Members of Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hacking through jungle in an effort to assess the state of the rail line.
Members of Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hacking through jungle in an effort to assess the state of the rail line.

Rail trail would be “one heck” of an asset

SOMEWHERE inside everyone there’s a little Indiana Jones looking for adventure, and plans are afoot to open up some local ‘jungle’ with an epic rail trail.

Pioneered by the Glenreagh Mountain Railway, the track would begin at Molton Creek just outside Glenreagh, and traverse 35km of abandoned rail line all the way up to Lowanna and Ulong.

GMR president Stewart Mackie has been bringing together stakeholders to get the rail-trail idea off the ground and said the organisation wants “one heck of a community asset” to be opened up to the community.

“It really is an Indiana Jones experience. Once you break though the undergrowth you get into these sections of the line under this heavy canopy – and it’s fairytale stuff.”

“There are huge mosses that grow between the tracks and massive tree ferns and rainforest timbers like beech, coachwood and prickly ash.

“Its an absolute wonder.”

Members of Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hacking through jungle in an effort to assess the state of the rail line.
Members of Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hacking through jungle in an effort to assess the state of the rail line.

Mr Mackie estimates there is more than 1200 acres of land along the rail corridor – owned by the GMR – which in most areas runs about 20m either side of the old rail-line.

Though in some sections the land branches out wider, into huge blocks, meaning there is ample opportunities for camping or other activities along the trail.

Mr Mackie said volunteers have already been “hacking through the jungle” in an effort to clear the track and ascertain the condition of the line and its bridges and tunnels.

“It’s a long-term project but we have to start somewhere,” he said.

“There is about 25km of rail trail … with camping and mountain biking and the GMR really feel motivated to get that opened up.

“It is another incredible public asset not just for this community but for the whole of NSW.”

Converting disused rail lines to shared-use corridors has become increasingly common across the country and their popularity goes beyond that of the cycling community.

Recently legislation was passed in NSW parliament to enable the the creation of the Casino to Bentley section of the mammoth 132 km Northern Rivers Rail Trail which will eventually run from Casino to Murwillumbah.

Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hoping to construct a rail trail from their sheds all the way to Dorrigo. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Glenreagh Mountain Railway are hoping to construct a rail trail from their sheds all the way to Dorrigo. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Part of the appeal of the rail trails is that by running along disused rail lines, they often have a gentle gradient, making them accessible for even the most inexperienced rider.

It is a similar story on the trail from Glenreagh to Ulong, and despite there being a rise in elevation to around 1700 feet, steep climbs are avoided.

“There are two tunnels on the line and it is fascinating to go into them, there are microbars and the coolness in these tunnels is cave-like,” Mr Mackie said.

“Then you breakout and there are spectacular views back down the valley towards Glenreagh, we just want the public to come and enjoy it.”

Next steps in the process was getting Coffs Harbour City Council, Clarence Valley Council and other stakeholders to come together and come up with plan.

And while Mr Mackie recognised the size of the task ahead, he believed if they could break the project up in to stages – they could pull it off.

“It is an enormous task but it is something worth pursuing,” he said.

“We have spoken to everyone … we just have to get everyone in the same room and talking and really start driving it forward.”

For more information or to volunteer visit gmr.org.au.