Interested people from Michelago, Bredbo, Cooma, Nimmitabel and Bombala met at a rail trails workshop held in Nimmitabel on July 25th 2015. They were joined by members of Rail Trails for NSW who are advocating for the development of Rail Trails on disused government lines – adding to the rural visitor economy and increasing amenities in the rural towns. Attendees were able understand key steps to start with such as having a feasibility study undertaken, and to learn from other rail trail teams in southern NSW who have completed detailed design documentation or in the process of having their feasibility study undertaken.
Site visits to sections of the disused line were arranged including to the Colinton tunnel; to Chakola, to the old buildings of the Nimmitabel meatworks, as well as to each of the station buildings along the routes. For Rail Trails NSW it was a great opportunity to hear and see firsthand what might be specific opportunities and issues on a rail trail in the Monaro district, including stunning rural vistas; towns with their own individual flavour; railway heritage; weed management and fencing.
April 2015: The visit to Broken Hill by RT for NSW chairman John Moore was part of our efforts increase peoples knowledge about rails trails, what they can add to local amenity and to visitor economies. The meeting in Broken Hill connected local people and groups interested having the trail continued to Silverton and eventually Cockburn. The visit included checking out parts of the tramway track that are used for mountain biking. The meeting was covered by a couple of articles in the local paper The Barrier Daily Truth.
The Rail Trails for NSW team recently attended the launch of the supporters group for the Coolac, Gundagai, Tumbalong Rail Trail.
This trail has been supported by Gundagai council, with Miriam Crane, council’s Economic Development Manager working closely with councillors and the regional representative of Infrastructure NSW.
A feasibility study has been undertaken, along the lines of what was recommended for the Expression of Interest process that has now led to only two projects preselected for possible pilot status.
The large Sydney team, lead by Rail Trails for NSW president John Moore, were joined by the Tumbarumba lead Owen Fitzgerald, Goulburn’s Bob Kirk, and Ian Jackson and Ant Packer from the High Country Rail Trail. All had come to lend their support and to boost this trail’s profile.
The initial phase of the meeting saw a number of council staff and elected representatives present, as well as interested members of the local community.
Katrina Hodgkinson, local NSW member and Minister for Agriculture came for a short time. She was obviously impressed by the professional video of the NZ Hauraki Rail Trail, and by Gary Hackett’s succinct and engaging presentation.
Katrina Hodgkinson presented a demonstration cheque, funding a shared use path along an old travelling stock route leading to the Dog on the Tucker Box visitor site. Although not a rail trail, and probably too short to attract metropolitan and interstate visitors, this will be a fillip for local Gundagai cyclists and those locals wanting to try a short burst of healthy outdoor exercise.
Will Owens, Ant Packer, Owen Fitzgerald and Bob Kirk presented information on rail trails from their local perspectives.
One highlight was the cameo role of two passing cyclists. Tim Coen, Sydney team member wandered outside for a moment to discover two passing British cyclists, on a grand ride along the Australian Eastern seaboard. Tim pressed them to come inside to prove there were actually people comfortably riding long distances.
The meeting ended with selection of a leader. Paul and Rebecca Britt rose to the challenge, prompted by Miriam Crane. Paul had been involved in the initial push for a rail trail, and has been active in the local BUG (bicycle user group) and Scouts.
It is worth exploring the possibilities of the trail more closely on a map or searching historical details on some of the rail heritage sites.
One of the best railway map site is http://www.openrailwaymap.org/ This shows the line clearly. Search for Coolac.
You can see this line once branched from the main Sydney Melbourne line at Cootamundra, running to Coolac, Gundagai, Tumbalong then Tumut. A further branch line went from Tumut to Batlow.
This line is distinct from the branch line which ran from Wagga Wagga, through Rosewood and on to Tumbarumba.
Gundagai council is willing to fund a small part of the trail trail in town as part of its existing bike plan.
After the meeting the team explored the Gundagai station, now a museum. We were given a comprehensive tour by the caretaker Nathan. The station has been meticulously maintained, and is well worth a visit if you have some time to spare in Gundagai. Of course, cycling on the rail trail, the station would be a must visit.
Also of great interest in Gundagai is the historic Prince Albert road bridge. Sadly this bridge is in a great state of disrepair. A sign announces that it is now a managed ruin, somewhat of an oxymoron. The cost of the major repair work, ten million dollars, is beyond the means of Gundagai council. Without state or national support for this Australian icon, nothing, it seems, can prevent it being washed away in the next major flood.
Before the meeting at Gundagai, the team had visited Coolac and examined the goods siding. The station has been demolished. Coolac is now very much a dwindling town. Visitors from the rail trail would help bring some activity back.
After the meeting the team travelled to Tumbalong pub. Paul Young, the licensee, had been at the meeting and was keen to show his support. Tumbalong is now a small side town just off the highway. The garden out the back of the pub was a welcome oasis after the energy of the meeting.
We drove on to Adelong, Batlow and then Laurel Hill Forest Lodge just north of Tumbarumba. This rustic convention and school camp centre was once a prison farm. Owen and Cathy Fitzgerald now run it for such activities as school camps, adventure and outdoor group activities. They have a cycling tour this Easter.
Own and Cathy have imaginatively named the accommodation blocks after famous prisons; Pentridge, Bogo Road, Long Bay. The accommodation is simple but friendly. The surroundings are peaceful, with bird life, kangaroos and other wild life in abundance.
That night Owen and Cathy put on a great meal; soup, a stew and dessert, almost all from local ingredients of their property.
Bushed from that day’s drive and meeting we went to bed early. Those of us doing the Tumbatrek had to have breakfast at five thirty and be on the road to Tumbarumba by six.
We gathered in the cool morning air in Tumbarumba, unaware of the great day that was to unfold.
Tumbatrek was once a tourism initiative by former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Tim Fischer and revived in 2012 by Riverina federal member, Michael McCormack.
A number of senior politicians were present, along with a number of high school students who were preparing for the Kokoda track walk.
I had visions of a simple amble along a local track, some scones perhaps, and then a few speeches before everyone skived off.
Instead we were bused, courtesy of mayor Ian Chaffey’s bus and coach company, into the stunning Kosciuszko National Park. Our tour guide was no less than the deputy manager, assisted by the Snow Hydro visitor centre’s manager.
As we drove through, our guide described the cycle of vegetation regrowth following the extensive 2003 bushfires.
We stopped at the highest town in Australia, Cabramurra, at 1448 metres, before arriving at Bradley and O’Brien’s Hut, an old bush hut, where we were briefed by Michael McCormack. We walked a short distance down the sealed road to the Manjar Road nine kilometre dirt track to Black Jack’s Bluff.
Black Jack’s Bluff houses a fire watcher’s tower and cottage, with stunning three hundred and sixty degree views. The walk was strenuous, but done in grand style. We were escorted by a porta loo and a cooler trailer, plied with fruit, cool drinks and at Black Jack’s Bluff a barbeque lunch. I’ve never had such grand bushwalking.
We took the opportunity to discuss many matters. Bob Kirk, a Goulburn councillor, Ian Jackson from Yackendandah and myself formed a middle brigade. Ian and Bob took the last uphill bit in style in the comfort of a four wheel drive.
Nan, my wife, and I took up with Ian Chaffey, the mayor of Tumba, discussing apples, blueberries and first settlement, as you do. Nan also took the chance to chat to some of the Kokoda kids. It was really impressive to hear positive stories from ordinary kids. Tumbarumba has a bright future.
At lunch at the top we were presented with commemorative medals. Nan was so proud of hers, she wore it instead of jewelry to dinner that night.
The bus trip back brought more stunning views. I must confess the walk induced some nanna-napping.
That night was to be a commemorative dinner, celebrating the success of the Tumbarumba Rosewood trail winning preferred bidder status in the expressions of interest process.
This was held at the Courabyra vineyard. It was a great night, great food.
There was great interest in the Tumut to Batlow section of the Gundagai rail trail.
We met Phil Barton, an enthusiastic supporter of Tumut. Phil ran a large car dealership in Tumut. Phil was so taken up with events surrounding his life he has written a self published book. The events in Phil’s life certainly strike a chord and the book is very interesting to read.
Sunday was to be an inspection day of sections of the Rosewood to Tumbarumba Rail Trail. Sadly, many of us had to leave early to meet work and other Sydney commitments.
Without a doubt. Tumbarumba and surrounds is a wonderful place to visit.
I am struck by one thought. We drove back through Tarcutta. This town once lived on the passing traffic of the Hume Highway, which now bypasses the town. The highway is gone, the truck driver’s memorial a testament to the hundreds of drivers killed on our roads.
But with the highway, Tarcutta is also going. What will revive these towns? The branch line railways are gone, rightly or wrongly probably forever. Rail trails, with some event marketing, is a proven model, both interstate and overseas.
Here is a picture of some young people. What can you offer them? The past can become a dwindling, disconnected memory, or a guide to shaping the future.
Let’s not throw away the past by letting it become an unmanaged ruin. Let’s find some way to give kids like these a bright future.
Sharing ideas on the tourism, town and community develeopment opportunities rails trails can add to a district. A Rail Trails event and dinner was held at Courabyra Wines tasting and function room http://www.courabyrawines.com/ in Tumbarumba, with people involved in developing rail trails in a number of southern NSW regions – Goulburn – Crookwell RT, Gundagai RT ( Coolac – Tumblong), Tumbarumba – Rosewood RT , Tumut – Batlow RT as well as a group from the High Country Rail Trail in Victoria(Tallangatta – Wodonga).
10 members of Rail Trails for NSW visited the Historic Gundagai Rail Precinct – the amount of facinating railway history is fantastic – this level of preservation (thanks to the local volunteers ) this is just type of local and railway heritiage that would be a key attracter of people visiting Gundagai to walk or ride the trail.
Photos: Nathan the caretaker of the historic station and rail heritage a gave an informative tour; John Moore , RT for NSW Chairman – wanting to run the ticket booth; Alison, RT for NSW secretary – checking the historic records at the station office.
Participants took time out from the Rail Trails Workshop at Gundagai to mark the funding received from the NSW Government to build the ‘5-mile’ shared trail from Gundagai to the Dog on the Tuckerbox, from the NSW Government Public Reserve Improvement Program.
Local MP and Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson and Council and Government Agency representatives celebrate the funding of North Gundagai Travelling Stock Route’s walking/cycling/horse riding track.
The Rail Trail would complement this trail, making a walking/cycling/ horse riding loop route.
35+ participants attended the Rail Trail workshop at Gundagai on Friday Feb 6th, hosted by Gundagai Council and Rail Trails for NSW. The workshop exchanged information on economic benefits, trail/fence/gate design that take into account adjoining land owner land management needs, rail trail feasibility studies, detailed development plans, requirements around community support, and the current NSW government expression of interest for pilot trail funding. Part of the workshop focused on what the next steps were for moving the Gundagai Rail Trail forward. Before and after the workshop participants had the opportunity to inspect Gundagai Heritage Rail Area and the station areas / potential trailheads at Coolac and at Tumblong, including a refreshing drink at the Tumblong Hotel.
Photos: Some of the workshop attendees. English cycle travelers who happened to be at the Gundagai visitor centre during the workshop – they are pedaling from Victoria to Queensland! Rail Trails for NSW members visit to Coolac station – one of the trail heads on the Gundagai rail trail.
Bleak City and Tinsel Town are separated by 807 kilometres of Hume Highway and over 100 years of rivalry.
Melbourne and Sydney are now connected by an unbroken 110km per hour dual carriageway so boring that authorities in NSW recommend that you take a break every two hours to prevent falling asleep at the wheel.
In Victoria, the antidote to micro sleeps is apparently the ‘power nap‘, the two states can’t even agree on a common way of preventing fatigue.
While the train service is excellent but expensive and time consuming, and flights are cheap but fraught with anxiety and unpleasant harassment, the economics of taking your own car when staying for more than a few days can be hard to beat. Perhaps our cycling lobbying will one day allow us to ride from Sydney to Melbourne uninterrupted along the old Hume Highway.
My own antidote to excessive fatigue and boredom is to break the trip. Now with a number of rail trails in north eastern Victoria, and several mooted for southern NSW, it has become feasible to take your bike, add an extra day or two and get the feel for some of the towns that one has driven past so many times.
The Wodonga to Cudgewa High Country Rail Trail is one such trail.
The trail, as of today, early 2015, is not complete, but comprises two sections. One is Wodonga to Tallangatta (the first two a’s are apparently pronounced long, the second two short), the other section is around Shelley.
On a blistering hot Christmas eve, Nan and I rode to trail from Wodonga to Old Tallangatta and back.
Wodonga and Albury are separated by the Murray River and the Gateway Island Arts Precinct.
We stayed in Wodonga and found it very cycle friendly, apart from the main street. Wodonga sports a great tourist information centre and an arts centre clustered around the library and council building.
It is very easy to cycle to Albury on dedicated cycle paths through the Murray wetlands and the Gateway Island precinct. There are viewing points for bird watching, with opportunities for a swim.
Wodonga is in the process of developing the old broad gauge terminus into something useful, retaining the heritage building. The terminus is close to a shopping hub and large hotel.
NSW and Victoria couldn’t even agree on a standardised rail gauge, or rather, they did agree on the Irish broad gauge, but I believe NSW reneged and changed to standard gauge.
An enterprising soul has set up a coffee stand on a disused section of the development for passing joggers, cyclists and motorists.
The rail trail doesn’t start in Wodonga, but it is not difficult to cycle from town through quiet streets and dedicated cycle paths to the start. Some of the old line is visible, next the ubiquitous Victorian ‘service road’. The service road and the expectation of U-turns is a curious Victorian phenomenon.
The trail proper kicks off in Bandiana, an army facility which also houses the Bandiana Army Museum. The trail at this point is rolled small loose gravel, suitable for bikes such as hybrids, mountain bikes and tourers. Racing bikes probably shouldn’t be used for this trail.
Much of the trail has been developed in a grass roots manner. Council community officer Ant Parker has given an inspirational talk several times about how community members have chipped in to help build and repair sections of the trail. In fact, Ant believes that the trail is almost as important as a way of building communities as it is in bringing in money as a tourist attraction.
The figures we have seen for rail trails support the fact that a large number of local residents use rail trails as well.
Shortly at another army facility there is a diversion down a side road, and a cross country section across three bridges. They have the appearance of practice attempts by trainee army engineers. They must have passed their courses, they are still standing. Signs warn of snakes.
The station plaques have been restored on this trail, and the siding at Bonegilla is a real treat. The sign states:
“Notice: passengers desiring to join trains at this station are requested to exhibit the red flag in daylight and adjust the red glass and light lamp during darkness. Tickets may be obtained from the guard who will accept parcels and furnish any information.”
Bonegilla was also the site of a migrant reception centre. Block 19 is open today, the web site has full details.
Beyond Bonegilla, the rail runs along the shores of Lake Hume. Many of the station areas are now picnic spots and entry points for boats.
Although you can swim in any of the areas, our out and back distance of some ninety kilometres meant we pressed on to avoid the hottest parts of the Christmas eve. As it was, few people were on the trail this day, most probably in air conditioned malls, or girding themselves for the minefield of family Christmas time.
At Huon Reserve, someone has collected some of the rail memorabilia. Two bulk goods wagons, an old truck and the remnants of a rail motor car are present. This appears to be a private collection, perhaps an attempt at some kind of low scale theme park. The motor rail car in particular is exposed and not in good shape. The motor has been removed.
After Huon Reserve the part of the trail that appears to have been the best funded starts with the Sandy Creek rail bridge. Only the concrete supports were standing after the rails had been removed, new concrete spans had to be built.
The red girders are an artistic afterthought. The surface of this part of the trail is sealed.
Along the way are several wild fruit trees. It is easy to believe the peach, fig and apple trees are the result of passengers flinging their fruit remnants out the window.
Us humans don’t seem to tread lightly.
Tallangatta is a welcome break, with several cafes. We pressed on to Old Tallangatta.
It should be possible to go through back roads in NSW to Albury from Old Tallangatta, but we hadn’t planned this out, so we took the conservative approach of retracing our path.
It will be a red letter day when the whole trail is open. Indeed the whole area is fascinating, with possible side trips to Corryong, with its tales of the high country and the man who is supposed to have inspired Banjo Patterson’s “The Man From Snowy River” ballad.
The next day, Christmas day we set off early, and within four hours were out the other side of Melbourne, down on the Mornington Peninsula.