The Old Beechy Rail Trail winds through scenic pine forests and bushland, rich farmland and rolling hills as it travels from Colac up to Beech Forest.
It was 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 bird life.
This trail features outstanding and innovative interpretative signs along the route.
Colac – Barongarook (11km)
This section of the trail is entirely 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 the Colac railway station, cross the foot bridge over the railway and follow the signposted route out of town via Wilson St, Queen St, Aireys St, Woodrowvale Rd and Forest St.
Follow Forest St for 4km to the end. Turn left into Barongarook Rd. Follow Barongarook Rd for 2.3km.
Turn right at Alford Rd. After 1km, turn left at Maggios Rd. After 500m, the rail trail starts on the right.
Barongarook – Birnam (6km)
The trail travels through bushland to Cashins Road, and is particulatlry beautiful. The trail surface is very good.
Birnam – Kawarren (3.5km)
The trail leaves the original railway formation in this section and has a very steep climb and descent on a gravel surface.
Turn right at Cashins Rd. The trail starts again on the left hand side.
The trail climbs steeply through bushland and then descends again, entering farmland.
The trail rejoins the railway alignment at the site of Kawarren station.
Kawarren – Gellibrand (6.5km)
Follow the trail as it runs beside the main road.
Just before Gellibrand, cross the main road. A pedestrian and cycle bridge has been built to carry the trail over the Gellibrand River. The original railway bridge was demolished to make way for the current road.
The original railway station building survives at Gellibrand and contains an historical display.
Gellibrand – Dinmont (14km)
The trail from Gellibrand to Beech Forest is steep and rough in parts. Not suitable for inexperienced riders.
Detours around the McDevitt area for Harvesting operations will be removed from 7 March 2013
The trail shares the footpath through Gellibrand. Cross the road again at the southern edge of town to rejoin the original railway formation.
Entering farmland, the trail starts the climb to Beech Forest.
There is one short on-road section. Watch for log trucks on this gravel road.
At Dinmont, the old railway water tank is still in use.
Dinmont – Beech Forest (4.5km)
At Dinmont the trail crosses the Old Beech Forest Road and a short section can be followed. This section is currently a dead end, so return to the road.
Follow Old Beech Forest Road to Ditchley station site by road, and then continue on the trail to Beech Forest.
At Beech Forest look for the site of the balloon loop (used for reversing trains) at the eastern end of town.
Beech Forest – Buchanan (1km)
A 1km trail begins at the western edge of Beech Forest. Follow it west through a dense canopy of rainforest and ferns. The trail ends at a farm fence. Funding is set aside and negotiations with local land owners is in place to extend the trail to Ferguson when the weather is suitable.
The 2'6" narrow gauge line was 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 was 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 can still be seen.
The line ran 'mixed' trains with passengers and goods (timber, cattle, potatoes, cheese and other farm produce).
The steam locomotives travelled at a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour between Colac and Gellibrand and 10 to 15 miles an hour 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 land owners to allow so much of the trail to follow the original route.