There’s an old disused railway line in the the Coffs hinterland that runs from Glenreagh to Dorrigo. Proposed with great vision in the early 20th century, it opened in 1924 to carry logs, produce and people. The line runs uphill all the way from Glenreagh climbing 664m over 69km, through tunnels and across many bridges. The railway eventually succumbed to flood, landslides and poor economics, closing in 1972.
Riding our adventure bikes, we hit the dirt on Twelve Sixty Road outside of Glenreagh, climbing steadily through wet sclerophyll forests and past Twelve Sixty Flora Reserve. There is a short walking track in the reserve, and a picnic area, but motorcycling gear is not designed for walking, so on we went.
Unlike 1770, a town in Queensland, and many other landmarks on the east coast, Twelve Sixty Road is not named by or for Captain Cook. This road crosses the old railway line in the Bagawa State Forest some distance before reaching Moleton. And therein lies the secret behind the intriguing road name: 1260 feet (385m) is the elevation at which road meets railway. .
We pop out the forest near the once thriving timber town of Moleton. Gold also featured in the history of this area, with George’s Gold Mine being well known among a generation of Coffs school chlidren.
Railway and timber on Eastern Dorrigo
A light rain shower mists up our visors as we cruise down the hill into the village of Lowanna, so we stop for a coffee and a chat with some locals at the delightful Lowanna General Store.
We continue a short distance on Eastern Dorrigo Way, past Ulong, another station on the old railway line, before turning west again. We cross the pretty Bobo River on an old bridge (look left to see the railway viaduct), then follow the dirt to Cascade with its old platform. The Mobong and Box Ridge walking tracks are nearby in the Cascade National Park, and showcase the rainforest, waterholes and heritage of this timber area.
Beyond Cascade is the timber area of Briggsvale, then we rejoin the main Coramba road at Megan for the run into Dorrigo, with the occassional remnants of railway line and bridge showing up alongside the road.
Just before entering Dorrigo, stop at Dangar Falls to watch the Bielsdown river cascade over a basalt cliff. There is a lookout at the carpark. The more energetic can follow a trail to the bottom of the falls. There are some nice cafes in Dorrigo for lunch or tea.
Now overgrown and disappearing, the Glenreagh Dorrigo railway was significant in enabling the development of the Eastern Dorrigo. The Dorrigo Steam Railway Museum own the line from Dorrigo to Ulong, while Glenreagh Mountain Railway own the line from Gleanreagh to just before Ulong. The ABC have a quaint video of the Rag Tag Railway being restored back in 1984, before factional disputes arose and the thing fell into disrepair and succumbed to the forces of nature.
If you enjoy the built environment and railway heritage, walk the Grafton Bridges loop and have a look at the 1915 timber viaduct and the turntable.