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Lost railway ignites Blue Mountains rail trail hopes

Alia Parker's picture
A forgotten railway line from the 1800s is discovered in the Blue Mountains. Cycle Traveller

The rediscovery of a forgotten railway line on the outskirts of Sydney could prove to be an important missing link in plans to develop a rail trail across the Blue Mountains, the chair of the local Sustainable Transport Group (STG) says.

And if the idea of a rail trail through one of Australia's favourite weekend destinations isn't enough to get you excited, Hereward Dundas-Taylor, chair of the Blue Mountains' STG, says the trail forms a key part of even grander plans to establish a bicycle route from Manly to Mudgee.

“It's such an obvious, useful trail,” Dundas-Taylor says of the proposed rail trail. “The mountains are an untapped opportunity.”

The STG has applied to Rail Trails NSW for funding for a feasibility study into the rail trail.

Mr Dundas-Taylor says a section of railway dating back to the 1860s has been rediscovered between Blackheath and Mount Victoria. The section had been decommissioned when a new, less windy railway line was built at the turn of last century. After the sleepers were ripped up, the old line lay dormant and eventually forgotten.

“People have occasionally stumbled across it in the bush while walking their dogs and everyone has thought it was an old highway or coach way, but the few people who knew about it didn't realise it was a disused railway line from the 1800s,” he tells Cycle Traveller.

“Sydney Trains still own the land, so it will take a political solution to rectify, but it shouldn't be a complicated one because there's just no way in the world it will ever be used again.”

The trails

There are now three separate sections of disused rail line in the Blue Mountains that would provide about 12km of trail.

The newly discovered section runs almost all the way between Blackheath and Mount Victoria, falling about a kilometre short of the towns on either side. There is also a section stretching for about half the distance between Wentworth Falls and Bullaburra, and another running part of the distance between Glenbrook and Emu Plains.

“They're all different in their own way, but two of them are quite significant,” Mr Dundas-Taylor says. “One of them has a fair amount of heavy engineering going through the mountainside, all cut out by hand, possibly by convict labour.”

“Another section, which is down in the lower part of the mountains, runs through a tunnel which is just under a kilometre long.”

The newly discovered railway line in the Blue Mountains. Cycle TravellerThe bigger picture

Mr Dundas-Taylor says the rail trail is just one of a number of initiatives the STG is lobbying for in the Blue Mountains. The group – which comprises local bike groups, business, bike trail advocates and has established relationships with the council and the Roads and Maritime Services – is also discussing ways of sealing back roads to provide cyclists with a safe passage through the mountains. At present, cyclist riding between villages in the mountains must ride on the Great Western Highway, which is not designed for bicycle use. As a result, many cyclists shy away from riding in the mountains, while those that do, risk the dangers of the highway.

The development of a safe bike route across the Blue Mountains that would be completely separated from the highway forms part of a much larger vision to connect existing bike paths throughout Sydney to form a cycle route from Manly to Mudgee.

“The other trail that we want to put in across the mountains is a dirt track for adventure riders and mountain bike riders, and this connects a lot of the existing single track,” Mr Dundas-Taylor said.

Have your say

Cyclists interested in cycling in the Blue Mountains are encouraged to take part in a community survey set up by the STG to collect data on the safety issues associated with cycling on the highway as well as the number of cyclists likely to use any new rail trails and bike paths between villages. To have your say, go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BMCCA-STG.

Images: Blue Mountains locals take their bikes out on the rediscovered railway line between Blackheath and Mount Victoria. Source: Sustainable Transport Group.

Comments

Hi, Do you have location of these lost trails? would love to go bike riding there

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