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Rail Trail History In The Making

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Daryl Van Cooten, from the Queensland Penny Farthing and Historical Cycle Club, was one of three penny farthing riders who hit the trail in Kingaroy

October 3, 2017

History was made in the South Burnett on Sunday with the official opening of the South Burnett Rail Trail.

It’s been a long time in the making, and has had a few false starts along the way.

The Theebine-Kingaroy rail line was officially closed on Christmas Eve 2009 after being mothballed for some years.

Planning soon began to develop a recreational trail, but in 2011 the South Burnett Regional Council decided to hand the project back to the State Government.

In the dying days of the last Federal Labor Government, $550,000 was promised to Council to develop a trail and hopes were again raised; sadly, this money never eventuated.

But in July 2014, the dream began to turn into a reality when then-Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney signed over $2 million from the Royalties For Regions program to the South Burnett and Gympie councils to develop the trail from Kingaroy to Kilkivan.

The South Burnett section of this trail runs from Kingaroy to Murgon along the southernmost section of the former railway line.

The opening celebrations for this southern section drew large crowds of local residents and visitors on Sunday, eager to be part of history.

Celebrations were scheduled in each major town along the route.

First up was Kingaroy, where cyclists, runners and walkers gathered at Kingaroy’s former Railway Station building at 6:00am.

After the official ceremonies, they hit the track with the sound of an old steam train whistle ringing in their ears.

This brass whistle, now powered by compressed air, was made in the Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1925.

It stayed in service on Queensland steam trains until 1963, after which it was bought by Moore resident Bob Howe.

Several dozen cyclists – including three on penny farthings – and smaller groups of runners and walkers took up the challenge of travelling the 43.5km to Murgon.

Amongst the runners were members of the Kingaroy Nutters and Go Getta Girls running clubs who took turns at carrying a specially made wooden Rail Trail baton from Kingaroy to Murgon.

This baton – made by the South Burnett Woodcrafters – was handed to Mick Freeman, from the Kingaroy Nutters, by South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell.

Water stations were set up along the way at Crawford, Memerambi, Wooroolin, Tingoora and Wondai.

Morning tea was available at Wooroolin and a lunch at Wondai.

Shuttle bus services, sponsored by Stanwell Corporation, allowed spectators to follow the action along the trail or participants to complete smaller sections.

In Murgon, a large community celebration featuring live music, market and food stalls, pig races, billy cart races and displays of fishing boats and historic wagons awaited the arrival of the Rail Trail baton.

Dignitaries attending these celebrations included Member For Callide Jeff Seeney, Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien, Cherbourg Mayor Arnold Murray, and the “fathers” of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, Reg McCallum and Kerry Mercer.

Another special guest was long distance runner Ron Grant, now 74, who set off along the trail before sunrise so he could claim to be the first person to walk it from end to end.

The Murgon celebrations began at 8:00am with the Cherbourg Warriors Fun Run, and continued all day on the land surrounding the Murgon Men’s Shed and the former Murgon Railway Station.

* * *

About 1:00pm on Sunday, a weary but happy Ron Grant walked into Murgon an hour ahead of schedule to meet up with other officials who had climbed aboard two restored horse-drawn wagons near Schultz Crossing.

At 2:00pm, the official party then paraded to a stage set up next to the former railway station, preceded by six members from the 5th Light Horse Regiment’s Gympie troop.

The official part of the day’s proceedings opened with a performance by the Wakka Gubbi dancers, a Welcome To Country from Cherbourg Mayor Arnold Murray, followed by a blessing of the rail trail by Glen Vonhoff from the Murgon District Baptist Church.

After this, Member for Callide Jeff Seeney told the audience the Rail Trail had its genesis in 2006 when he was first told the former railway line was to be closed, and he had struck a deal with then-Transport Minister John Mickel to keep the railway land in public ownership.

It had taken a further eight years to find the $2 million Royalties For Regions funding that paid for the new trail to be created, but Mr Seeney said he was very proud of being able to do that.

“The bitumen seal on the South Burnett Rail Trail is unique in Australia and allows many more people to use it,” Mr Seeney said.

“This trail will increase the tourism assets of the South Burnett and provide valuable recreation and health benefits for locals who use it.”

Ron Grant made a surprise admission that he had only “discovered” rail trails a year ago, but was now a confirmed fan.

Earlier this year he had travelled the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail from Wulkuraka to Yarraman over three days, so he was determined to be the first person to walk the South Burnett Rail Trail end to end.

Runner Mick Freeman officially passed the Rail Trail baton back to Mayor Campbell, who presented medallions to all the runners who had taken part in the relay.

After this the Mayor declared the Trail officially open to the sound of the steam train whistle.

“This is an historic day and a momentous one,” the Mayor said.

“The railway arrived in Murgon in 1903 and made it to Kingaroy in 1904, and it changed everyone’s lives for the better.

“I believe the South Burnett Rail Trail will do the same, bringing economic benefit to all the towns along it and a great facility for locals as well as visitors.”

The winners of the day’s prizes were announced and a painting by award-winning Indigenous artist Max Conlon was auctioned for $2500 to assist the Murgon Men’s Shed.

Cr Gavin “Spud” Jones’ Charity Challenge (see separate report) donated $1200 to RACQ LifeFlight and $1100 to the Murgon Men’s Shed.

Murgon Business and Development Association president Leo Geraghty said there were now plans to make the Community Day an annual event at Murgon on the long weekend.

Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien, who secured a $25,000 Federal Government grant to help with an extension to the Murgon Men’s Shed, also took advantage of the celebrations to declare the new building officially open.

* * *

Kingaroy

Dean Chesterton, logo designer Aaron Clampit, Cr Danita Potter, Mayor Keith Campbell and Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff at O'Neill Square in Kingaroy ... Aaron was presented with a framed Rail Trail shirt to thank him for designing the logo

Craig and Carmen Campbell had come over from Highfields to run on the trail

George Hames and Neil Andrew, both from Dalby, were looking forward to a day of cycling

Lindsay Gardiner, a volunteer at the Kingaroy Heritage Museum, made this model of the Kingaroy Railway Station which was on display in O'Neill Square

O'Neill Square was packed with cyclists, runners and walkers ... an unusual sight for 6:00am

South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell cuts the ribbon to declare the Kingaroy section of the Rail Trail open

Bob Howe sounded a genuine train whistle - powered now by compressed air - to send the cyclists, runners and walkers on their way

And they're off ... the first cyclists hit the newly opened South Burnett Rail Trail in Kingaroy

A couple of familiar faces were testing their mettle ... Kingaroy resident John Box ...

... and keen rail trail enthusiast Debbie Dennien, from Kingaroy

Mayor Keith Campbell with the wooden Rail Trail baton which was fashioned by the South Burnett Woodcrafters

Mick Freeman, from the Kingaroy Nutters running club is handed the Rail Trail baton by Mayor Campbell ... runners from the Kingaroy Nutters and the Go Getta Girls took turns at carrying the baton to Murgon

After the pushbikes and the runners, the train whistle sounded for the walkers

Some of the Council staff volunteering their time on Sunday morning ... Lori Burchmann, Darryl and Kay Dove, Julie Foley, Kristy Board and Fiona Kemp

Cr Danita Potter, Mayor Keith Campbell and Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff ... missing is Cr Ros Heit who was already out running along the trail

* * *

Crawford

Two of the penny farthings cycle leisurely into Crawford ... there's still a long way to go!

There were many family groups enjoying a day out on the South Burnett Rail Trail

* * *

Wooroolin

Whipcrackers from St John's Lutheran School provided entertainment at the Wooroolin stop ... from left William Dacumos, Pita Tidmarsh and Jessica Tidmarsh

Admiring the new Wooroolin sign board were Michelle Wesener, Jayme Van Dyk, Cr Ros Heit, Angela Clarke and Bettina Stewart ... several new information boards have been placed along the trail

The Rail Trail baton makes its way past the old Wooroolin rail sheds for its first morning stop

* * *

Wondai

The Rail Trail baton makes its way into Wondai, still being carried by members from the two running clubs

A quick handover ... and the baton is on its way again for the last stretch to Murgon

Therese Seeney and her husband, Member for Callide Jeff Seeney, check out 'Mongrel', the South Burnett's musical tractor which starred in the 2012 Tractor Tattoo in Kingaroy

At Wondai ... from left, Mayor Keith Campbell, Julie Foley, Cr Danita Potter, Craig Kapernick, Cr Kathy Duff, Member for Callide Jeff Seeney, Claire Kapernick and John Woodward

The Wondai and District Town Band were providing live music in Coronation Park at Wondai ... Cr Ros Heit took the opportunity to present the group with their South Burnett Community Grant

* * *

Murgon

5th Light Horse Regiment Gympie troop horse riders Jim Boyle, Suzanne Chapman and Helen Ainsworth, accompanied by Terry Parkin and Allan and Helen Chapman, led the official party into Murgon

Two restored antique wagons full of VIPs were pulled to the main stage by tractors

A group of cyclists makes its way into Murgon just in time for the official ceremonies

Mike Moody, Kerrie Miller, Laurel Tucker, Ute and Peter Crawford and Barry Brown are all members of the Bribie Island Bugs cycling group and came up for the day to try the South Burnett Rail Trail

Jules Entwistle and Kristy Frahm, from BIEDO, were trying to interest the Murgon crowd in buying calendars which feature photographs from around the South Burnett

The Wakka Gubbi dancers performed in front of the stage to kick off the official part of the afternoon

Nev Sommerfield, from Murgon, and his vintage squeezebox

'Deadly' Hedley Fisher, from Goomeri, was playing on stage with Harold Chapman

Jeanette Brown, Uncle Cecil Brown and Cherbourg Mayor Arnold Murray ... Mayor Murray performed a Welcome To Country to kick off Murgon's official proceedings

Two riders completed the inaugural Cherbourg Horse Ride from Goomeri to Murgon along the unsealed portion of the trail

Murgon Business and Development Association president Leo Geraghty shows a railway lamp

Runner Ron Grant joined the official party on stage in Murgon

Aunty Sandra Morgan and Luella Blair, from Cherbourg, with Gloria Bell, from Murgon

A painting by Indigenous artist Max Conlon was auctioned and raised $2500 for the Men's Shed

Isabella Burke, 7, won the U12s billycart race; Claire Dennis and Chloe, 6, won the open event

Deputy Mayor and chair of the South Burnett Rail Trail committee Kathy Duff with Murgon Business and Development Association president Leo Geraghty

Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien was one of the guest speakers in Murgon; Member for Callide Jeff Seeney, the main driver behind the rail trail, also spoke

Enjoying having a go at the model railway were Kendal Murray, Peter Bligh and Neddy Bond, from Cherbourg

Viv White, from Viv's Farm Animals, with a four-day-old Dorper sheep ... the animal farm is always popular with the kids

Cherylin Buttle, from Kingaroy, and Andrea McGee, from Crawford, were having fun in the billycart races

The novelty pig races drew a big crowd around their miniature racetrack

Quentin and Jack Morris display a two-piece water-based enamel they painted at Sunday's event

Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien, Member for Callide Jeff Seeney and Murgon Men's Shed president Glen Vonhoff at the unveiling of the plaque to mark the official opening of the $50,000 extension of the shed

Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien and Murgon Men's Shed president Glen Vonhoff inside the shed ... a new extension has been erected at the end of the existing building to provide the group more storage space; it was made possible through a $25,000 Federal Government grant with the Men's Shed providing the remaining $25,545

* * *

Ron Grant

Long distance runner Ron Grant takes a break and re-fuels at Wondai

Ron Grant, right, and his walking companion pause for a break at the bridge crossing Barambah Creek (Photo: Denise Keelan Photography)

Ron Grant, 74, walks into Murgon with his wife Anne after his 43.5km trek from Kingaroy

Ron was handed the Rail Trail baton to carry the last few metres of its journey


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2 Responses to Rail Trail History In The Making

  1. John Box

    Congratulations Rail Trail Committee Chairman, Kathy Duff and supporters for your untiring efforts to bring such an outstanding historic event to fruition for our South Burnett Community. Excellent coverage of everything in the South Burnett Community as always by SBOnline

    • Kay Dove

      Thank you for the incredible coverage Anne & Dafyd for this wonderful South Burnett event. I have some idea of the work that went into organising this day and can only take my hat off to all involved.

      Congratulations to all who rode, ran or walked the whole distance – take a bow.

      For those who came just to be part of the event, along with so many community organisations who worked tirelessly before and on the day – take a bow.

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