Beech Forest to Crowes Narrow Gauge Restoration

 
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
G'day Folks, just holidaying in the lovely Otways at the moment! I'm wondering if any thought has ever been given to restoration/re-laying of the Beech Forest to Crowes section if the old Beechy Line? It would certainly add to the tourism draw card in the area and probably get excellent patronage - especially if you started at Crowes to take advantage of the Great Ocean Rd traffic.

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  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I would suggest that no thought whatsoever has been given to such a harebrained idea. Have you any idea at all of what's involved? Obviously not, or you wouldn't come up with the idea.
Millions of dollars for clearing and track, untold hours of accreditation, and once you've done that you can start looking for locomotives and rolling stock. Then you'd better find people to maintain and run the place.
"probably get excellent patronage" is a wish and nothing else.
Forget it, chum. Try something with a better chance of working, like finding the Philosopher's Stone or the Elixir of Youth.
  michaelgreenhill Administrator That's Numberwang!

Location: Melbourne
I would suggest that no thought whatsoever has been given to such a harebrained idea. Have you any idea at all of what's involved? Obviously not, or you wouldn't come up with the idea.
Millions of dollars for clearing and track, untold hours of accreditation, and once you've done that you can start looking for locomotives and rolling stock. Then you'd better find people to maintain and run the place.
"probably get excellent patronage" is a wish and nothing else.
Forget it, chum. Try something with a better chance of working, like finding the Philosopher's Stone or the Elixir of Youth.
Valvegear
Ease up, the man was asking a valid question. The same was most likely said of the Walhalla, PBR and VGR folks when their respective projects were first mooted.
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
Thanks Michael for your constructive reply... Mustn't have been that harebrained as West Coast Railway apparently investigated the feasibility of it... I wasn't suggesting it would be easy because, from the sounds of things, a lot of the original formation from Beech - Crowes has been ploughed in or incorporated in to roads so just finding the original formation would be a challenge - it'd effectively be a complete rebuild - and then you'd have to hope PBR are prepared to lease some rolling stock coz it doesn't seem there's any NG stuff left outside of there. If you had the right support and monetary backing would it be feasible? It's got a few things going for it historically speaking i.e southernmost station (crowes) one of a small handful of NG lines etc.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Ease up, the man was asking a valid question. The same was most likely said of the Walhalla, PBR and VGR folks when their respective projects were first mooted.
"michaelgreenhill"
 OK - my apologies - I was a bit vehement. To continue, the same was most certainly not said of PBR. Public support showed it to be a racing certainty. Walhalla and VGR are both fortunate examples of projects which were well on their way before we became a Nanny State. To start something today, absolutely from scratch, is a massive undertaking - that's my point. And finally, I am not aware of any group of enthusiastic locals clamouring for such a railway. The groups you mentioned had the (term I hate ) "human resources" to make things happen, and the enthusiasm to go with it.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
it'd effectively be a complete rebuild - and then you'd have to hope PBR are prepared to lease some rolling stock coz it doesn't seem there's any NG stuff left outside of there. If you had the right support and monetary backing would it be feasible? It's got a few things going for it historically speaking i.e southernmost station (crowes) one of a small handful of NG lines etc.
"steamedup"
Again; my apologies for being abrupt.  First; with money, and a lot of it, anything is feasible. This is, of course, provided there are people to do the work.  It would take years, and there's no evidence of any group emerging.  The railways that michaelgreenhill mentioned (Wahalla, PBR, VGR ) all have the advantage of being in well established tourist centres. I also suspect that chance of leasing anything from PBR would be extremely remote. You only need to look there on a six-train day to see how little, if any at all, would be available.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
G'day Folks, just holidaying in the lovely Otways at the moment! I'm wondering if any thought has ever been given to restoration/re-laying of the Beech Forest to Crowes section if the old Beechy Line? It would certainly add to the tourism draw card in the area and probably get excellent patronage - especially if you started at Crowes to take advantage of the Great Ocean Rd traffic.
steamedup

Did you ride the rail train at all?  If you did you will see some of it is just not available. Especially the first part of the line from Colac.  There are other sections which I also did not see which would require work but anything is possible.

There is some rollingstock at the very end of the of the line if you are to look.

Merry Xmas
Brian
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
Thanks folks for your replies - it would certainly pose a lot of challenges (if not insurmountable ones). I didn't ride the trail - I'd almost completely consider the colac - beech forest section completely unavailable given the rail trail etc. the Beech Forest - Crowes section would be the most likely. I did visit the Crowes end (along with Beech Forest) - is the rolling stock you mention Brian the flatbed on the short section of track? It would be impossible to find a VR NG loco or carriages that PBR don't have I'd guess - you'd also need all new rail (there's not 22km of 30lb second hand laying around that i know of). Do you reckon there's much VR NG stuff left that hasn't been found yet? While we're dreaming lets rebuild G41 from scratch! Has anybody traced the formation from Beech Forest - Crowes? I hear its pretty messed up
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
The best you could realistically hope for, would be the development of the rail trail along a much of the former alinement as possible, but this could take decades to fully complete.

Some people on here seam to be opposed to rail trails, but the fact Is they are big tourist drawcards, preserve the rail corridor from development, community groups love to look after the vegetation within the former rail corridor and they become a major community asset.

Rail trails should be built along side existing railways In well populated and or scenic areas.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Thanks folks for your replies - it would certainly pose a lot of challenges (if not insurmountable ones). I didn't ride the trail - I'd almost completely consider the colac - beech forest section completely unavailable given the rail trail etc. the Beech Forest - Crowes section would be the most likely. I did visit the Crowes end (along with Beech Forest) - is the rolling stock you mention Brian the flatbed on the short section of track? It would be impossible to find a VR NG loco or carriages that PBR don't have I'd guess - you'd also need all new rail (there's not 22km of 30lb second hand laying around that i know of). Do you reckon there's much VR NG stuff left that hasn't been found yet? While we're dreaming lets rebuild G41 from scratch! Has anybody traced the formation from Beech Forest - Crowes? I hear its pretty messed up
steamedup

Actually the rail trail does not follow much of the Colac to Gellibrand route.  Gellibrand to Kawarren is on the rail line but then it changes to another non rail route for reasons lost to me. There is a thread on Railpage already where I talk about the time myself and henry rode the trail a few years ago.

Henry do you recall the deviation?
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
Nightfire, I agree Railtrails can be, and are, a draw card in some areas. My experience has been that most rail trail mobs want all or nothing i.e they're not happy to work with a TR to determine a co-habitation arrangement. This is my limited experience in this area though. I see a place for both but when it comes to heritage TR obviously the original formation is the best place for a train if the line is going to be rebuilt/restored.
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
So Brian you reckon Colac - Beech Forest would be more feasible than the 22km section to Crowes from Beech Forest? There'd certainly be a few issues to work through as some of the formation has been widened and made in to logging roads and I think one section is part of the re-alignment of the Lavers Hill - Beech Forest Rd so some bits wouldn't be able to follow the original formation completely and you'd have to negotiate with farmers etc. Would there still be a right of way reserve for the line?
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
The best you could realistically hope for, would be the development of the rail trail along a much of the former alinement as possible, but this could take decades to fully complete.

Some people on here seam to be opposed to rail trails, but the fact Is they are big tourist drawcards, preserve the rail corridor from development, community groups love to look after the vegetation within the former rail corridor and they become a major community asset.

Rail trails should be built along side existing railways In well populated and or scenic areas.
Nightfire

One of the issues with rail trails is the inability or difficulty in changing back to a train service.  Governments like those in Victoria must love rail trails as they are a wonderful excuse to forget about rail transport in the area. :_)
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
I'll look for your post Brian...

I'd be interested in anyone who has traced the Crowes- beech forest section
  sthyer Deputy Commissioner

I'll look for your post Brian...

I'd be interested in anyone who has traced the Crowes- beech forest section
steamedup
You'll be wanting 'End of the Line, A history of the Beech Forest to Crowes extension railway 1911-1962' by Norman Houghton. You can buy it online from the LRRSA, http://www.lrrsa.org.au  The book has extensive historical information, plus further info on what is still there today.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
One of the issues with rail trails is the inability or difficulty in changing back to a train service.  Governments like those in Victoria must love rail trails as they are a wonderful excuse to forget about rail transport in the area. :_)
bevans
The bike/walking trail just gets moved to the side If a railway need to be re Installed, no big deal at all (just like a service relocation)

In many cases the railway easement Is 2 chains wide, so there Is plenty of land to play with If needed.

Though It's likely the trail would get closed or diverted during construction work (but that's the same as roadworks)
  steamedup Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
I can see rail trails as a good way of preserving the formation - I'd be interested to see how a rail trail organisation would react to a TR coming in and saying "Thanks - but we're shifting you off now".

I had an opportunity to have a bit more of a look on the Beech Forest - Crowes section and found a few cuttings that crossed the road etc - you can also trace some of the former formation in Google Earth - it would be fun to get a team together and actually trace the line with GPS and door knocking! Some of the farmers up that way would have some good knowledge/great stories. Would be interesting to gauge the locals response to how they would feel if it 'ever and back as a TR - 22km of earthworks and re-laid track is a tall order though! You'd need some serious support
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
You'd need some serious support
"steamedup"
And there, in five words is the problem. For "serious" read, "massive". You'd need Clive Palmer on one of his crazy days for enough money, and where you'd find enough qualified people to build and run the operation is anybody's guess.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Well, you'd think that rail trails would be a good way of preserving the formation, but perhaps not. I remember back around the turn of the century that a rail line was being rebuilt in the UK, (I think it was the West Country of England). The final route into a town including a bridge over a decent sized river and through an area of houses, had been converted into a track for push bikes and the cycle lobby refused to allow it to be returned to being a railway line. I think the result was that a new route for the train had to be built, including an entirely new bridge. This cost squillions of pounds.

So don't think that rail trails and the push bike lobby will always be our allies. Sometimes they can be our enemies and make restoration of rail services impossible, especially if the proposed restoration is being done by a cash strapped volunteer group.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
While it would be wonderful to see a NG train running between Lavers Hill and Beech Forest, I doubt the necessary vaults of cash would be available, nor is there a nearby source of huge numbers of volunteers. Perhaps it would be better to devote limited rail preservation resources to extending existing preservation operations that stop in the middle of nowhere to their logical terminuses. So perhaps better priorities would be to:

* Extend the Daylesford line to it's (long term) logical terminus at Trentham.
* Extend the Walhalla line to it's (long term) logical terminus at Erica.
* Develop a decent, professionally curated, mostly indoor rail museum at a site with adequate space.
* Work on giving the South Gippsland line the resources it needs to become a slicker, more commercial operation.

Even these projects would consume decades of the limited cash and volunteer resources available. Sadly I don't think we're anywhere near ready for a whole new restored line yet. Sad
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
G'day Folks, just holidaying in the lovely Otways at the moment! I'm wondering if any thought has ever been given to restoration/re-laying of the Beech Forest to Crowes section if the old Beechy Line? It would certainly add to the tourism draw card in the area and probably get excellent patronage - especially if you started at Crowes to take advantage of the Great Ocean Rd traffic.
"steamedup"
:

When we did our original business planning in 1991/92, Walhalla Goldfields Railway did actually briefly consider the Beechie (Beech Forest-Crowes section). What knocked it out was fairly simple - low level of tourism activity, long distance from service centres/volunteers and total absence of any railway assets.
Walhalla was an existing well known tourist town that had a narrow gauge railway (the SEC 900cm gauge line) just 35km away that was winding down and available for parts, plus the Latrobe Valley had a big engineering sector that was supportive and interested. Personally, I don't think there is potential to reinstate part of any closed line now - too many barriers both financial and logistical. We need to support the rail lines that we already have.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
One of the issues with rail trails is the inability or difficulty in changing back to a train service. Governments like those in Victoria must love rail trails as they are a wonderful excuse to forget about rail transport in the area. :_)
bevans

Looking at an old Melway the Emerald Lakeside - Gembrook railway was a walking trail before It was rebuilt as a tourist railway.

If you look a Maffra In Gippsland the rail corridor has all been gobbled up by private businesses, If a rail trail was put In the day after the tracks were pulled up, the rail corridor may still be In place.
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
Looking at an old Melway the Emerald Lakeside - Gembrook railway was a walking trail before It was rebuilt as a tourist railway.

If you look a Maffra In Gippsland the rail corridor has all been gobbled up by private businesses, If a rail trail was put In the day after the tracks were pulled up, the rail corridor may still be In place.
"Nightfire"


Apart from the Maffra station ground (now progressively being sold for light industrial purposes) the Traralgon-Stratford route is intact apart from the area in Traralgon East where the line branched off. The rail trail bypasses the Murray Goulburn factory at Maffra which is built over the rail line easement but still retains the stub of the old siding leading into the building. The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail now has funding available to complete it from Toongabbie-Traralgon, where it will join other walking tracks leading into the city centre. Occasionally the rail trail aficionados grumble about Erica-Thomson being resumed for rail operations, but WGR claimed the route two decades back before rail trails were ever canvassed.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
So Brian you reckon Colac - Beech Forest would be more feasible than the 22km section to Crowes from Beech Forest? There'd certainly be a few issues to work through as some of the formation has been widened and made in to logging roads and I think one section is part of the re-alignment of the Lavers Hill - Beech Forest Rd so some bits wouldn't be able to follow the original formation completely and you'd have to negotiate with farmers etc. Would there still be a right of way reserve for the line?
steamedup


I can't saw for sure, I have not seen the entire line.  I have seen from the Colac side to the other side of Gellibrand.   I have seen the Crowes section in parts as access was not available as a rail trail at the time i rode it.

Regards
Brian
  Adogs Chief Train Controller

Hi all,

I was in the Otways with the family on holiday last year and spent a little bit of time following the route of the line from Beech Forest to Crowes via car... Which is what everyone on that road does without realising, as most of the route is under the bitumen of the ridge road.

Basically, after the line closed, the ridge road from Beech Forest to Lavers Hill was straightened and widened, which covered over large sections of the old formation. So from a feasibility point of view, it's not going to happen.

But back to the original question - Yes, plenty of people have thought about it. Is it feasible overall? Not really.

You could maybe restore parts of the line, but the only town on the line which is actually on the Great Ocean Rd is Lavers Hill, and there are buildings and stuff over the formation and station site.

Between Colac and Beech Forest, there are sections that could theoretically be restored, but they're seeing plenty of use as the rail trail, which is fine by me... Also, the rail trail in itself is quite fragmented, as parts of the formation there have been reused as logging roads, farm roads, or just reverted to paddocks and in private ownership (particularly close in to Colac).

I can, however, recommend reading the Conservation Management Plan prepared for the Colac-Otway Shire a little over a decade ago. It's 59 pages long and has detailed descriptions of what the formation remains looked like in 2003, as well as details of the original route and stations etc. Makes it easy to follow on Google Earth or by car if you're in the area.

Paste this link into your browser to get it: www.colacotway.vic.gov.au/files/forest_crowes_mgmt_plan.pdf

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