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Velo-City: Perth » Railway Reserve, Perth Hills

Railway Reserve, Perth Hills

Distance: 23km
Terrain: off road
Difficulty: fairly easy

This route has it all: a dark, scary tunnel that may or may not be haunted; spectacular water falls (in a good season); and a scenic freshwater lake, all framed by towering jarrah, an abundance of orchids, kangaroo paws and grass trees interspersed with granite outcrops. The only difficult thing about the ride is arranging transport at the beginning and the end; the easiest is dealing with the gradient, as most of the ride follows the old rail line.

Start from the car-park on the north-west quadrant of the intersection of Morrison and Pechey Roads in Swanview, 25 kms from Perth CBD. If you want a small detour before you even begin the ride, the restored (but unused) Swan View Railway Station is situated on the Railway Reserves trail about 100ms to the south, but don’t dally here, because there is plenty more history lying ahead. From the car-park, follow the railway trail as it heads north-east into the John Forrest National Park, Western Australia’s first national park. After about 1.2 kms you will come to the Swan View Railway tunnel which, until the opening of the Perth Metro Rail project in 2007, was WA’s only railway tunnel. The entrance can be a bit tricky to spot, so keep your eyes peeled. You can ride around the 340m tunnel but it’s more fun to go through it. The surface comprises reasonably large loose pebbles, and it is completely dark once you get towards the middle section, so take care, or take a light.

The tunnel, whose entrance still carries a plaque showing its opening date of 1895, has developed a ghostly reputation, partly due to its pitch dark inner region and partly due to the calamities that have occurred in and around it. Construction problems meant the tunnel ended up with a small diameter, which combined with a steep gradient, caused smoke accumulation. Incidents involving near-asphyxiation of train crews started in 1896, and continued throughout the tunnel’s operating life. In 1903, a driver passed out and fell from a train, but the worst incident occurred in 1942 when train drivers and crew were asphyxiated, one fatally, causing the train to careen out of control down the hillside. The tunnel’s construction was managed by C.Y. O’Connor, the tragic Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia’s Government Railways.

From the tunnel, the trail roughly follows Jane Brook, and offers great views across the Swan Coastal Plain. The brook runs under a small bridge at Park Falls, where it then drops dramatically over massive granite boulders. Soon afterwards you will cross Jane Brook again, just before it is fed by its tributaries of Glen Brook to the south and Mahogany Creek to the east. At this junction you will find tearooms, the John Forrest Tavern, a picnic area and toilets. About 500 metres further along the trail Hovea Falls can be seen on the left, shortly before another two bridge crossings. The track is soon sandwiched between Victoria Road to the south and Ralls Road to the north, all the way into the village of Parkerville, best known for its amphitheatre and its tavern.

Just near the Parkerville Tavern, you will need to cross Owen Road and then Seaborne Street as you leave the village. The trail then follows Jane Brook through the bush until you reach Stoneville road, and the village of Stoneville.

From Stoneville, you will travel almost 4kms, crossing Sexton Road on the way, to arrive at the village and tavern of Mount Helena. Leaving the village you will cross Sawyers Road, and then 50m later, the pipeline to Kalgoorlie. Although you can’t always see it, you will follow the pipeline right into the Leschenaultia Conservation Reserve. The railway path crosses Elliott Road just before you come to the village of Chidlow. Turn left off the trail, crossing Thomas Street into Rosedale Road. If you see the Chidlow Inn Tavern, you have missed the turn. Follow Rosedale for 1.7 kms until you see the entrance to Lake Leschenaultia on your left.
Sitting in 168 hectares of bush, Lake Leschenaultia is a man-made lake created in 1897 to water Steam Engines at the Chidlow Well Station. The lake has 3km and 6km paths around its perimeter and is a popular family picnic site. Full camping facilities, including a kitchen, showers, BBQs and washing facilities are available. There is also a café and canoe hire kiosk. There is an abundance of bird life on the lake, including ducks, geese, herons and swamp hens. If you are lucky you might also catch sight of kangaroos, possums, bandicoots or echidnas. Entry to the Lake is free for cyclists, and $6 for cars.

THIS RIDE CAN BE FOUND AT http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/423854

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