- Rail Trail
- On Road
- Potential Rail Trail
- Other Trail
- Former Railway
- Rail Trail
- On Road
- Potential RT
- Other Trail
- Former Railway
- Winds through scenic bush, pine forests, rich farmland and rolling hills as it travels from Colac south to Beech Forest and west to Ferguson
- The narrow-gauge (2’6″/762mm) railway to Crowes (beyond Ferguson) was one of four built in Victoria and the longest of that quartet
- It played a key role in opening the western Otways to settlement and many relics from that era remain
- Magnificent eucalypts and blackwoods, abundant birdlife
- Cape Otway
- Apollo Bay
- Tiger Rail Trail in Forrest
- Camperdown to Timboon Rail Trail
- Twelve Apostles Trail
- Waterfalls, wineries and art galleries
- The former home of famous ultra-marathon-running farmer Cliff Young
Last updated: 23 November 2023
Due to access issues and prolonged logging operations, the Old Beechy Rail Trail is officially closed for 12km from Banool to Beech Forest so only 37km is available for use (see Section Guides). If you have any queries about the closure, please contact Colac Otway Shire Council’s recreation and open space co-ordinator on (03) 5232 9400 or visit the shire’s website for more information: http://www.colacotway.vic.gov.au/Parks-Recreation/Old-Beechy-Rail-Trail
This rail trail is almost entirely uphill from Gellibrand to Beech Forest and is best suited to bushwalkers or those riding mountain, hybrid or cyclocross bikes (carry a puncture repair kit for the rocky sections).
There are ESTA Emergency Markers and kilometre posts. In an emergency, call 000 and quote the alphanumeric code on the marker post nearest to you, eg OBR11
The major sections are:
Colac to Gellibrand is 26.4km, the first 11 of which are on-road. It then follows a combination of former rail easement and quiet country roads
Gellibrand to Beech Forest is 18.6km and climbs steadily through scenic bush and timber plantations. Only the first 6km of rail trail is open, you can detour onto the gravel road, but this is not endorsed by council
Beech Forest to Ferguson is 4km, passing through dense rainforest and then farmland.The trail runs through some private property. Trail users are asked to leave gates as they find them and to respect the landowners’ rights. Cyclists should slow while riding through private land.
- This trail starts in Colac, which is a major town on the Princes Hwy (A1) with a wide range of services, accommodation and tourist attractions
- The railway station bus shelter, off Gellibrand St, acts as the trailhead and information centre. A disused locomotive turntable is on the far side of the car park
- The first 11km is on paths and roads, as the rail corridor was sold. There is an extended stretch of concrete shared path through town but some of the subsequent on-road sections are steep, with loose gravel (see alternative starting point at Barongarook, below). From the station, cross the footbridge and follow the signposted route via Wilson, Queen and Aireys streets, Woodrowvale Rd and Forest St
- Follow Forest St to the end (4km), then turn left onto Barongarook Rd and follow it for 2.3km, past the station site
- Turn right at Alford Rd for 1km, then left again onto Maggios Rd for 500m. The former rail corridor is on the right but poorly marked
- For walkers and less-experienced cyclists, Barongarook is a better place to start as this is where the trail joins the railway alignment. To get there, drive east on Barongarook Rd from Colac-Lavers Hill Rd (C155). There are restrooms and parking at the station site. Then it is less than 2km to the rail corridor via Alford and Maggios roads
- Watch for the 103-mile post on the left just after the start of this section, which has a good surface. The trail travels gently downhill, curving through beautiful bushland and along a high embankment over a huge culvert to Cashins Rd, Birnam, where it leaves the rail formation again. Turn left to visit the Burnam Station picnic area or right to start the next section
- To start in Birnam, drive east on Cashins Rd from Colac-Lavers Hill Rd for 1km to the picnic area for parking and a bush walk. The next section of the trail is back along Cashins Rd towards Colac-Lavers Hill Rd
- The trail goes uphill on the left on a power line easement, while the railway used to follow a gentle curve further east
- Climb steeply through bushland and then descend again, entering farmland before returning to the railway alignment at the Kawarren Station site
- Kawarren has toilets near the station site and a picnic reserve.
- From there the trail runs alongside Colac-Lavers Hill Rd, passing the 110-mile post. You must cross the highway just before Gellibrand, where the railway bridge was demolished to make way for a road one. A modern footbridge to the west carries the trail over the river and into the backyard of the Gellibrand River Hotel, from where the trail continues towards the general store
- Besides the hotel and general store/cafe, Gellibrand has an art gallery, holiday park and other accommodation. The original railway station building was recovered from private hands and restored on-site at Rex Norman Park, where it now houses an historical display about the Beechy
- This park, on the eastern side of Main Rd, is the trail hub for Gellibrand, with car parking, bathrooms and play equipment. There’s a nice gravel path alongside Old Beech Forest Rd that takes you around the back way to the rail trail via The Fernery.
- If you’re riding through town, the trail runs along the footpath and requires dismounting past the store. You cross Main Rd at the southern edge of town to re-join the railway formation.
- Entering farmland, the trail starts the climb to the site of Banool Station. After 2.5km, you’ll come to the remains of a wooden pile bridge gradually rotting away
Banool-Beech Forest (12.3km)
The trail is currently closed from Banool to Beech Forest due to timber harvesting. During this period, walkers and cyclists have to turn back or detour onto Old Beech Forest Rd (to the left) for the rest of the way. This road is not suitable for inexperienced riders or walkers. If you do take the detour, watch for logging operations and observe warning signs and other traffic control instructions
- The road crosses the trail at Wimba, where the recreated station shelter comes in handy when it rains
- At the Dinmont Station site the old water tank is still in use and there’s a steam boiler lying in state
- This section of the trail ends at the Beech Forest information centre, where there are bathrooms and a BBQ
Beech Forest-Ferguson (4km)
- Beech Forest has a hotel, art gallery/cafe and accommodation. There is free camping at Beauchamp Falls, 4km away
- Look for the site of the balloon (or return) loop used for turning the narrow-gauge locomotives for the trip back to Colac at the disused tennis courts on the eastern side of town
- The trail to Ferguson starts on the southern side of Beech Forest-Lavers Hill Rd (C159). Ride west from the information shelter and cross the road before Southern St. It runs west through dense rainforest and ferns and then moves close to the road for the rest of the way to Ferguson, where the cafe has closed.
CONNECTING TRAIL (25km)
You can avoid backtracking to Gellibrand by using Lardner Tk, which starts 5km east of Beech Forest off Mt Sabine Rd. It’s generally downhill on gravel and runs close to the Gellibrand River but is only suitable for experienced riders. It is best avoided if logging is in progress. There is free camping near the river at Dandos Campground.
Colac Railway Station with bus shelter/information centre in background [2011)
Example of excellent signage on embankment before Birnam 
Beautiful forest between Barongarook and Birnam (2011)
Steep bypass of Birnam Station site on power easement (2011)
Between Kawarren and Gellibrand (2011)
Restored Gellibrand Station now serves as information centre (2011)
Resting on the first hill after Gellibrand 
Between Gellibrand and Banool (2011)
The McDevitt Station site is on private land and now inaccessible (2011)
Between McDevitt and Dinmont (2011)
Example of detailed signage at Dinmont (2006)
Leaving Dinmont on the last climb (2011)
On-road detour between Dinmont and Ditchley (2011)
Beech Forest features another of the Corten steel sculptures (2011)
AllTrails Bicycle Tours
AllTrails Bicycle Tours have been running multi-day cycle tours around Victoria and across the country for 25 years and once again return to Western VIC for our Coast, Craters and Gold ‘Six-Pack’ rail trails tour. This group tour takes in six of the best trails in Victoria (Port Fairy to Warrnambool RT, Craters to Coast RT, Old Beechy RT, Skipton to Ballarat RT, Castlemaine to Maldon RT, O’Keefe RT) – a wonderful way to see multiple trails with full support and great accommodation, all with minimal effort and organisation on your part.
We acknowledge the Eastern Maar people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.
Development and future of the rail trail
After eight years of planning by local progress associations, volunteers and Colac Otway Shire, the concept of a rail trail became reality when it opened to the public in 2005. Large sections have since been closed while the shire resolves issues relating to trail safety, alignment and landholder access. Rail Trails Australia wrote to the Colac Otway Shire in 2020 to express concern about delays in reopening sections of the trail.
Rail trail users may wish to write to Colac Otway Shire to:
- Encourage the shire to reopen the closed sections of the trail
- Tell council how you would use the rail trail if it was fully open
One of four narrow-gauge (2’6″) railways built in Victoria, the Beechy opened from Colac to Beech Forest in 1902 and was extended to Crowes in 1911. Many local sawmills built tramways in the forest. The sidings for them and the remains of some mills can still be seen from the rail trail. The line ran ‘mixed’ trains with passengers and timber, cattle, potatoes, cheese and other farm produce. Within 30 years, only one trip a week was being made and, by 1954, the end of the line had shifted back from Crowes to Weeaproinah. The rest closed in June, 1962, despite strong objections from many local people. The other three 2’6″ railways, Puffing Billy, Walhalla and Whitfield, have all gone on to feature rail trails or railside paths.
Steam locomotives travelled at a maximum speed of 32kmh (20mph) between Colac and Gellibrand and 16-24kmh (10-15 mph) on other sections. Parts of the railway corridor were sold when the line was closed. The rail trail committee has done an amazing job negotiating with landowners to allow so much of the trail to follow the original route.
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