Abandoned Railway Tunnels
- Road Tunnels
- Historic Tunnels
- Military Tunnels and Bunkers
- Forgotten Tunnels on the City Circle
- Railway Tunnels
- Harbour Tunnels
- Sydney's Lost Tunnels
- Sydney's Abandoned Railway Tunnels
- Underground Reservoirs
Strange as it may seem, there are almost as many disused railway tunnels in the Sydney area as there are ones in use. This has occurred because of the growth Sydney has experienced since the first railway tunnel was cut in 1855 under George Street, Haymarket with new tunnels being built on new lines and existing lines as the system was upgraded and expanded. For details of the abandoned railway tunnels of the City Circle, see the chapter on Unfinished Sydney.
This is not only the oldest railway tunnel to be constructed in NSW, it is the only remaining on-site relic of Sydney's first railway line of the 1850s (the first steam locomotive to use the line is preserved in the Powerhouse Museum; a ticket for the line's first train journey is part of the Mitchell Library's collection). In 1855, the tunnel was cut under what was then known as Parramatta Street, beyond Railway Square just before George Street becomes Broadway, as part of a spur line from the newly completed Sydney Station to Darling Harbour, where a goods yards and dockside rail facilities were being built.
Like the Darling Harbour goods line, the tunnel remained busy until after World War II, when freight that traditionally came through Darling Harbour began to be redirected to newly developing facilities at Port Botany. As the section of the line between Balmain Rd Signal box to the main line at Redfern was no longer in regular use, it was lifted to allow the building of Star City Casino in the 1980s. The original stone-clad tunnel under George Street still exists, though it has been extended to many times its original length by the addition of concrete structures which form the foundations of buildings on either side of George Street in the vicinity. It is located at the end of a fenced off, disused section of the rail corridor behind the ABC building which includes a steel railway bridge that carried the line over Ultimo Street.
UBD Map 3 Ref D 16
The 660.3m long Old Glenbrook Tunnel was built between April 1891 and December 1892 as part of a deviation which bypassed the Lapstone Zig Zag. To save money, a ventilation shaft was not included as it was believed the current of air passing through it would provide sufficient ventilation. This soon proved to be not the case. The gradient of the S-shaped single-line tunnel was, at 1 in 33, quite steep. Seepage kept the rails wet, leading to slipping and stalling. Waterfall Tunnel No. 1: These shortcomings and the growing need for a second line led to the establishment of a new route through Glenbrook Gorge in 1913 which included a replacement tunnel. The old tunnel was leased for mushroom growing. During World War 2 it was used by the RAAF to store 500 pound bombs and chemical weapons including mustard gas.
A spur line was run from the main line near the eastern portal of old Glenbrook tunnel to the edge of Glenbrook Gorge, where a cable incline descended to the works site of a coal and shale mine. The spur line route is now a walking track which crosses Explorers Rd just below the primary school. The remains of the winding house and incline are signposted. Just west of Bluff lookout are the remains of the funicular railway descending into Glenbrook Gorge.
The Old Glenbrook Tunnel is closed and access to the entrances is difficult. The eastern portal can be reached via a walking track which commences at a reservoir alongside where Governors Drive branches off Great Western Highway. The track follows the path taken by the line to a point where the ground is too swampy and the undergrowth too thick to continue. It then leads up the side of the bank and across the top of the portal. The north portal (above) is beside a lane off Barnet Street, Glenbrook.
UBD Map 182 Ref A 1
Sydney's City Circle railway was be built in stages over a period of 30 years. As each stage was brought into use, sufficient construction work was completed to enable extensions of the system to be made at a later date without interference to the service already provided. Many of these lines were never built, or if they were, like the Eastern Suburbs Railway, they followed a different route to that originally planned by Bradfield, and many of the tunnels and platform he had built for them were never used.
The original Hawkesbury River railway bridge was built in the 1880s by the Union Bridge Co. of Pennsylvania, USA. The bridge had seven spans each weighting 1,000 tonnes and extending to a length of 1,265m. As well as steelwork, 10 million bricks, 10,000 bags of cement, 110 tonnes of blasting powder and 10 tonnes of dynamite were used to construct the bridge and its approaches. This was almost as expensive and difficult a task as building the bridge itself. It involved cutting numerous tunnels, including a tunnel through the end of Long Island.
By the 1930s, the piers of the bridge had decayed to such a degree that trains using the bridge were reduced to a crawl as a safety measure, therefore it was decided to build a replacement bridge alongside it. The new bridge, which was of a similar design, came into service in 1946 at which time the older bridge was dismantled. The piers of the original bridge remain alongside the replacement bridge. A new tunnel had to cut through the end of Long Island parallel to the original tunnel. The original tunnel was closed and is now used for storage by State Rail.
The railway line south of Sutherland to Wollongong was built between 1884 and 1886. The section of line between Waterfall and Otford passed through rugged country, much of which is in the Royal National Park. So difficult was the terrain, a number of tunnels had to be built. Most of these are no longer in use, having been replaced by longer, straighter tunnels on a more direct route. The abandoned tunnels are all still accessible via an interesting bushwalk between Waterfall and Stanwell Park.
Waterfall Tunnel No. 1: Located 1.6 km south of the present Waterfall station. 191 metres long, it was duplicated in 1914, at which time it was opened out and is now a deep cutting.
Cawley Tunnel: 381 metres long, this tunnel which passes through Cawley Range, is now used as a mushroom farm.
Helensburgh Tunnel: located at the northern end of the original Helensburgh station, it is 80.5 metres long.
Metropolitan Tunnel: 624 metres long, it is located at the southern end of the original Helensburgh station. The original Metropolitan Colliery Junction is located at the southern end of the tunnel.
Lilyvale No. 1 Tunnel: 80 metres long, this straight tunnel has been used as a mushroom farm and today a State Rail access road passes through it.
Lilyvale No. 2 Tunnel: located beyond the original Lilyvale station and alongside the existing Lilyvale tunnel, the 332 metre long tunnel passes through Stuart's Range. It has been used as a mushroom farm and today an access road for the State Rail Authority passes through it.
Otford Tunnel: The original single-line 1,540 metre long tunnel was the most dreaded of the tunnels on the Waterfall to Otford section of line as it had a grade of 1 in 40. A further problem was that south westerly winds coming off the ocean blew directly into the southern portal, blowing smoke back into it. Complaints by passengers and engine crews about the lack of air in the tunnel led to a vent being installed in 1891. The tunnel was eventually bypassed when the Stanwell Park deviation was brought into operation in October 1920. In 1942, the Army exploded a demolition charge in the tunnel, completely blocking it just inside the southern portal.
The original line including the tunnels detailed herein were abandoned between 1914 and 1920 when the Helensburgh and Stanwell Park deviations were brought into service to make the line easier to handle for the steam locomotives of their time. Ironically, the older, more direct route of the original line, would be far quicker and better suited to the electric trains of today than the route they now follow.
The Main North Line passes through four tunnels relatively close together at Cowan Bank on its way north from Hornsby to its crossing of the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn. A fifth double line tunnel, with a length of 73.5 metres, was cut in 1887, but is now bypassed and no longer used. UBD Map 55 Ref M 13
- Sydney's First Public Railway
- Planning Sydney's Suburban Railway Network
- Building Sydney's Suburban Railway Network
- Building Sydney's City Circle
- Forgotten Tunnels on the City Circle
- Sydney's Central Station
- Sydney's Abandoned Railway Lines
- Sydney's Railway Tunnels
- Sydney's Abandoned Railway Tunnels
- Eveleigh Railway Workshops
The Story of Sydney's Railways