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Guide Banner 4 2015

Have you ever wondered where some of the country railways of yesteryear have gone? Well some, like the East Gippsland Railway have had somewhat of a resurrection, and have come back to life again to carry passengers and vehicles of a different kind, many years after the last rolling stock passed over them.

The East Gippsland Rail Trail starts just over the Mitchell River in Bairnsdale and follows the railway line for 60 kilometres to the small timber town of Nowa Nowa. The trail is bitumen covered with loose gravel from Bairnsdale to where it crosses the old railway bridge at Nicholson. This 10 km part passes through open farmland and across a few local roads, and is ideal for that short family ride.

From Nicholson, the trail takes the rider onto Bruthen. The surface is loose gravel, (okay for mountain bikes and hybrids) and up a gentle incline, making for a slightly harder ride, again through farmland, through under road tunnels, past old trestle bridges and into the bush. The further you ride along this trail, the further you go into the bushland of East Gippsland, where the rider is rewarded with some spectacular views of the foothills to the Victorian Alpine region. On arrival at Bruthen, look for the old footbridges crossing the trail and take a detour into town for a milkshake at the milk bar or some cake at the Bruthen bakery before you head on to Nowa Nowa.

From Bruthen the character of the track changes quite dramatically. The bush remains but the upward incline continues for about 10 kilometres. This incline may be gentle, but it is enough to make the legs work for a long period of time. The scenery goes from open farmland around Bruthen to good old Australian bush. Once you reach the top, somewhere around Bruce's Track, there is a gentle descent over many kilometres to enjoy before you arrive at the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge, one of the oldest and longest trestle bridges in Victoria. Safety issues preclude riders crossing the bridge but there are plenty of great views of the bridge to be had and if you concentrate hard enough, you might even be able to imagine the trains as they rolled across the top, some 19 metres above the ground.

A few kilometres from the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge you arrive at the end of the made trail on the edge of Nowa Nowa. All along the track you can pass through "under road" tunnels, through hill cuttings, view other trestle bridges and generally see the remains of the "bluemetal" and sleepers. There are no official campsites along the trail, and facilities other than in Nicholson, Bruthen and Nowa Nowa, are non-existent, so riders intending to do the complete trip should go prepared. Apart from a great ride, it allows the rider to re-live the grand old days of the East Gippsland Railway, and is a great alternative to the riding through the ever-busy Lakes Entrance and on the crowded Princess Highway

My wife Joanne and I travelled this route in 2002 as part of our "round Australia" recumbent trike ride. Full trip diaries, including the rail trail trip can be found on our web site.