O'Keefe Rail Trail
The O'Keefe Rail Trail is a 19 kilometre rail trail connecting Bendigo with Axedale. The sandy gravel trail runs along a former branch line on the Melbourne-Sydney rail line. As of August 2007, work was underway to extend it to Heathcote. This work received $3.1m in state and local funding in June 2010. A local lobby group is pushing to extend it even further, as far as Kilmore. The trail could theoretically be extended all the way to Heathcote Junction, where the original train line joined the Melbourne-Sydney rail line.
The trail includes a number of bridges, including the $50,000 Axe Creek Suspension Bridge, which was built in 1993.
The trail is named after Andrew O'Keefe, an early railway pioneer.
The Heathcote to North Bendigo line was built by O'Keefe in 1888 after successfully tendering 88,409 pounds to build the 28 miles of track and 50 bridges. It formed part of the Wandong to Bendigo line, and was commissioned as part of the Railway Construction Act 821, which authorised large amounts of railway infrastructure to be built. At the time, Heathcote had a population of 1500, and was part of the supply chain for the gold rush.
From 1888 for several decades, the railway was kept busy supplying timber for mine shafts, and as fuel. At its peak, two trainloads of timber was transported each day. However, by 1958, this had dwindled to less than a trainload of freight per week, and the service was suspended.
The track was finally dismantled in the 1970s.
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- "O'Keefe Rail Trail", City of Greater Bendigo, 2000.
- Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail