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O'Keefe Rail Trail - Trail Description

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Trail

O'Keefe Rail Trail

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Type: Rail trail
Location: East of Bendigo, 150km from Melbourne
Start/end: Bendigo (Lake Weeroona) to Axedale
Status: Open
Length open: 27km
Surface: Fine gravel
Terrain: Gentle gradients to flat
Best seasons: Spring
Public transport: Train, Coach
Contact Region: Northern Victoria
The only original bridge on the outskirts of Bendigo (2009)
The only original bridge on the outskirts of Bendigo (2009)
Suitable for walking Suitable for cycling mountain bikes Suitable for cycling touring hybrid bikes Suitable for horse riding
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Details

Features

  • Relatively flat rail trail traversing box-ironbark and yellow gum woodland
  • Trail surface is a mix of asphalt sections (townships) and rolled fine to course gravel in the other areas. The trail was significantly upgraded in 2013 and is being further upgraded in 2014. For cycling, the trail surface overall is currently most suitable for MTB or hybrid bikes.
  • Horses are permitted though no formal bridal way currently exists. Horse riders are reminded to use walking pace only and, where possible, not to ride on the upgraded trail surface in those sections.

  • A major upgrade of the trail is currently funded and underway, which includes a trail extension from Axedale to Heathcote (2010-2014).

Options

  • There are two alternative return routes. One is along frest tracks through box-ironbark woodland, a main road and the One Tree Hill Regional Park. The second is via Sugarloar Rd, Wellsford State Forest, Pratts Park Rd (see www.bendigokilmorerailtrail.com).
  • Explore the 65km Bendigo Bushland Trail by bike or on foot. Map from Bendigo Visitor Information centre.
  • The Bendigo Creek Trail transects urban Bendigo, from Epsom in the north to Kangaroo Flat in the south. Map signs along the way.
  • Whipstick and Kamarooka State Parks are just north of Bendigo. Both have good short walks and forest cycle trails.
  • For various rides in the Bendigo area, www.cycleatlas.com/bendigo.

Description

Access Points

  • Bendigo - At the north western end of Lake Weeroona, off Weeroona Ave, car parking is available. Cafe and other facilities are around the lake area. Bendigo station is 3km to the south.
  • East Bendigo - At Pratts Park Rd (car parking is available on Rifle Range Rd).
  • Junortoun - A rail trail car park is provided off Wikie Rd
  • Longlea - Peppercorn Park off Longlea Lane
  • Axedale - High St at the Axedale Public Hall, car parking , playgrounds and public toilets.

North Bendigo to Axedale (23km)

  • From Lake Weeroona, follow the Bendigo Creek Trail north to a 'T' intersection and turn right to begin the O'Keefe Rail Trail.  Cross the Midland Highway with care and go through the brick-lined culvert under the Bendigo–Echuca railway line.
  • The Bendigo Bushland Trail crosses the rail trail at Markovitch Lane.
  • At the 4km point a trail branches to the north (to the former Department of Defence ammunition storage facility, 'Rangelea' siding), so follow signs for the main trail.
  • Take care crossing the McIvor highway next to the Baptist Church at Junortoun.
  • Pass the former 'Strathfieldsaye' railway station site, noting the new replica sign.
  • After 12km is Axe Creek, with its new at-grade bridge. A place to have a picnic.
  • Next is the former Longlea railway station site (now named Peppercorn Park).
  • After crossing Taig Road, the trail passes the former Axedale Railway Station, then over the Hargreaves Creek and arrives at the Axedale Racecourse Station with its reconstructed platform facing wall.
  • The trail now diverts off the original railway alignment, to follow a newly constructed trail into the Axedale township, via an asphalt section, for water, toilet facilities, the General Store and Axedale Tavern.
  • Continue on the trail's urban asphalt path, within street reserves, down to the River Reserve area on the Campaspe River frontage.

There are plenty of wildflowers including orchids in bloom in spring. Axe Creek bridge is a good place for a picnic.

Sites of former stations are marked on the map. Generally little remains of most of them, though the Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail are erecting signs and are recreating sections to add to the experience of the rail trail.

Axedale to Heathcote (26km)

There is funding to extend the trail from Axedale to Heathcote and significant developments are occuring in 2014.

  • The path follows an underpass under McIvor Hwy and then (north of the highway) crosses a rail trail bridge over the Campaspe River.
  • The path meets Ingham Rd, which is a very quiet road. Turn left into Ingam Rd and follow the road until shortly before the McIvor Hwy. Follow the trail, crossing Brownes Lane, until you cross the McIvor Hwy near Toollen Axedale Rd.
  • The path is being extended to the edge of the Knowsley Forest in April 2014.

The section of the trail within Heathcote has also been opened (approximately 3.2 km between Speed Street and Pink Cliffs Road). 

Background Information

This line was built in 1888 by Andrew O'Keefe to link Bendigo and Heathcote.  From here the line continued to Heathcote Junction, near Wallan, on the North Eastern main line. The Heathcote - Bendigo section of that line closed in 1958 (as the construction of Lake Eppalock reservior was taking place)  This lightly-trafficked branch line was then completely closed by 1968.

The first section of a rail trail between Bendigo and Axedale was opened in 1993 (by former Shire of Strathfieldsaye Council), the second stage constructed and opened in 1999 (by current City of Greater Bendigo Council),  though like its former railway it was basic affair with rough surface and many low level crossings. 

The potential was there though, and in 2009 the Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail was formed by locals to lobby for the extension of the rail trail and advise the councils.  In 2010, the Bendigo Council and Victorian Government committed to a significant upgrade of the rail trail including installing bridges on the Axedale section, and extending it a further 26 km to Heathcote.

There is also interest in converting more of this former railway into a rail trail, between Heathcote and Kilmore, Wandong and Wallan, connecting with the railway passenger service between Melbourne to Wodonga and also the Hume Freeway. Wallan is but a short distance then to Craigeburn and the Melbourne trail network.

Links

The trail is managed by the City of Greater Bendigo. Refer to their website below to report any issues.

http://www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/

Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail have been very active in developments on this rail trail.

Bendigo Tourism website. The Bendigo Visitor Information Centre is located in Pall Mall, Bendigo.

March 2014

To advertise your rail trail support business on this page, please click here.

Contact Us About This Trail

Email or click here: vic-north@railtrails.org.au.

Photos
Comments

Comments

4 comments
April 15, 2014 by VinceB

My wife and I decided to traverse the O'Keefe trail on a sunny day in April. We drove up from Melbourne and so decided to start at Axedale and parked at the public hall where there are very clean toilets. According to this website the trail was 27kms long and so had not planned to do it up and back the whole way. I rode a touring bike and my wife a slick tired hybrid. We found that although we managed ok felt that mountain bikes would have been more appropriate. The first 8 or so KM from Axedale were pretty rough but got significantly better after that. The website said that there was a picnic area near the bridge at 12 kms from Bendigo and so thought that would be 15 kms from Axedale. We asked a local at this point for directions and were surprised that the bridge we had past a few Kms from Axedale was it. The local also said that at 15kms we only had a few to go! At this point we turned around anyway. The actual trail itself is ok if you like dry Aussie scrub. Its not spectacular but the old railway sites are a feature.

July 10, 2013 by Delvin

Over from the UK staying with family in Bendigo. I needed to do some cycling training for an event later in August and saw the O'Keefe trail advertised on Google. Borrowed a mountain bike , found the start point on Google Earth and off to Axedale starting from Bendigo. The sign posting is excellent and makes it very easy to follow the trail. The surface is ideal for a mountain bike, although a hybrid with not so skinny tyres would cope. The gradient is typical of old railway lines so don't expect to either freewheel or struggle up hills. For me from the UK the scenery is typically Australian but I like it! Met some great blokes at the Axedale end of the trail who were working on the new sign, and they took the time to explain the origins of the trail and the work they have been doing. They suggested having a look at the Bendigo Creek Trail when I got back to Bendigo which I did , and enjoyed that, although I only managed a part of that before running out of time, and needed to go back to family matters. The O'Keefe trail seems to me to be ideal for families, children, and anybody else who just wants to get off the beaten track but in a safe and controlled manner. I can thoroughly recommend this route!

May 20, 2013 by gnlong

Updates to comments made by AndiJ (16/12/2012) 1. Referring to the township of Axedale facilities, these are currently the Axedale Tavern (drinks, meals, coffee etc), and Axedale General Store (food etc, plus fuel), plus a new public toilet facility completed next to the rail trail in the Axedale Hall reserve. 2. As of May 2013, the trail starts/end in Axedale River Reserve Campaspe River (access via Williams St), yet this will change soon with the current construction of a new trail bridge over this river plus an underpass under the McIvor Hwy in Axedale River Reserve. There is a new replica railway 'Axedale Racecourse Platform' to be viewed, that has been completed next to the trail. 3. Regarding AndiJ's comments about trail surface being "....rough" and "rocky outcrops", many of these sections that were experienced have now be upgraded in 2013, to "splendid rolled gravel" surfaces, especially in the Junortoun area. More trail maintenance upgrades are planned in 2013-14. 4. Where the trail meets Napier St/ Midland Highway in Bendigo/White Hills, trail users need to cross over this highway to the remainder of the trail (that is directly opposite, now with a sign) rather than using Weeroona Ave as AndiJ mentioned. The remainder of O'Keefe trail's asphalt surface section opposite then connects directly with the Bendigo Creek Trail. NOTE: Crossing the Midland Highway should be carried out with care. An improved cycle/walk crossing at this point has been highlight as an issue (VicRoads). 5. Once on the Bendigo Creek Trail, this will allow access to Lake Weeroona and the city via off road paths. 6. Bennetts Rd crossing mentioned has been completely realigned and upgraded (that sandy section has been bypassed), plus the nearby rocky reef trail surface has completely upgraded with reconstruction works. 7. New trail crossing approaches to the McIvor Highway had been planned, and these are now completed, making this a much safer experience. It is great to hear that riding this trail was "..SO much better than it was in 2005" AndiJ. It is hoped that other users also have a great experience, some of this from the hard work that is currently occurring from efforts by the Greater Bendigo City Council and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail partnership. The currently funded project, to extend the trail between Axedale and Heathcote, is progressing well. New trail sections in the Heathcote township are now open, and other new rural sections are expected to be opened later in 2013.

December 19, 2012 by AndiJ

We cycled this trail December 2012. A bit rough in places for a hybrid bike, but a very enjoyable ride through attractive Bendigo scrub and bush. We started at Axedale; partly because Axedale is nearly 30 metres higher than the other end (there are rises & falls all along, none too extreme), and partly as our midway point was the Lake Weeroona café (lovely iced coffee). So far as I could ascertain, Axedale has a general store (“cold drinks and sandwiches” we were told) but no café. In Axedale we left the car under a tree by the CFA shed, and set off on an excellent new bitumen track, which took us out of town. The bitumen gave way to an splendid rolled gravel & dirt surface, which lasted until after we met the old rail formation (nearly 1km SW of the McIvor Highway). From here the surface varied from quite good gravel, through bloody rough, to rocky outcrops. Most of the old stations are marked by attractive replica rail signs, and the bridges are a special delight to anyone who cycled this path a few years back. On arriving at the Bendigo rail track, the O’Keefe track does not join it… cyclists are whisked sideways and down through a pipe, emerging in Bobs St. Here a path takes one through to Napier St, aka the Midland Highway. To get to Lake Weeroona, cross this, then follow Weeroona Avenue, and 100m after crossing that railway line, go left onto the path going round Lake Weeroona. This trail is SO much better than it was in 2005!! even the worst surface (East of the remains of Junortoun station) is not so bad as the rutted and eroded parts used to be; especially where there was no bridge, and one had to lug the bike down off the formation then back up again. And that unspeakable Swing Bridge is gone, replaced by a simply lovely bridge on which to swoop over the Axe Creek. WARNINGS: Bowles Rd - riding back up off the road to the gate leading back to the rail trial is tricky. Bennets Rd - just to the east is a very nasty fine sand section. Crossing the McIvor Highway needs attention, the rail trail DOES continue, a little to the left of whichever point you leave it; look for the white railway crossing sign. Do not cycle along the track by the McIvor. Coming from Bendigo, be sure to turn Right at the Rangelea Station sign.

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News

News

O'Keefe Rail Trail Improvements Continue

(Posted: 26/11/12)

Improvements and developments on the O'Keefe Rail Trail in Northern Victoria continue.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail funding bears fruit (VIC)

(Posted: 01/11/10)

Progress on bridge construction on O'Keefe Rail Trail.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Receives Funding for Extension (VIC)

(Posted: 28/06/10)

$3.2 Million committed for the trail extension to Heathcote. More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail (Victoria) Community Ride

(Posted: 20/08/09)

A community ride along the O'Keefe Rail Trail will be held on Saturday 5th September 2009 as part of the Spring in the Bendigo Bush program

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail (Vic) Community Meeting

(Posted: 05/07/09)

The Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail Group has organised a meeting on this trail for Monday 13 July 2009

More...