It's been two decades in the making, but the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail will open to the public from April 3. And given the fires that ravaged nearby towns just months ago, it couldn't be better timing.
"We really hope it will act as a catalyst to lure more people back into the area to enjoy our fresh open countryside", says Owen Fitzgerald of the Tumbarumba Rail Trail Committee, who has led the charge converting the disused railway line into a knock-out shared-use path.
"About 20 years ago, I watched a video about the Otago Central Rail Trail, the first of its kind in New Zealand, and thought we need to do that here,'' says Owen.
It took Owen and other members of his committee many years convincing different layers of bureaucracy, and, of course, the Tumbarumba community, that it'd be a good idea to convert the 22 kilometres of disused rail line into the first rail track of its kind in NSW.
"While there are a couple of other rail trails on private land, we are the first along an original rail corridor on a public reserve in the state," reveals Owen.
After acknowledging the potential tourism benefits the trail would bring, many community groups have jumped on board the project. These include the Tumbarumba Men's Shed where members have been beavering away creating trail-side furniture like seats and tables, and the local historical society which has devloped a series of interpretive signs highlighting the history of the rail line which opened in 1921 and closed to passenger trains in 1974.
"We've also published a book," says Ron Frew of the historical society. "It's chock full of fascinating anecdotes like the day someone caught the train to Wagga Wagga and it ran into a bull."
"The Sydney Morning Herald reported 'train runs into bull, kills bull', and TheDaily Telegraph ran with the headline 'Rampant Bull charges Train','' laughs Ron.
As the final sections of the track are still under construction, on a visit earlier this week your akubra-clad columnist wasn't able to pedal the full length of the track, but I did manage a sneak peek at several highlights, including three iconic trestle bridges which have been restored to their original appearance.
The trail, which passes long abandoned stations of Glenroy and Wolseley Park, also skirts a vineyard (think of the potential there for a possible drop-off or pick-up point) and the mega Hyne Timber sawmill, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere where a viewing platform is planned.
Apart from the trestle bridges and the fact there are no motor vehicles to deal with, Owen believes the views along the track, especially on approach into Tumbarumba, will be a major drawcard.
"In April and May we have amazing autumn colour and in winter the snow-capped Snowy Mountains are a sight to behold", he says. "But my favourite parts of the track are those which meander through farmland."
While the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail doesn't (yet) have the regular pit stops that some of the more popular Victorian rail trails do, it does boast knock-out cafes at either end.
In Tumbarumba you can refuel at a number of cafes, including Nest (56 Winton Street) where there is ample space for dozens of bikes, and if you need to rest your weary legs for a couple of hours, there's even a bespoke cinema out the back. It's a little bit of Melbourne in Tumbarumba.
Meanwhile,near the Rosewood end of the track is Gone Barny café (1519 Tumbarumba Road) which doubles as a plant nursery, post office and gift shop. According to owner, Jenny Murfett, "the other day someone drove all the way from Perth for one of our milkshakes".
Served in old fashioned tin containers and with more than generous helping of ice cream and cream, I can confirm they are one of the best milkshakes I've slurped down, although I'm not sure I'd cross the Nullarbor for one. My advice is to share one between two, especially if you plan on cycling further afterwards.
Also in Rosewood is a gum tree surrounded with hundreds of gnomes. Given the success of rail trails in Victoria and Tumbarumba's proximity to Canberra, I suspect it won't be long before the number of cyclists outnumber the gnomes in Rosewood.
Tumbarumba - Rosewood Rail Trail: 22km of sealed share path along the original rail route from Tumbarumba to Rosewood. It's downhill to Rosewood, so if you want to coast downhill on the way home, start at Rosewood. That said, the gradient is only 2 per cent, so it's an easy trail to conquer in either direction with not too much huff and puff. The NSW government provided a grant of $5.7 million for the entire trail. There are already plans afoot to extend the trail from Rosewood through a spectacular section of S bends going down the escarpment to Tarcutta.
Opening weekend: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official opening on Friday, April 3 at 11.30am in Figures Street, Tumbarumba, has been scaled down to a low-key ribbon cutting attended by a few committee members and Justin Clancy MP. A family fun day planned for the following day has been reschedule to Saturday September 26, 2020. This will be bigger than originally planned with lots of activities. Allow three hours' drive from Canberra.
For the book shelf: Train buffs will enjoy the hot-off-the-press Recycling Rail: Tumbarumba-Rosewood Train and Cycle History. Compiled and edited by Ron Frew for the Tumbarumba Historical Society, it chronicles the story of both the railway line and rail trail.
CONTACT TIM: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Renaissance of the Canberra Red
Last week's exposé on Canberra's red brick (The 100 Objects that Define Canberra) prompted many Canberrans to share their love for featuring salvaged Canberra reds in refurbishments and backyard projects.
These include Tony Crowley, who, on the weekend while undertaking some renovations at his Queanbeyan home, captured this photo of a brazen redback spider scurrying across a red brick. "Two famous Canberra reds," he muses, adding "shame we didn't have a Clonakilla red to match." Indeed.
"I bought the bricks from another home owner in Queanbeyan who demolished an old chimney," reports Tony, who "used them to pave a small area in front of his shed".
Tony reveals he will use any leftover bricks in future landscaping and also for his passion of building pizza ovens.
In fact, if correspondence to this column is any guide, it seems that Canberra reds are the preferred building material for many Canberrans' pizza ovens.
Michael Lambery reports "Kama Scout Hall in Macquarie has a Canberra red pizza oven built by the Venturers (14 to 18-year-olds), while Keighley Sutherland of Hawker reports, "after many months of collecting the iconic bricks from the Green Shed, we built a pizza oven and raised rose garden bed from them".
However, it seems not everyone has been able to source enough of the sought-after bricks for an entire pizza oven. "We could only find one single Canberra red for our outdoor kitchen, so we've made it into a feature brick in the middle of the bench" reports Tracey Davis.
Christine Aldred, who has a driveway, and several backyard paths paved with them, reports "there is a decorative wall, made almost exclusively from Canberra reds, at the Griffith Neighbourhood Centre".
The salvaged bricks also appear to be popular with bars and pubs. "The bar at Mustang Nepalese Bar & Restaurant at the Farrer Shops was created from salvaged Canberra reds", reports Kristine Schultz, while Kurt Bryant, the general manager, of Casey Jones Pub in Casey, reveals, "We have a fireplace, a large arch, as a feature wall all made with reclaimed Canberra reds".
WHERE IN CANBERRA?
Clue: Our deep south
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Bevan Hannan of Canberra who was first to correctly identify the location of last week's photo, taken by Paul Porteous, as the shed at Hall showgrounds.
"The Hall showground used to host the annual Canberra Show until 1963 and the shed was often used to hold prizewinning sheep," reveals Paul.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday 21 March, 2020 will WIN A DOUBLE PASS TO DENDY CINEMA - THE HOME OF QUALITY CINEMA.
Several readers have spotted more of Canberra's iconic Clem Cummings-designed bus shelters far away from their native habitat (The 100 objects that define Canberra, March) [ ]).
"I was recently out doing a bit of train spotting when I came across this passenger shelter (for southbound trains) at the Tallong [near Goulburn] Railway Station," reports Graeme Shields, who wonders "if NSW Rail/CityRail acquired an excess shelter from the ACT Government or whether they borrowed the design". Does anyone know?
Meanwhile, on a recent road trip to Sydney last weekend, Evelyn and Kris Jacobsen of Kambah spotted a Cummings concrete bus shelter on the Wakehurst Parkway, south of Warringah Road, heading towards Seaforth. "The only difference was the orange window panel was green" report the eagle-eyed Jacobsens.
Are there more?
"During a recent stroll through the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Shay Simpson of Red Hill spotted this slightly deformed banksia flower and "thought it very much looked like a small bird flying to the left".