What’s a rail trail?
An old platform on the Lilydale-Warburton trail is a good spot for a rest. Photo: Helen Cronin
Officially rail trails are “shared used paths recycled from abandoned railway corridors. They can be used for walking, cycling and horse riding.” (Rail Trails Australia) But that’s only part of the story.
- Rail trails are quiet, in the main are car-free, corridors through some cities and country Australia.
- They have gentle gradients (trains don’t like steep hills, in common with many cyclists and walkers!).
- They often join small country towns, wineries, old pubs, B&Bs, bakeries in a tempting string of short hops.
Who uses the trails?
Where the railways once carried freight, groceries, people and news, rail trails are now carrying visitors. And they’re the kind of visitors who like to tread softly and take in the scenery.
Where are they?
There are trails all over Australia. Some of the more long-established and lengthy trails are popular destinations in themselves. The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail that runs between Wangaratta, Beechworth and Bright is a prime example. Closer to Melbourne is the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail.
The Bellarine Rail Trail runs alongside a working steam line between Drysdale and Queenscliffe. Photo: Helen Cronin
Trails bring both economic and environmental benefits and historical links to a region’s past. Indeed, the ghosts of railways can still be seen in bridges, cuttings, embankments and aerial photographs once you know what you’re looking for.
Working for new trails
Rail Trails Australia is a not-for-profit organisation working for the restoration of railway corridors for public use.
It’s part of a growing international movement to develop and promote rail trails.
And with each trail you’ll find a group of passionate locals who believe that following the spectral whistle of a steam train is the best way to see the region. That’s what the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail are all about.