The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail is a 41 km loop that goesup and down the Darling Range on two old rail lines built in the 1880's and 1890's. The trail is solid and firm, and the gradient is steady but gentle. It will show you several small Perth Hills townships, historical sites including old railway stations, bridges and an old railway tunnel, as well as going through WA's oldest National Park.

A Spring ride will reward you with a display of wild flowers, and the two waterfalls should still be flowing. It is an easy couple of hours ride, but it will take you longer if you stop to enjoy the many interesting and pretty locations.

To get the full ride gpx or the ride route summary, select the "Route Sheets" tab above, and click on the download buttons for each.

To see my mid Winter ride from June 2015, see below:

The Darling Range started to form about 570 million years ago. The western edge is called the Darling Scarp, and it rises steeply over 200m from the Swan Coastal plain. It was a challenge for the early settlers to find a suitable route for rail to head East over the Scarp, and it took them 3 attempts to find the right route to suit modern railway requirements. The first two attempts are now unused and have been made into a cycle and walk track.

The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail is a loop of the old Eastern Railway that formerly linked Fremantle to York in the late 1880s. It is now used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. You can travel through the first rail tunnel in WA (it is 340m long, so bring a torch) and view several waterfalls (they only run in Winter) and see some historic locations. The 200m climb up the Darling Scarp has never been easier, as trains cannot climb steep hills, so the rail trail is steady but gentle rise. The trail is generally compact with little gravel or sand and water, shops and toilets on the way, as well as being very scenic. This trail is a perfect first step to riding the Munda Biddi Trail. You even get a short ride on the Munda Biddi. This ride from Midland train station to Mundaring is also ideal for Munda Biddi riders who want to get to or from the Northern terminus but cannot get a lift there.

This trail is basically two train lines that have been formed into a loop. The Eastern Railway first crossed the Darling Scarp in the 1880s along its route through Greenmount following Nyaania Creek (originally called Smiths Mill Brook) which is part of the Helena River catchment. This is now the the southern part of the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail. By the 1890s, the second route replaced it, following Jane Brook which joins the Swan River at Middle Swan. The second route passed through the Swan View Tunnel and John Forrest National Park, and was commonly known as the "National Park" or "Mahogany Creek" railway line, even though it actually follows Jane Brook. We know it now as the northern part of the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail. This line was closed in the 1960's as they did not have sufficiently low gradients for the increasing tonnages on the more modern trains. The Avon Valley route was the third attempt to take the railway system across the Darling Scarp, and is still in use today.

The first two Eastern Railway formations were closed by an Act of Parliament in the 1960s, and were vested to the Mundaring Council. Most of the removable property was taken from the reserve - all the rails, sleepers and buildings have gone. The Mundaring and Darlington concrete railway platforms remain, as do three telegraph poles (my notes will point out 2). The Koongamia platform, although in use for only about five years, has been re-built. The stationmaster's houses in Mundaring and Glen Forrest have been preserved and maintained. In 1988 the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail was developed by the Mundaring Bicentennial Community Committee, and a pamphlet and signage on the trail developed.

From a cyclist point of view, keep in mind that this Railway Heritage trail was on a permanent rail way, whereas the Munda Biddi utilises a lot of temporary timber transport lines. The difference is that the permanent railways needed a more solid base for the heavier trains, meaning that the resultant rail trail is generally smooth, solid and firm. The temporary timber rail lines did not have such a solid base, so the rail trail left behind has more gravel, sand and is looser and softer. They were also in more of a bush setting, so were often neglected and more over grown than old permanent rail trail. As a result the Railway Heritage Trail is a lot easier to ride than most of the Munda Biddi.

Some of the features on the ride are described below. These notes track the Trail as it starts at Bellvue, goes up to Mundaring Via Greenmount, across to Mt Helena before returning to Bellvue by John Forrest National Park.

Convict Creek is a tributary of the Helena River. It was named because of a convict depot on the slopes of Boya hill. Built in 1854, its construction was supervised by Edward Du Cane. In 1870s a government bluestone quarry was developed on the western slope of the hill.

As we head up hill from Bellvue a cutting was constructed near the bottom of Dalry Rd. The workers struck clay followed by an underground stream which flooded the clay and turned it into a seemingly bottomless bog. The locality earned the name in the Perth newspapers of the 1880s as "The Devil's Terror" and they cite the example of workers sinking in mud. That section of the railway had to be resurveyed and was shifted 100 meters south. This also meant building a channel along the railway line for Nyaania Creek, which you can see on the right. There is a sign indicating Dalry Rd, and I couldn't see much while exploring the area. The walk up to Dalry Rd is pretty steep, and perhaps the steam combined with the mud made Devil's Terror where the pipeline crosses the stream but it is not obvious to my untrained eye.

Boya Quarry is now used for rock climbing, abseiling and walking. The harbour and moles at Fremantle were built using stone from the nearby Government Quarry (on the south side of Coulston Rd, not visible).

Glen Forrest was known as Smiths Mill after a prominent founder citizen but it is currently named after the first Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest. Stratham Wetlands was the site of the Stathams brickworks, which had its own siding, just east of the railway yard. The brickworks was located on a patch of white clay that is now a park and recreation area.

Mahogany Creek and Sawyers Valley were home to two of the mills owned by Alexander Forrest, the politician and explorer. Gill and Co mill existed from 1896 to 1897, where as Enterprise Sawmill was from 1882 to 1896.

The Mundaring Sculpture park, at the Northern Terminus of the Munda Biddi trail, has sculptures set amidst Golden Wattles, gums, and wildflowers. It also has a playground, picnic area with electric BBQ's, a modified railway signal tower, amphitheatre and minor walk paths. The old Station Masters House and public toilets are nearby. In recent years the park has also been the home of the Mundaring Truffle Festival. The MB Foundation has a shop nearby that is open on weekends.

The Mundaring Visitor Centre is conveniently located at 7225 Great Eastern Highway, which is part of the local shopping centre. This is on the northern side of the highway, and the Sculpture Park is located on the southern side, 300m away. It is housed in the old School House and also has a district museum. They sell Munda Biddi Trail maps, as well as a great source of information on all local walk and cycle trails, including the Kep and Railway Reserves Heritage Trail. See www.mundaringtourism.com.au/Pages/Home.aspx

We pass the small Hills township of Mt Helena, which was the original home of White's Mill (1882- 1888). The production of railway sleepers for the Eastern Railway was their main concern but they also supplied timber for local orders. When a local builder was contracted to build "Woodbridge" for the Harper family at Guildford, White's Mill cut all of the timber for the project ( see www.nationaltrust.org.au/wa/woodbridge ). Lion Jarrah Mill replaced White's Mill in 1888. Even though the mill burnt down in 1893 it was completely rebuilt and went on to supply timber for English paving in 1897-8. Timber from this area was used in the interior of St Georges Cathedral in Perth. In 1897 the Mill was sold but eventually the area around it became known as Lion Mill. The local area was full of tramlines used for harvesting the timber. Bunnings purchased this and two other local mills in 1905. One of the locos they used was called "Dirty Mary" who got her name for her ability to spray oil over herself and anybody standing in the vicinity. She was in service at Lion Mill in 1907 until 1926 when the mill closed, then went into service at the Bunning Brothers mill at Argyle, near Donnybrook.

During WW1, 72 men from Lion Mill enlisted - over half the adult male population. 18 were killed, and one, Lt McCarthy, won the Victoria Cross, one of only 10 VC's awarded to WA soldiers. The surrounding district name was changed from Lion Mill to Mt Helena in 1924. From Mt Helena Heritage Park, the Lion Mill site is about 1.2 km East near high school.

The township of Mount Helena is 100m on from where the Northern and Southern section of the Heritage trails meet. Lion Mill was located at Oval of school, about 1.2 km East of the town. The little IGA supermarket is open 7 days, 7am till 7pm, and is opposite Pioneer Park, just off the Trail.

Lion Mill/Mt Helena is at the junction of the original Eastern Railway line (opened 1884) which passed through Smiths Mill (Glen Forrest), and the new Eastern Railway deviation through John Forrest National Park (opened 1896). Similarly, this is where cyclists can carry on along the Kep track and head towards Sawyers Valley. The Eastern Extension from Mount Helena to Wooroloo is 22.5 km in length. The Kep Track continues along the old railway route as far as Northam, and is 75 km in length - see here for more info.

Sawyers Valley began as a timber cutting area (there are numerous saw pits still in the ground South of the town) and railway siding to transport timber from the forest surrounding the Helena River to the south. The first inhabitants were convicts or ticket of leave men (ex convicts). In the 1890's mills were built and the town became a hub for supplies and recreation. It was gazetted in 1898. Local employment included sleeper and timber cutting and Goldfields Water Supply Scheme maintenance, but then fruit growing took over as the mills closed. A popular display at the Collie Vistors Centre is Polly, a traction engine made in 1879 in the UK. In 1875 Alexander Buckingham built a timber mill near Kelmscott. In 1880 he purchased a traction engine that later became known as Polly. He used it for several years to haul logs before reselling it for use in Sawyers Valley. Two of Alexander's sons became millers in the Wellington area near Collie, and they repurchased the engine in the 1900's and drove it there - the journey took two weeks! This was known as Buckingham's Mill. In 1912 she was fitted with loco wheels and winch and converted for use on the railways around Collie, where she worked till 1954, when the tracks were removed. After that she retired and was placed in front of the Collie Visitor Centre.

Stoneville was the site of a fire that destroyed 52 homes in early 2014.The name was chosen by the local residents who were developing the district for fruit growing and after Sir Albert Edward Stone, who was Chief Justice of WA when the place was named in 1905.

We pass close to Parkerville, another small town. Sam Drucker's General store is right next to the trail, so is an ideal stop for snacks and drinks.

John Forrest National Park is one of Australia's oldest conservation areas and WA's first national park proclaimed in 1900. It is named to commemorate Sir John Forrest, the first Premier of WA. The trail goes near the visitor area which contains barbecue and picnic facilities, a tavern and cultivated gardens of native plants. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped and is home to a variety of plant communities and wildlife, with jarrah forest still largely in its natural state. There are two waterfalls in the Park that flow in winter and spring - Hovea and National Park Falls. Hovea Falls cascade down a large granite sheet while National Park Falls drops sharply over 20 metres of sheer rock face. Access to the tavern and facilities area from the Great Eastern Highway requires payment, but there is no charge for cyclists using the heritage trail.

Deep Creek Bridge was actually a trestle bridge, but as the train loads increased, the bridge had to be made stronger. Earth was added to strengthen the bride, to the point where the original bridge was completely buried! You could still see sections of the old bridge in the timbers on the track up till 2015, but when the trail was resurfaced, the last remnants of the bridge were buried and the signage removed..

John Forrest National Park was a very popular railway excursion location while the railway was in existence (1890s to 1960s). Initially Hovea was the nearest railway station but in 1936 the National Park railway station was built. The Swan View Tunnel is a 340 m railway tunnel located on the trail. Prior to the construction of tunnels for the Mandurah line in 2004, the Swan View Tunnel was the only tunnel built for the WA railway network. It is lined with bricks because the rock inside was too unstable and collapsed. The tunnel's small diameter combined with it's steep gradient caused smoke accumulation. Incidents involving near-asphyxiation of train crews started in 1896, and continued throughout the tunnel's operating life. The single line tunnel was considered unsafe for trains heading up hill (ie Eastwards) so in 1945 a diversion was added on the northern side of the hill that the tunnel passed through. If you ride through without a torch you will be "blind" in the middle even if you can see both ends of the tunnel. There is still lots of ballast on the ground, and it is wet all year round but especially in Winter. Look for the "1895" on the keystone at the entrance. Near by are the 2 old power poles and an old painted "1/2" on rocks - my route sheets will point them out.

In 2015, all the old rail bridges have been upgraded and made safe. Then the trail through the park was resurfaced, either removing or burying the old ballast that was evident on the trail. This has made the ride smoother and easier, and will attract more cyclists and walkers. The trail in the rail tunnel is still in original condition, so it has lots of rail ballast under foot still.

On the ride from Midland to the start of the trail we pass the Midland railway workshops. These workshops (1905 -1994) were involved with construction and maintenance of all WA Government Railroad trains and rolling stock. During the war years the workshops manufactured munitions, ships propellers & boilers, steering gear, winches and numerous other needs and spare parts for the Allied Forces. This railway workshop still have both machines and patterns as well as the buildings, something which is quite rare around the world.

At the western end of the Workshops is a 200 m by 50 m dam. It was initially created as a storage dam for water supplies in the late 1890s. It was increased in size in 1947 for coal storage. With the development of the Woodbridge Lakes housing estate near the site, the dam has been retained for its heritage value as a water feature, with some of the area comprising public open space.

GPX files I have available:

Railway Reserves Heritage Trail (all) (June 2015) (Sept 2014) (Feb 2014)

Getting there:
Midland to Mundaring (April 2014)
Mundaring to Midland (Sept 2014)
Midland to Bellvue (March 2015)
Bellvue to Midland (March 2015)
Midland train station to Bellevue (March 2015)

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia. This page is on the Railway Reserves heritage trail.