Riding between Tallangatta and Old Tallangatta (2008)
Lake Hume is full as riders approach Tallangatta. (2012)
The High Country Rail Trail traverses farmland near the shores of Lake Hume and forest further up at Shelley.
The trail is undulating to Tallangatta with some moderate gradients. The Koetong to Shelley section is all uphill at the steepest gradient trains could manage.
Trail surface is of varying quality.
The 600m Sandy Creek bridge was opened in October 2012
The trail will eventually be 112km in length.
The area has many National and State Parks to explore. There are good views from lookouts and mountaintops (including the Main Range of the Kosciuszko National Park) and plenty of picnic areas and camping opportunities.
Bandiana South: recreation area near the Military Museum.
Ebden, Ludlows Reserve and Huon: park at the recreation reserves signposted on the Murray Valley Hwy.
Tallangatta: park at old station site.
Old Tallangatta: no parking at trail head itself. Park either at Mitta bridge rest areas or in Old Tallangatta across causeway.
Koetong - Take Edgars Rd off the Murray Valley Hwy just near the Koetong Pub
Shelley - Take Avondale Rd off the Murray Valley Hwy at Shelley, past the Shelley accomodation camp.
Albury/Wodonga to Bandiana
From Albury station follow the old Hume Hwy 5km towards Wodonga across the Murray River flood plain to High St and the former Wodonga railway station.
Continue south along High St to the large water tower roundabout then head east along the service road of Thomas Mitchell Drive. 2km further on, at the roundabout with the Murray Valley Hwy, cross to the south side where the City of Wodonga has constructed a roadside path to the trail complete with rail trail signage.
After passing the Bandiana Military Museum entrance, the path moves a little away from the highway.
Bandiana to Huon (17km)
This section still has some lengths that have a stoney surface but still manageable on a hybrid bike.
Turn off the highway at Whytes Rd (at the saleyards). The rail trail proper begins a few hundred metres on.
Because the army has taken over some of the former line here and the very long trestle bridges across the Kiewa river flats were demolished, a diversion and low level bridges have been constructed across the river flats.
After crossing the Kiewa River the trail joins the original rail alignment. Leaving the river red gum forest the trail rises slowly to Mahers Rd with the first views of Lake Hume.
From Mahers Rd the trail passes under the Murray Valley Hwy then heads south with the Mitta Arm of Lake Hume to one side, hills on the other and mountains in the distance. There are plenty of locations to have a refreshing dip on a hot day, particularly when the water level is high.
The trail descends to Huon where the platform, goods shed, weighbridge and some rolling stock remain. If water levels are very low the remains of the original station site are recognisable further down the hill.
This trail features sites rich in cultural history such as the Bonegilla station site.
At Bonegilla, a diversion to the large dam wall is worthwhile. Follow Bonegilla Rd north as shown on the map. Along the way visit Block 19, the Bonegilla Migrant Experience Heritage Park.
Huon to Old Tallangatta (21km)
From Huon to Tallangatta the trails is a wide smooth gravel surface. .
The highlight of this section between Huon and Tallangatta is of course the 600m Sandy Creek birdge with its distinctive "red sticks".
From Tallangatta the trail is sealed all the way to the Mitta bridge, which is also quite a bridge, as it wanders up the valley to Old Tallangatta.
At the end of the trail, turn left and follow the road for 1km to see the few remaining buildings of Old Tallangatta. If the weir level is low take a stroll around the building foundations of Old Tallangatta. An interpretive sign is located at a viewing point up on the highway.
Tallangatta is a small regional town with some food and accomodation.
Koetong to Shelley (12km)
From Koetong it is a steady climb up to Shelley. This sections open are shown on the map and are only suitable for walking and mountain bikes.
A 400m section of trail near Koetong leads from a car park to the large 76m long Boggy Creek trestle bridge. From Wodonga, turn left off the Murray Valley Hwy before Koetong on the Mt Lawson Rd that leads to the Mt Lawson State Park. Follow the road to the car park. The track to the right leads to Mt Firebrace and a lookout.
Enjoy a picnic or a break in the forest at Shelley station, which was Victoria’s highest station site at 781m. Interpretive signage has been provided on the platform. The location is shown on the map. Other places to visit are the summit of Mt Lawson and its loop nature trail, the Conic Range Walking Track which is a 1.5km walk off Firebrace Rd with great views of the Koetong Creek Valley and the Avondale Gardens Reserve. Follow the signs from Shelley, off Avondale Rd.
There are numerous developments, underway and planned, to further improve this trail. The most pressing is to upgrade the trail surface from Bandiana to Huon up to the same standard as from Huon on.
The trail is managed by Parklands Albury/Wodonga in conjunction with three local voluntary committees. Parklands has been appointed committee of management for most of the Koetong to Shelley section and work is being done to make bridges safe. This section should be properly open by the end of 2013.
With the rail bypass of Wodonga now complete, Rail Trails Australia is supporting local organisations to have the rail trail extended from Bandiana all the way into Wodonga and across the Murray River flood plains towards Albury. This wil provide an important backbone for the off-road path system and preserve an important piece of Australia's history.
Construction of the branch line began in 1887 and reached Tallangatta (now Old Tallangatta) in 1891. Due to the difficult terrain and labour shortages, Cudgewa was not reached until 1921. Apparently Corryong and Tintaldra were arguing over who should get the railway and before the argument could be settled the era of the motor car arrived, leaving the small township of Cudgewa as the terminus.
Construction of the Hume Dam required the line between Ludlows and the present Tallangatta to be shifted up the hill in the early 1930s. In the 1950s the level of the dam was raised requiring some further track deviations, lifting of the Sandy Creek bridge and the shifting of the whole town of Tallangatta! During the 1960s the railway carried construction materials for the Snowy Mountains hydro electric scheme as well as regular cattle and general goods trains. This construction also sped up the road improvements in the area and thus competition for the railway. The last regular goods train ran in 1978 and the line was officially closed in 1981.
Observing the remains of the Bonegilla station platform, with only a few farm houses in sight, it is hard to believe the part this area played in the lives of so many Australians. During the Second World War a major military training camp was established at Bonegilla. Following the war until 1971 Bonegilla was a reception centre for over 320,000 migrants. Listen to some of their stories in the excellent visitor centre at Block 19 (off Bonegilla Rd on the way to the dam wall). Remarkably, despite this number of people arriving in Bonegilla a station building was never built, let alone a siding common to even the tiniest station. Now the former station’s small claim to fame is its native grassland reserve.
Also at Bandiana South is the large military museum, which provides a vivid reminder of what was a very large military presence in the area until recent times.
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