The maintenance work on the Dimboola to Rainbow railway line continues in preparations for trains to resume transporting grain from Jeparit and the Bow Hill site at the terminus of the line in the coming months.

Concerns have expressed recently over the shift of the bulk grain haulage task from rail to road, causing significant damage to the region’s roads, and with the ongoing discussions over the future of the Overland, the only passenger rail service west of Ararat, the spotlight has firmly been on rail in the Wimmera recently.

This line was ‘booked out of service’ with baulks placed over the tracks near the Dimboola Cemetery in the middle of last year due to a combination of the condition of the track and the end of the grain haulage task for that season.

The pace of the rehabilitation work has increased over recent weeks with life-expired sleepers being removed from the track and new ones being delivered to the work sites and distributed along the line in preparation for their installation.

Above - New sleepers distributed along the line north of Tarranyurk.

This line has survived several threats of closure, with the most recent being after the 2011 floods when sections of the line near Arkona and Ellam were significantly damaged.

Originally pushed as part of a direct railway line linking the Murray River trade at Wentworth to the seas ports of Portland, Port Fairy and Warrnambool in the early 1890s, the first section of the line opened in June 1894 between Dimboola and Jeparit. It was later extended to Rainbow in 1899 and Yaapeet in 1914, but never made it any further. A branch was constructed westward from Jeparit to Lorquon in 1912 and Yanac in 1916.

The Yanac branch was closed in 1986 and the section of railway between Rainbow and Yaapeet was not reopened after the 2011 floods.

With the rationalisation of grain receival sites over the last two decades, former rail-served silos at Arkona, Antwerp, Tarranyurk, Ellam, Pullut are no longer used. Jeparit and Rainbow remain the only active sites on the line, and after a good harvest both these currently hold a significant quantity of grain that could be moved by rail.