Friday, 16 October 2015

Review: The Dookie Rail Trail

After work today I seized the chance to try out the Dookie rail trail.  This particular trail opened in 2010 and runs along part of the route of the Katamatite railway line, which closed in 1987.
Dookie itself looks like it'd be worth exploring, and I'd have happily done so if I'd had more time.
Certainly the Gladstone Hotel sounded like it was doing a good trade when I got back to my car post-run at about 7pm. 
The surrounding area produces a lot of grain, judging by the size of the railyard in front of the silos in the town.  To my quick observation driving by, the silos are still in use, but shipment of grain is done by trucks rather than trains.
The trail itself starts just opposite the Gladstone Hotel.  It starts out dead flat, and runs alongside a limb of railway which has been left in place
The flatness of the starting stretch is a little misleading, because it means you don't immediately pick up the footprint of the old railway on the landscape.  For about the first kilometre I found myself wondering if this was in fact a rail trail or simply a trail that happened to be near a railway.
This is not to say that it's not actually a good trail.  The slow climb into the hills is a good challenge for runners and the landscape is a picture.  One thing I did spot especially was a church way up on the hillside.  I must find out which one it is and pay it a visit: it must have the best lookout in Christendom. [I've since learned from Amy Feldtmann's excellent review of the trail that it's St Mary's Catholic Church]
As the trail climbs the footprint of the rail becomes obvious.  You notice that you're running in a reserve between two grainfields that was presumably never a roadway.  You also find youself running through cuttings that it's unlikely a farmer would have the time or need to dig.
Eventually you find yourself on an elevated path that can only have been a railway embankment and it becomes obvious that the trail is quite literally following the path of long-vanished rails.
The path is marked with a sign at each kilometre.  At present the trail only goes for 4.7 kilometres, so it's not really one that would call to long-distance runners or cyclists.
That said, after the end of the sealed trail, the railway reserve continues on, and the line of the vanished rails is moved and mostly free of trees.  It's certainly no worse than some designated running trails I've been on, so I kept going.
This unofficial trail goes for about another mile and only runs out where the embankment has been cut through for a drainage ditch, beyond which trees have been allowed to grow.  This was the point I turned back.
The sun was at my back on the return journey.  The sky was overcast and the breaks of sun seemed to bring things out in richer colour than usual and I kept stopping to take more pictures.
I saw a particular trace of the railway in a couple of the gates that the farmers had installed beside the trail.  These were gates in the pattern manufactured by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd in the 1920s.
When I stopped to take a picture, however, I was surprised to see that where the manufacturer's name would usually be, there was instead the "broad arrow" mark (indicating government property) and the cipher "VR", which was used by the Victorian Railways.
The last two kilometres of the trail are a steady descent back into Dookie with views out over the valley.  In the setting sun it was heart-tuggingly peaceful.
The Rail-Trails Australia website says the there's a plan to extend the trail back to Cosgrove.  As I drove home it seemed that a lot of that route still has the rail-line in place, so I have some doubts that this will be a feasible project financially or politically.  Be that as it may: the 5-6 kilometres of the trail as it stands is definitely worth a vist for a short but satisfying running in beautiful terrain.

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