When the Tallarook – Mansfield railway was being planned (before its opening in November 1891) the surveyors and engineers diverted the line away from the Maroondah Highway at Kanumbra to avoid the steep climb up to Merton Gap, and took it across McGuigan farmland, along McGuigan Road then swept it around to cross the road and continue northwards in a high valley towards the Gap. The railway was closed in 1978.
Railtrails Australia, supported by Regional Development Victoria, local shire councils and community groups, has developed the disused line (and others in Victoria) into a walking and cycling track, taking advantage of the gentle gradients, the straighter lines, and the absence of vehicular traffic.
Taking the opportunity to see the farmland once owned by my great-grandfather, William McGuigan and his sons, I set out on foot recently from what is left of Kanumbra railway station and yards, close by the Maroondah Highway, and headed north-east towards Durham Lane (shown on maps but sign-posted with another name) and through Lots 53 (298 acres) and 54 (166 acres), selected in 1875 by McGuigan. As I crossed the lane the name of the farm “Carramar” was easily seen to the right at the entrance to the farmhouse drive. I tried to attract the attention of a man busily spraying weeds in the nearby paddock but my call did not penetrate his ear muffs.
Later, where the trail swings around across McGuigan Road it is then in the Parish of Merton and Murrindindi shire, and as it heads north it shares Meyland Lane with road access to farmhouses. The Parish map shows that Lots 79 (184 acres), and 78 (219 acres) to the left of the track were owned by J.McGuigan and Andrew McGuigan, and to the right Lots 69A (117 acres) and 70B (33 acres) by William McGuigan, Lot 70A (97 acres) by M.J.McGuigan administrator to Andrew McGuigan. Where the lane swings right to a farmhouse the railtrail continues straight ahead through Lot 77 (210 acres) once owned by John McGuigan.
In the vicinity of Merton Gap there was evidence of a causeway coming up from the present-day highway and crossing the trail. This suggests the old road route crossed to the right of the line before modern day roadworks kept the highway to the left. Here there was J.McGuigan land (102 acres) to the left and more (223 acres) up to the right on the range.
Railtrails have provided a shelter near this point on the trail so I rested my 84-year-old legs and sampled my lunch of scroggin and fruit (see photo). The countryside was green but so engrossed was I in maps and looking around that I omitted to take photographs until lunchtime; by then the best of the green pasture land was behind me.
The gentle descent of the trail to the village of Merton follows the highway down through a long strip of woodland and there was little of interest there for this family historian. I had arranged to be picked up from the service station at Merton so completing the walk of 10.5 kms was simply a matter of placing one foot after the other. In the four hours of gentle walking I met two cyclists pedalling south towards the Gap, too focused on their efforts to bother exchanging more than a curt nod in return of my greeting.
Maps and photos of this walk will be displayed in the next posting of my blog Who Were They. I have not yet mastered the art of combining text and photos in the one posting so the solution is to post them separately, I hope!
Postscript: I have used the term ‘acres’ instead of ‘hectares’ because I expect that older readers, like me, will have a better idea of the size of the lots.