History of the Development of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
In 1996 two Nanango Shire Councillors, Mayor Reg. McCallum and Councillor Kevin Allery; were in negotiation with representatives of QR to develop a rail trail on the disused Brisbane Valley train line for cyclists, horse-riders, and walkers. In the early stages, representatives of the Esk Shire Council also attended these meetings. By 2006 the Nanango Shire Council had developed such a trail on the Blackbutt Range from Linville to Blackbutt and it was opened on 3 June 2006. In November of that year, Mayor McCallum accepted the prestigious Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation (QORF) Government achievement award on behalf of the Nanango Shire Council for their/its opening of the rail trail.
On 22 January 2007, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure (Anna Bligh) earmarked $3.6m for the development of a recreational Trail from Ipswich to Blackbutt on the disused rail corridor. By 25 November 2007 the original Linville to Blackbutt Rail Trail had been extended to Moore and opened to the public. In May 2008 a Steering Committee was established to oversee the development of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail under the SEQ Regional Recreation Trails Program (SEQ Active Trails) by the Department of Infrastructure and Planning, in partnership with local councils. The first Chair of this Steering Committee was the member for Ipswich West, Wayne Wendt, M.P.
The McCallum horse yards were opened to trail riders on 25 May 2008 and by 11 September a volunteer group, called the ‘Ambassadors of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (Moore to Blackbutt)’ had been incorporated to encourage and promote recreational usage of the rail trail between Moore and Blackbutt. The Rail Trail was opened to Coominya on 15 September 2008 and by 25 September both the Harlin Rail Bridge and the Yimbun Tunnel, both built in 1910 and existing features of the old rail line, were heritage listed. The Esk to Fernvale section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was opened on 12 July 2009 at the beginning of the Fernvale-Lowood Fun Run for that year. This is the only section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail developed by the Somerset Regional Council. Two weeks later the Rail Trail from Esk to Coominya was opened at Esk.
The Rail Trail was opened to Coominya on 15 September 2008 and by 25 September both the Harlin Rail Bridge and the Yimbun Tunnel, both built in 1910 and existing features of the old rail line, were heritage listed. The Esk to Fernvale section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was opened on 12 July 2009 at the beginning of the Fernvale-Lowood Fun Run for that year. This is the only section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail developed by the Somerset Regional Council. Two weeks later the Rail Trail from Esk to Coominya was opened at Esk.
The section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail from Ottaba to Toogoolawah was opened on 28 November 2009 by which time signage for the railway precincts had been developed by another volunteer organisation, Brisbane Valley Heritage Trails Inc.
In May 2010, sixty members of the Australian Trail Horse Riders’ Association (ATHRA) had their inaugural ride from Fernvale to Blackbutt on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail over 9 days and the Somerset newspaper questioned, “whether the government and council continue to maintain the quality of the trail and the amenities..” In June new Rail Trail amenities were opened at Benarkin and by September the trail had been extended from Blackbutt to
In June new Rail Trail amenities were opened at Benarkin and by September the trail had been extended from Blackbutt to Nukku, where the opening was celebrated at Blackbutt. Also in September pupils from Benarkin State School cycled to MacNamara’s camp where there had been a tent school for the children of railway workers before it was relocated to Benarkin as the rail line reached there. They unveiled a plaque to commemorate the tent school before cycling on to Linville State School. In December 2010 the Toowoomba Regional Council agreed to extend the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail from Nukku to Yarraman that was the rail line terminus.
The January 2011 flooding in the Brisbane Valley damaged several sections of the Rail Trail and on 7 September the Queensland Times reported that, “The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail has been ‘mothballed’ .. [by the Newman government, and it] will not fund any works to complete unfinished sections or maintain the existing trail.” On 13 September 2011 community supporters provided a lunch at the Moore Memorial Hall to the members of the Department of Infrastructure & Planning who had overseen the development of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and were now redundant.
Since that time the maintenance of the Rail Trail has been undertaken on a contract basis by a State-funded Rail Trail Ranger, Toowoomba Regional Council and the Ambassadors of the Brisbane Valley (Moore to Blackbutt) who now operate under the auspices of the South Burnett Regional Council.
Update by Paul Heymans @ 18/12/2016
In September 2012, further development work to complete the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was ‘mothballed’ by the incoming Queensland Government led by Campbell Newman as part of their austerity measures. However, in the 2014 Budget, they announced $3.5 million for the development of Rail Trails in Queensland as part of their strategy for promoting Tourism.
Local community activists led by Paul Heymans initiated a Change.org petition combined with a social media campaign calling on Somerset Regional Council to apply for funding to complete the two incomplete sections from Wulkuraka Station to Wanora and from Toogoolawah to Moore. They also organised a series of cycling events to demonstrate the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is a valuable tourism asset.
Somerset Regional Council agreed to apply for the funding early in 2015, but a couple of weeks later, State elections were called and there was a change of Queensland government.
Undeterred, the local activists launched a new Change.org petition and campaign calling on the Palaszczuk Government to fund completion. The campaign focused on the economic benefits to the local rural economies of the regions it passes through and the petition was presented to the Queensland Parliament by State members Jim Madden and Deb Frecklington on 16 September 2015.
The campaign achieved it’s objective when on 16 January 2016, Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad announced $1.8 million funding to complete the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail plus $2.5 million over 10 years to maintain it.
The section from Wulkuraka Station to Wanora has recently been opened, but despite early expectations, work to complete the section between Toogoolawah and Moore has not yet commenced. That section has a number of major creek and road crossings which pose significant civil engineering challenges. The project has been independently costed at $3.354 million and Somerset Regional Council has recently been awarded $1.45 million co-contribution to complete the rail trail. Work should commence by November 2017.
The activists involved in the campaign formed the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association Inc to represent the interests of users and to promote the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
The BVRT Users Assoc. works with State and Local Government and the community to complete, develop and enhance the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail for the enjoyment of all users and for the benefit of the communities the Trail passes through.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association also organises and promotes events on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
Update by Paul Heymans @ 22/08/2017
On Friday 4 August 2017, Somerset Regional Council was awarded a grant of $1.45 million from the ‘Building Stronger Regions Fund’ to enable them to complete the final section between Toogoolawah and Moore. Under the terms and conditions of the Federal Government grant, work must commence within 12 weeks of the grant being awarded and be completed by June 2018.
For up to date information about progress with completion of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, Follow the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association Facebook page.
Brisbane Valley Heritage Trails Pictorial Timeline