The Old Beechy Rail Trail winds through scenic pine forests and bushland, rich farmland and rolling hills as it travels from Colac up to Beech Forest.
It was originally a narrow gauge railway that played a key role in opening the western Otways to settlement.
Magnificent eucalypts and blackwoods provide homes for abundant bird life.
This trail features outstanding and innovative interpretative signs along the route.
When planning for this trail, you should note that the trail is almost continually down hill from Beech Forest to Gellibrand and it is best suited for hybrids and mountain bikes.
Colac - trail information shelter at Colac railway station
Barongarook - turn east on Barongarook Rd from the Colac-Lavers Hill Rd. Parking is available at the local hall.
Birnam - turn east on Cashins Rd from the Colac - Lavers Hill Rd and follow it 1km to the picnic ground (old Birnam staion). The trail is signposted here.
Gellibrand - park at the information centre. The trail is signposted at each end of town.
Dinmont - on the Old Beech Forest Rd.
Beech Forest - The trail to Gellibrand/Colac begins on the western edge of town south of the information shelter.
- The trail to Ferguson begins on the southern side of the Beech Forest - Lavers Rd, east of the information shelter
Ferguson - the trail begins next to the Otway Nourished cafe in Ferguson
Colac – Barongarook (11km)
This section of the trail is entirely on-road since the original railway route is no longer available. Less experienced cyclists may prefer to start at Barongarook. Sections are steep, with loose gravel.
From the Colac railway station, cross the foot bridge over the railway and follow the signposted route out of town via Wilson St, Queen St, Aireys St, Woodrowvale Rd and Forest St.
Follow Forest St for 4km to the end. Turn left into Barongarook Rd. Follow Barongarook Rd for 2.3km.
Turn right at Alford Rd. After 1km, turn left at Maggios Rd. After 500m, the rail trail starts on the right.
Barongarook – Birnam (6km)
The trail travels through bushland to Cashins Road, and is particulatlry beautiful. The trail surface is very good.
Birnam – Kawarren (3.5km)
The trail leaves the original railway formation in this section and has a very steep climb and descent on a gravel surface.
Turn right at Cashins Rd. The trail starts again on the left hand side.
The trail climbs steeply through bushland and then descends again, entering farmland.
The trail rejoins the railway alignment at the site of Kawarren station.
Kawarren – Gellibrand (6.5km)
Follow the trail as it runs beside the main road.
Just before Gellibrand, cross the main road. A pedestrian and cycle bridge has been built to carry the trail over the Gellibrand River. The original railway bridge was demolished to make way for the current road.
The original railway station building survives at Gellibrand and contains an historical display.
Gellibrand – Dinmont
The trail from Gellibrand to Beech Forest is steep and rough in parts. Not suitable for inexperienced riders
The trail shares the footpath through Gellibrand. Cross the road again at the southern edge of town to rejoin the original railway formation.
Entering farmland, the trail starts the climb to Beech Forest.
There is one short on-road section. Watch for log trucks on this gravel road.
At Dinmont, the old railway water tank is still in use.
Dinmont – Beech Forest (4.5km)
A new off road section has been built from Dinmont to Ditchley. The signs are being installed and it is expected to be fully opened in April or May 2015. Sections of this new trail near Ditchley are steep and you will need to walk your bike in sections. Alternatively, some cyclists may ride the on-road section between Dinmont and Ditchley.
From Ditchley to Dinmont, the trail is off-road and easier to ride.
At Beech Forest look for the site of the balloon loop (used for reversing trains) at the eastern end of town.
Beech Forest – Ferguson (4km)
A 4km trail begins on the southern side of the Beech Forest-Lavers Rd, east of the information shelter at Beech Forest. Follow it west through a beautiful dense canopy of rainforest and ferns. It then traverses farmland close to the road, until it reaches Ferguson, which has a rustic and relaxing cafe.
The 2'6" narrow gauge line was opened to Beech Forest in 1902 and was extended to Crowes in 1911. By 1940, only one trip a week was being made, and by 1954 the terminus of the line had shifted back from Crowes to Weeaproinah. The line was closed in June 1962 despite strong objections from many local people.
Many sawmills built tramways in the forest and sidings on the Beechy line and the remains of some can still be seen.
The line ran 'mixed' trains with passengers and goods (timber, cattle, potatoes, cheese and other farm produce).
The steam locomotives travelled at a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour between Colac and Gellibrand and 10 to 15 miles an hour on other sections.
Parts of the railway were sold when the line was closed. The rail trail committee has done an amazing job negotiating with land owners to allow so much of the trail to follow the original route.