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Heritage wagon open on O'Keefe Rail Trail

A restored former Victorian Railway’s wagon can now be admired on the O'Keefe Rail Trail thanks to the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.

Previously used for carting farm materials, produce and grain, you can now have a rest from your ride and enjoy lunch inside the wagon.

Located beside the reconstructed platform at the former Axedale Railway Station, the wagon restoration has taken over two years to complete.

Axedale station sits almost half-way on the 49km trail between Bendigo and Heathcote, making the wagon a great spot to aim for a break when riding the trail that has been built where an old rail line first linked the two towns during the gold rush.

Railways and its steam era became an important period for the Greater Bendigo area, providing significant employment, transport for business and farms, as well as connecting Bendigo to Melbourne by the State’s ‘Main Line’ duel track.

The wagon now on display was one of a total of 6320 of its type manufactured for Victorian Railways, yet it has a special significance to the Bendigo area.

Originally manufactured at the Bendigo North Railway Workshops in 1958 as a HY class wagon (number HY16625), it was converted to GY class in 1963. It was taken out of service in 1998, and unlike most, survived being scrapped.

“Rusting away for decades at the Korumburra Railway Station yards, our group successfully submitted an expression of interest to PTV for this wagon” said Garry Long, President of Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.

“With the assistance of a Fosterville Gold Mine community grant, the wagon was transported to Axedale in early 2018 and placed on a short section of railway line built by the Friends group” said Mr Long.

The project’s next stage was dealing with the extensive rust and restoring the wagon to its original specifications. The Friends group member Rob Jarvis approached private company BRW (Bendigo Railway Workshops) seeking their involvement.

With the BRW’s restoration completed in March 2020, the next stage was to provide all abilities access for the public into the wagon’s internal area. With the design for a metal access ramp completed, this was manufactured by a local engineering company and then installed to bridge the gap between the platform and the wagon.

In a short ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Margaret O’Rourke officially opened public access to the wagon, on Sunday 20th September. The opening was perhaps her last duty as Mayor before the Council goes into caretaker role in the lead up to Council Elections.

“As the only item of heritage railway rolling stock now on public static display in the Bendigo area, this is an important asset for Bendigo as well as a great point of interest for the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail” said Cr O’Rourke.

Possible trail extension

As well as making sure the O'Keefe Rail Trail and other riding and walking trails in the region are well looked after, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail are also working for the creation of a trail from Wallan to Heathcote.

A new 78km trail would link up with the O'Keefe Rail Trail and connect Wallan, Heathcote Junction, Wandong, Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac and Heathcote.

People would be able to ride all of or sections of a 127km off-road trail and drop into the local towns to visit cafes, hotels, galleries, wineries and breweries.

You can support the trail extension by getting in touch with Mitchell Shire Council and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.

Click here to read more about the proposed trail extension

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