- Rail Trail
- On Road
- Possible Rail Trail
- Other Trail
- former Railway
- Winds through scenic pine forests and bushland, rich farmland and rolling hills as it travels from Colac up to Beech Forest and Ferguson
- 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 birdlife
- Features outstanding and innovative interpretive signs along the route
- Note that the trail is almost continually downhill from Beech Forest to Gellibrand, and is best suited for mountain and hybrid bikes
Please visit Colac Otway Shire Council’s website for more information about the Old Beechy Rail Trail: http://www.colacotway.vic.gov.au/Parks-Recreation/Old-Beechy-Rail-Trail
The main sections of the Old Beechy Rail Trail are:
- Colac to Gellibrand is 28 km and is on-road for the first 11 km. It then follows a combination of quiet country lanes and dedicated rail trail paths
- Gellibrand to Beech Forest is 18.5 km long and ascends steadily through scenic bushland and past timber plantations. Note: parts of this section are currently closed
- Beech Forest to Ferguson is 4 km long, passing through dense rainforest. Colac has a wide range of facilities while Gellibrand and Beech Forest more basic food and accommodation.
Closure between Wimba and Beech Forest
The trail is currently closed between Wimba and Beech Forest. During this period walkers and cyclists will detour to use Old Beech Forest Rd. Take care and watch for logging trucks, and observe warning signs and other traffic control instructions.
For queries regarding the detour, contact Colac Otway Shire Council’s Recreation and Open Space Co-ordinator on 5232 9400.
Colac-Barongarook (11 km)
This section is 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 Colac Railway Station, cross the footbridge and follow the signposted route out of town via Wilson St, Queen St, Aireys St, Woodrowvale Rd and Forest St
- follow Forest St for 4 km to its end, then turn left into Barongarook Rd for 2.3 km
- turn right at Alford Rd then turn left after 1 km at Maggios Rd. After 500m, the rail trail starts on the right.
Barongarook-Birnam (6 km)
The trail travels through beautiful bushland to Cashins Road. The surface is very good.
Birnam-Kawarren (3.5 km)
The trail leaves the original railway formation and has a very steep climb and descent on a gravel surface.
- Turn right at Cashins Rd. The trail starts again on the left
- Climbs steeply through bushland and then descends again, entering farmland
- Rejoins the railway alignment at the site of Kawarren station
Kawarren-Gellibrand (6.5 km)
- The trail runs beside the main road
- Cross the main road just before Gellibrand. A pedestrian and cycle bridge carries the trail over the Gellibrand River; the original railway bridge was demolished to make way for the road
- Gellibrand’s original railway station building survives contains a historical display
Gellibrand-Wimba-Dinmont (13.9 km)
The trail from Gellibrand to Beech Forest is steep and rough in parts; it is not suitable for inexperienced riders.
- Shares the footpath through Gellibrand. Cross the road at the southern edge of town to rejoin the original railway formation
- Entering farmland, the trail starts the climb to Beech Forest
- One short on-road section: watch for log trucks
- The section from Wimba to Dinmont is currently closed
- At Dinmont, the old railway water tank is still in use
Dinmont-Beech Forest (4.5 km)
- This section is currently closed
- Sections of this trail between Dinmont and Ditchley are steep and you will need to walk your bike or ride on-road to Ditchley
- From Ditchley to Dinmont, the trail is off-road
- At Beech Forest look for the site of the balloon loop (used for reversing trains) at the eastern end of town
Beech Forest-Ferguson (4 km)
- The trail begins on the southern side of the Beech Forest-Lavers road, east of the information shelter at Beech Forest. Follow it west through a dense rainforest and ferns. It then crosses farmland close to the road until Ferguson, which has a rustic cafe.
Colac Station (2011)
Beech Forest (2011)
Detour on road from Ditchley to Dinmont (2011)
Example of signage - Dinmont (2006)
Leaving Dinmont (2011)
Between Dinmont and McDevitt (2011)
Leaving Banool (2011)
Between Banool and Gellibrand (2011)
Example of excellent history signage (2011)
At last hill before Gellibrand (2011)
Gellibrand Information Centre (2011)
Between Gellibrand and Kawarren (2011)
Steep bypass of Birnam Station site (2011)
Beautiful forest between Watson & Facey and Barongarook (2011)
Enjoying the forest (2011)
Colac Station (2011)
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 came to reality when it opened to the public in 2005.
The section is currently closed from Wimba to Ferguson 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 closed sections of the trail.
Rail Trail users may wish to write to Colac Otway Shire to:
- encourage Council to reopen closed sections of the trail
- tell Council how you will use rail trail once it is fully open
The 2′ 6″ narrow gauge line 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 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 mills can still be seen.
The line ran ‘mixed’ trains with passengers and timber, cattle, potatoes, cheese and other farm produce.
Steam locomotives travelled at a maximum speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) between Colac and Gellibrand and 16-24 km/h (10-15 mph) 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 landowners to allow so much of the trail to follow the original route.
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