that this rail trail is seen as being visionary for the Mitchell Shire Council’s community, business economy and walking/cycling tourism. The Council adopted the report, and indicated that a Trail Working Group would be formed to consider matters raised by some of the private landowners of the former railway reserve. The City of Greater Bendigo council has supported the study’s report recommendations. The proposed trail now awaits funding commitment from the State and possibility Federal governments, to progress the development either as a whole or in stages.

From the Past, A Vision for the Future

The former railway embankment, a possible rail trail alignment? Photo: Les Lewis

A section of the former railway embankment, perfect for a future rail trail! Photo: Les Lewis

With 95% of this proposed trail being within the Mitchell Shire area, and 5% in the City of Greater Bendigo area, this proposed trail would become a significant community recreational facility within all three wards of the Mitchell Shire. Connecting Tooborac township to the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Heathcote would link together the Heathcote Wine Region, to be perhaps be marketed as a ‘Wine and Beer Trail’ being linked to the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery! Having a significant tourism potential, being very close to the Melbourne trail network at Craigieburn as well as being close to the Great Victorian Rail Trail at Tallarook, the economic impacts cannot be overlooked with this ‘missing spine’ linking a future off-trail network in regional Victoria.

A future possible linking alignment for a rail trail? Photo: Les Lewis

Will this tract of public land become part of a future ‘missing spine’ rail trail in the Wallan area? Photo: Les Lewis

 

A future that could have you, friends and family doing an off-road trail ride or a walk between Brunswick and Bendigo, maybe Williamstown and Wandong or even between Hawthorn and Heathcote, as an ‘urban escape’ recreational option!! Many will be holding their breath in anticipation!

5 responses to “Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail!

  1. Rod Apr 26, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Fantastic concept. Interested in the progress and outcomes of the trail working group.

  2. Patrick May 17, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I would love to see the O’Keefe rail trail “extension from Bendigo to Kilmore”. I do hope the extension gets funded by the local council.

    Im really looking forward to Mountain Biking on the O’Keefe rail trail, early Spring this year. Can’t Wait 🙂

    • bendigokilmore May 20, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks for your comments Patrick. Our community group continues to advocate for a ‘Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, to assist individual businesses, farmers and landowners to understand the positive benefits that such a trail brings to local towns and their communities. Also the group members seek to allay any concerns that some landowners may have towards trails. as well as attracting funding from levels of Government for such a trail development. Look forward to your direct support, where possible.

  3. Scott Ryan Apr 4, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Has any proposed rail work for link between Heathcote to kilmore started ?

    • bendigokilmore Apr 5, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for your question Scott. One part of the work that our community group has been undertaking is to encourage the Mitchell Shire Council to establish a Rail Trail Working Group that it promised in March 2018, yet still has not been implemented. Otherwise, no ‘physical’ work in relation to this proposed trail has been undertaken between Heathcote and Kilmore to date.

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