Improvements and developments on the O’Keefe Rail Trail in northern Victoria continue apace. Over the past year all the former low level crossings have been replaced with at level bridges and the sub-standard suspension bridge over Axe Creek has also been replaced with an at-grade bridge. When combined with surface improvements and better signage the rail trail is a far better experience now.
The hard working Friends of the Bendigo – Kilmore Rail Trail have also just provided us with a summary of the following good news and activities
Axedale town path open
Now you can walk or ride all the way from the Bendigo Creek to the Campaspe River on an off-road trail. The rail trail now takes you across Crows Road and winds its way through the town to finish at the Campaspe River Reserve
Heathcote town path under construction
Once they’d finished at Axedale, the contractors packed up and moved south to Heathcote where a combination of gravel and sealed path will run for approx. 3.2 km between Speed Street and Pink Cliffs Road is now under construction. Talk about getting the trail from Axedale to Heathcote is all very well, but actually seeing a bobcat at work is getting the residents excited. We’re also excited – it’s the first bit of new trail beyond Axedale since the first section of trail was opened in the early 1990s.
Station signs going back up
It’s been a long time since they were taken down and now station signs are returning. With the help of a council community grant, council, fundraising by the Friends and a lot of time and muscle power, we’re installing five signs to mark some of the major stops between Bendigo and Axedale. Travellers along the trail will then be able to see where the train once stopped at Rifle Butts, Rangelea, Strathfieldsaye, Longlea and Axedale. A sixth sign will also show where the Heathcote station was located. The Friends are planning to install the signs at volunteer working bees before the end of December 2012.
Green gates – going, going, gone
The 16 green gates that were the bane of cyclists and horses travelling along the original O’Keefe trail are now gone. Weren’t they part of the trail’s own history? Well, yes, but we don’t deny they were removed by Friends’ and council muscle power with some pleasure.
Bendigo Rail Trail Connections
At North Bendigo the rail trail connects with the Bendigo Creek Trail to get users closer to the centre of Bendigo. However this involves an informal crossing of the busy five lane Midland Highway (Napier St). The Friends group regard this crossing as hazardous and are lobbying council and VicRoads to consider this in their planning
What is also needed is a better connection to the Bendigo railway staton. With the improved VLine rail service to Bendigo even day trips by public transport are practical, refer Summer 2011/2012 Rail Trail Connections magazine for an article by members doing just this. Again the Friends group have requested that the City of Greater Bendigo, in conjunction with VicTrack and V/Line, create the ‘missing link’ shared path from the Bendigo Railway Station to McIvor Highway/Baxter Street. This route could utilise sections of the existing railway reserve, to create an off road shared path. From here it becomes the existing ‘Back Creek’ trail which connects to the Bendigo Creek Trail, which then connects to the O’Keefe Rail Trail. They have shown the proposed new link on Google Maps here.