Biographies

BIOGRAPHIES FOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS AND STATE REPRESENTATIVES 2022

Rail Trails Australia has been established as a national organisation to fight for the conversion of suitable abandoned rail lines to multi-use rail trails. Similar groups operate in Canada, New Zealand, England and other European countries.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Damian Mccrohan

Damian has had a lifelong interest in railways and found cycling a great way to get around. When it became obvious in the mid -90s there were too many closed railways to keep as heritage railways he became interested in the new concept of rail trails to preserve the history and provide a great facility for people to walk and ride. Over the last 20 years he has helped produce the guidebooks, calendars, magazine and website while getting around to almost all open and prospective rail trails in Australia. One of the great rewards from this is getting out and enjoying our wonderful rail trails with his family, and meeting the many passionate people involved with rail trails. In between this Damian works as an electrical engineer.

STEVEN Kaye

Steven has a lifetime interest in railways, cycling and ‘the great outdoors’. He began using Victoria’s rail trails with his family over a decade ago, enjoying the history, natural environment and safety provided. Consequently he joined the Rail Trails Australia committee in 2008 to become more involved and hopefully improve/complete the trail network. He was involved in the management of Medical services of the Great Victorian Bike Ride for a number of years. When he gets time away from his General Practice, he now leads groups of people to cycle in rural locations, using rail trails throughout Australia and New Zealand, providing regional economic benefit and brilliant experiences for the participants. In between this Steven is a medical practitioner.

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ROBERT ZUCKER

Robert enjoys nothing more than getting on his bike to explore new horizons, in particular country rail trails, where he becomes immersed in the natural environment outside the urban settings where he resides. There are few rail trails in Victoria, if any, that he and his partner and friends have not ridden, and he is now working on riding more interstate trails. Keeping fit and being outdoors are just some of the things that Robert feels passionate about as they contrast so greatly with the office-based work he has been involved with over many years in professional practice as an Accountant. Having had experience on Boards (usually acting as Treasurer) for a number of organizations including an Independent school in Melbourne, Community Interfaith as well as a number of sporting clubs, he believes it’s time to gain some exposure outside a purely financial role or to apply those skills in any other capacity.

Sam Reich

Sam Reich

Sam is a retired geologist and mining engineer who now spends his time advocating for a better environment for cycling and improvements for active transport users worldwide, especially within Australia and specifically in Newcastle NSW. He is currently President of the Newcastle Cycleways Movement Inc., a long standing bicycle user group (BUG) which is one of the founding constituents of the Bicycle Institute of NSW (now Bicycle NSW). He also serves on the Cycling Strategy Working Party of the City of Newcastle, and the Richmond Vale Rail Trail Inc. committee, and is on the boards of several community associations and institutions. An experienced bicycle tourer, he has cycled rail trails and other greenways on three continents plus New Zealand, and has researched the benefits of these assets to the respective regional communities and economies. Sam is also an active community musician, playing ukulele, bass, guitar, harmonica and singing in various groups, clubs and ensembles.

GARY ALLAN

Gary has been riding a bike since a young age. He is a supporter of conservation and protection of the natural environment, which combined with his interest in railway history led him to Rail Trails Australia. His interests are bushwalking, canoeing, cross-county skiing, and photography. He is working through riding all of the rail trails in Australia, but his main cycling ambition is to ride downhill from the Gulf back to Melbourne.

Karen

KAREN WILSON

Karen first encountered rail trails when she rode from Lilydale to Warburton, and was so impressed with the idea that she became a member of Rail Trails Australia the following week. The rail trail concept combines a number of Karen’s passion – travel, being outdoors, cycling, sustainable transport, history and community. So when she saw a callout for volunteers in Connections, she joined the committee and as an editor. Karen has enjoyed using her skills from her career in environmental and conservation policy and programs to help advocate for and promote rail trails. She looks forward to enjoying more of Victoria’s trails and continuing to be involved with the rail trails community.

JOHN O'BRIEN

John worked for Telstra as a Technician and Technical Officer for 35 years and has been a keen cyclist for more than 50 years, riding a lot of the “Big Rides” in NSW, VIC, WA, and QLD.  It was while doing some of these rides that he discovered “rail trails” and was hooked, eventually joining Rail Trails Australia, and becoming part of the rail trail committee.  He is also the state representative for NSW, which finally has one rail trail on an ex-government rail line, the Tumbarumba to Rosewood rail trail.  He is working with Rail Trails Australia to lobby politicians and local councils in an endeavour to have more rail trails built in NSW.  John is also a member of the Railway Historical Society and has an interest in railway history and feels that it is important to preserve as much as we can as a monument to those early pioneers who built the railways.  He sees rail trails as a practical way to preserve and showcase our railway heritage.  John and his partner Kathy have a goal to explore and ride on every available rail trail that they can find, including New Zealand and USA.  As keen photographers as well as cyclists, rail trails are the perfect way to indulge both passions.

JOEL EMONSON

Joel has been travelling on rail trails since 2009, starting in his home state of Victoria. Since then he has continued cycling rail trails, initially concentrating on Australia, before embarking on a few overseas trips for months at a time, with a focus on cycling as many rail trails as he can. This included numerous rail trails in Western Europe, North America and New Zealand. This has has allowed him to compare the different ways communities go about developing and promoting rail trails, along with the varied surfaces and facilities available on each trail. His focus is not on the end destinations or how far he has cycled each day; rather his focus is on exploring and learning about the history of where he is cycling, especially rail history.

PETER COUMBIS

Peter is a keen road cyclist who began riding in 2010 when invited to train for the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride which raises funding for the Children’s Cancer Institute in Sydney. Like many former runners who develop knee problems after sporting injuries, he became hooked when his knees improved significantly once he was able to cycle for 50kms, putting off knee replacement surgery. There being no rail trails to speak of in Far North Queensland, Peter’s knowledge of them arose from regular visits to Cooma in NSW for family reasons. During one of these he learned about the 213 kms Monaro Rail Trail project initiated in 2015 by a group of passionate rail trail enthusiasts. The extraordinary benefits of rail trails – mental and physical health, economic development and social wellbeing among many others – made them a “no-brainer” in Peter’s mind especially given the safety aspects compared with road cycling. Apart from being actively involved with the primary organization advocating for the Monaro Rail Trail, Peter has closely followed rail trail developments in Australia and elsewhere including contributing to the 2022 legislative and policy reforms in NSW aimed at alleviating the significant barriers that State faces in bringing rail trails to fruition. Before retiring in April 2022, Peter, who moved to Cooma in 2019, was a commercial lawyer with over 50 years in private and public sector practice, including 12 years with the Australian Government in Townsville and Canberra.

Administration

ALAN ABRAHAMS

Alan has been a keen cyclist for many years. He was introduced to Victoria’s rail trails over a decade ago, joined RTA a few years later and in August 2015 joined RTA as the Administration Officer. Over the past several years he has managed to explore most of Victoria’s rail trails as well as some in South Australia and Queensland. He is very interested in supporting the raising of awareness of rail trails and their benefits and the subsequent development of rail trails throughout Australia. In addition to cycling, he is also a keen bushwalker. His career has been focused on Program Management with a strong emphasis on business and productivity improvement.

Social Media

Warwick 2020-09

WARWICK DUNCAN

An avid cyclist for many years, in late 2018 Warwick set himself the challenge of riding every rail trail in Victoria in 2019. He had also recently ‘tree-changed’ to Warburton, right at the end of the beautiful Lilydale to Warburton (Yarra Valley) Rail Trail. Both of these things led him to appreciate the wonderful asset rail trails are for the community, but also to realise that so many were not well maintained and therefore not well patronised. As a regular repeat offender when it comes to community service, Warwick thought he could try to help out somehow. Accordingly he volunteered as the Social Media Coordinator to help lift the profile of the organisation.

Website Development

ALEXANDER McCOOKE

Alexander is a very keen railway enthusiast who has also been closely involved with rail trails for many years. He has visited several places in Australia and overseas that have a rich history in old railway equipment. Given his outstanding technical expertise, he has helped maintain and update our website and guidebooks.

Regional Representatives

Victoria

Darren bio

DARREN McCLELLAND

Darren is a passionate cyclist and walker. He particularly enjoys the opportunity rail trails provide to connect with nature, while the wind whistles through his (remaining) hair. His favourite rail trail is the Great Southern Rail Trail. It has wonderful natural surrounds, charming small towns along the way and provides excellent opportunities for long extended rides or short family excursions. Darren is looking forward to revisiting the rail trails of Western Victoria as a representative for RTA.

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KEITH COOK

Keith grew up at Crossover, a small town in West Gippsland, and believes the rail trail network benefits the community by providing opportunity for better health and wellbeing, repurposing assets for community use and maintaining our history for future generations. In 2005 he joined the Rokeby Crossover Friends Group to develop 6km of the closed Warragul to Noojee railway reserve through bushland into the fantastic rail trail enjoyed today. He has had a 36-year railway career working throughout Victoria as Stationmaster and Customer Services Manager and a former Baw Baw Shire Councillor and recent chair on the West Gippsland Regional Libraries Board.

John Birrell

JOHN BIRRELL

John is a retired Automotive Engineer, who took up cycling for the first time when he was in his forties, and became an enthusiastic rider on the tracks and trails around Geelong and the Bellarine.  Once they discovered rail trails, John and his wife Sally fashioned many a short break and weekend around at least 18 of the trails of Victoria, South Australia, New Zealand and Spain.  They have also participated in the 10 Great Vic Bike Rides up to 2019 – and have entered for this year’s event.  John’s previous volunteer experience includes ski club, motor rally, sailing, and school council organisations.

Jenny Mustey

JENNY MUSTEY

Jenny re-discovered her love of cycling about six years ago.  On her many trips from Northern Victoria down to Melbourne she would often look over at the Great Victorian Rail Trail between Tallarook and Yea and think one day ‘I’m going to do that!’   She hasn’t ticked that one off just yet but has enjoyed riding a number of Victorian Rail Trails and is really excited about the Central Victorian developments she has witnessed over the last few years including one very close to her heart which is her own hometown Lockington-Kotta Rail Trail.  Jenny has also participated in the Great Cycle Challenge since 2018 which she plans to continue doing in the future.

New South Wales

WILL OWENS

Will lives near Coogee in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. He works full time in the city, but was born and raised in Melbourne. He is a weekend non- Lycra cyclist. He is old enough to have traveled by train on Victoria’s original rail trail, Wangaratta to Bright. In Will’s opinion, rail trails are the best way to re-use the old alignments for multi-purpose recreation (not just bikes – he is happy to share). He has cycled on a number of trails in Victoria, SA, QLD and on the few trails available in NSW NSW has particular barriers to the re-use of defunct rail lines, many of which pass through world-class landscapes which would attract global tourism interest if developed into trails.

Stephen Brown Bio

STEPHEN BROWN

Stephen’s passion for cycling was reignited back in 1998 while on holiday in Bali when he hired a bicycle and did a ride down from one of the island volcanoes. This lead to him purchasing a bike back in Australia and getting interested in adventure cycling and touring. He traveled several times to South East Asia on cycling tours and has also traveled in Australia. This developed into an interest in Rail Trails and accordingly Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, along with the Kingaroy To Kilkivan Rail Trail, have become spots for him to visit regularly. He has frequently visited New Zealand to experience their Rail Trails and learn more about why they are so successful and the business opportunities that come from building them. He is a supporter of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail group and has had an interest in the development of the Tweed Valley Rail Trail in his hometown of Murwillumbah. He has run his own business for 30 years and his other passion is a musician. He has worked as a volunteer for Tweed Tourism Company at Murwillumbah Visitor Information Centre where he regularly gives advice on World Heritage National Parks and adventure holidays in the Tweed Valley.

Jeff Ibbotson

JEFF IBBOTSON

Jeff’s interest in rail trails was kindled on cycling trips through southern NSW. After leading several trips with his Canberra cycling group to Victorian rail trails in the early 2000’s Jeff worked on gathering support for turning the Queanbeyan — Bombala line into a rail trail. Alas there was insufficient local support at the time. He later helped with the Bungendore — Captains Flat group. Jeff and his wife have enjoyed cycle touring on rail trails in NZ, Europe and North America. After some years on Pedal Power ACT’s board and advocacy team he is now helping the Monaro and Molonglo rail trail groups tap into Rail Trails Australia’s knowledge and experience.

Queensland

MARK LINNETT

Mark has had an interest in railways from an early age, influenced by his father. This has grown stronger over the years, and now includes the history and research of closed lines. He is a long-time member of Australian Railway Historical Society (QLD Div) and has been an active member of their tours for more than 25 years. Mark has been part of many farewell tours for the closing of railway lines, after which he watched the corridor deteriorate. He became aware of the rail trail movement in Victoria and has been a member of Rail Trails Australia for many years, becoming the Queensland representative in 2012. He is a keen cyclist and enjoys using the rail trails and meeting and talking with other users. He studied at UQ Gatton Campus, having had a variety of employment roles, but is currently working in the painting supply industry.

JOSIE SHEEHAN

Josie started mountain bike riding in 2015 and has enjoyed riding both single track and exploring local rail trails since then. Participating in a group ride on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in 2016, her love for riding long distances through nature has increased and in 2018 she moved to the small town of Toogoolawah to live with the BVRT right at her back fence. Josie is the owner of Out There Cycling, who along with her husband David, shuttle bike riders along the BVRT and the Kingaroy to Kilkivan rail trails. They love to promote rail trails as a safe riding space for families, away from cars and traffic and to highlight the local history the trail passes through. Josie advocates for small businesses along the trail and sees the benefit of working together for the trail as a destination, rather than for individual towns along the way, forming the BVRT Tourism Business Alliance in 2019 to further this cause. She continues to ride a few days each week and loves promoting rail trails as a way for small towns to flourish and for riders to be able to explore new places. Josie is excited to be able to join the Rail Trails Australia committee in 2020 and to continue promoting rails trails Australia wide and to encourage riders of all abilities to come out and ride.

PETER TUCK

Peter is passionate about linking outback savannah trails for safe cycling in Far North Qld. He and his committee were instrumental in establishing a ‘Friends’ group on the Atherton Tablelands which led to trail feasibility funding from Qld. Transport in 2005. Since that time Tableland Regional Council has developed a 20km trail from Atherton to Walkamin with Mareeba Shire Council considering a 16km extension to Mareeba. He is a member of Atherton Herberton Historic Rail, a passionate group of volunteers who are dedicated to bringing railway history to life for the benefit of the Tableland community and visitors. It is hoped that a 22km multipurpose ‘shared use’ trail between Atherton and Herberton can be upgraded in tandem with the main railway alignment. He established Tableland Adventure Guides in 2010 and ran this boutique company for 7 years with the aim of showcasing the unique North Qld. environment via bike, hike and kayak. He has ridden many of the Victorian trails as well as the Central Otago Trail, Caminos in Portugal/Spain and trails in Scotland. As a rep. of RTA he looks forward to sharing his knowledge with other users and in assisting in the development of local tracks and trails.

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JEFF NOLAN

A retired Secondary Science Teacher, Jeff is a long term resident of Queensland’s Garden City, Toowoomba. Jeff is the Secretary of the Toowoomba Region Bicycle Users Group and is one of the TRBUG’s main ride leaders for group rides. In addition Jeff is a TRBUG cycling representative consulting with the Toowoomba Regional Council and the Regional Office of the Queensland Transport and Main Roads Department on local bicycle infrastructure projects. Jeff’s passion for cycling encompasses recreational road cycling, mountain biking, adventure cycling and generally, just holidaying with a bike! Jeff has cycled extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Bali, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. The development of major rail trails in South East Queensland has led to a mushrooming of interest in cycling by people who had previously cycled little, or not at all, and who now enjoy an active, safe, outdoor pastime. This has fuelled Jeff’s interest in becoming more involved with fostering the development of rail trails for all recreational users.

DESLEY O'GRADY

Desley’s passion for regional tourism was the catalyst for her career in local government, elected as a Councillor for the Gladstone Region in 2016 and again in 2020. Desley saw the potential of rail trails as significant tourism assets for regional communities, and as such took an interest in the unused rail corridor from Gayndah to Taragoola (near Calliope). Cr O’Grady was instrumental in driving interest in this project and in December 2017 an Expression of Interest was called to form a working group that would advocate for the development of the rail trail. Over 70 people attended the EOI meeting at the Mungungo Hotel with the majority of feedback positive towards the development of the “Boyne Burnett Inland Rail Trail”. From the inception of the working group there has been over 30 people attending meetings on a monthly basis to progress the project.

Western Australia

James

JAMES PEARSE

James is a civil engineer based in Perth, Western Australia. His interest in rail trails started after developing a series of long-term cycling strategies for regional WA. Growing up in the Wheatbelt region, James’ interest in rail trails sits at the intersection of three of his passions – civil engineering, active transport and regional economic development. James commenced as a regional representative for Rail Trails Australia in 2019.

Tash bio crop

TASH GROESSLER

Tash is a keen bicycle commuter and bicycle tourist. Having ridden several of the long-distance rail trails in the USA and New Zealand, she was inspired to seek out the rail trails in her own backyard. Motivated by the positive impact that trail development has on the social, health and economic wellbeing of the surrounding towns, she believes there is enormous potential in the Australian rail trail network. By day, she is a project manager in the residential construction area.

Donovan bio

DONOVAN DE SOUZA

Donovan is a passionate advocate for trails and nature-based outdoor activities, with a particular focus on hiking and bikepacking. Donovan has been writing about and reviewing trails since he founded the blog “The Long Way’s Better” in 2015 – it has a particular focus on multi-day trail experiences in Australia and New Zealand. After completing Western Australia’s three long trails (Bibbulmun Track, Munda Biddi Trail and Cape to Cape Track) and subsequently becoming a trail maintenance volunteer, Donovan looks to advocate for new rail trail developments that will create new multi-day trail experiences, as well as the maintenance and improvement of current rail trails in Western Australia.

South Australia

MARK DRAPER

Mark’s interest in Rail Trails started with a social ride along the Riesling Trail in South Australia. It was the gentle slopes, great scenery and no cars that appealed to him as well as the good wine and great food. While working in Local Government he was involved in the rewarding experience of renewing and upgrading off-road cycle tracks. He has recently retired and needs a challenge so volunteering to help Rail Trails Australia, particularly in South Australia, is the perfect way to combine his knowledge and his passion. He is a keen ebike rider who just likes to ‘go faster and go further’ at a time when his body wants to do the opposite.

TONY FARMILO

Tony is a lifelong cyclist and has always had a fascination for trains and railways. His career in Aviation has seen him living in NSW, NT, SA and the ACT along with shorter visits to all the other states. Recently retired, he now lives in South Australia’s beautiful Barossa Valley where his daily ride is the Barossa Rail Trail (along with a few laps of the recently opened Angaston Station MTB circuit). Tony has undertaken a number of Tour Down Under Challenge rides, several Sydney to the Gong rides, and some cycle touring including SAG Mawson Trail. Whilst living in the Shoalhaven region of NSW, he was a founding member of the local BUG and Rides Leader for a number of years. Tony enjoys recreational rides with family and friends and particularly enjoys the traffic free safety and tranquillity of a rail trail. He hopes his broad cycling experience and wider knowledge of Australia’s regions can be of benefit to Rail Trails Australia.

Tasmania

DAVID RENTON

David is a slow tourer who enjoys exploring new places and camping in the bush. Over the last decade or so, David has discovered the joys of long distance cycle touring and experienced the amazing kindness of strangers while travelling through different countries. Blogging while touring has also proven to be a great way for David to share cycling experiences and encourage others to get out on the road. Rail trails have been a brilliant way to get away from the traffic and slowly enjoy the peacefulness of rolling wheels on quiet tracks.