Central Business District access tunnels
Whilst they have never be documented or their existence proved, it is known that there are numerous tunnels large enough to be driven through beneath the main shopping precincts of Sydney s central business district. Former employees of Grace Brothers and David Jones, most of who have now passed away, have told of tunnels used by delivery vehicles to allow ease of access and the transfer of goods between stores. A tunnel is said to link the two David Jones city stores at the basement level. Grace Brothers delivery trucks are known to have travelled via underground tunnels from Elizabeth St, via Market St and up to the old George Street store. More tunnels, believed to have entrances behind steel doors in the basement of the Queen Victoria Building and Town Hall station or other buildings near it, are said to have been used as command posts by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet during World War II. They included communications facilities and an aircraft plotting/control room with map table. The official line on the tunnel and its wartime use has always been to deny its existence.
Sydney's City Railway Tunnels
J.C.C. Bradfield's original city railway proposal, upon which today's City Circle loop is based, saw St. James as a busy junction and changeover point. In addition to the lines now in use, a double track railway was to be built from Gladesville joining the City Circle on its western arc and leaving it on its eastern side for Watson's Bay and the South Eastern suburbs. This line was to enter the city from the west at Darling Harbour, run underground and curve around from Town Hall, under O'Connell Street, to St. James, where it would utilise the two spare centre platforms. Two lines would run under Hyde Park and Oxford Street to Taylor Square, where there was to be a junction. One pair of lines would go to Watson's Bay and the other through Paddington and Randwick towards Botany. The tunnels for all these lines were built but only a few were ever used. More >>
Sydney's Abandoned Railway Tunnels
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. More >>
Greycliffe House, Vaucluse
An unusual tunnel was discovered in 1975 when the Sydney Harbour National Park Authority was renovating Greycliffe House for use as its headquarters. Workmen came across an old tunnel underneath the house built for the daughter of William Charles Wentworth about 1850. The tunnel ran to a well and is still there. But when and why it was built still remains a mystery.
Parramatta Convict Tunnels
Rumour has it that a series of four tunnels were dug by convicts in the 1820s linking Old Government House or another location in the central Parramatta district with Lennox Bridge. Openings at the base of the eastern and western sides of the north end of the bridge's arch that are sealed are said have been explored by urban speleologist who found them to be entry points to a passage underground which is rumoured to have once connected to tunnels which lead north below Church Street. The story has credence as similar 19th century tunnels exist in ports throughout the world connecting public buildings to dockside areas. These tunnels allowed the passage of convicts to and from buildings to transportation points, removing the opportunity to escape when marching them through the streets. Similar tunnels are said to exist at Windsor (see next entry) and The Rocks (connecting The Hero of Waterloo Hotel and Walsh Bay).
Hero of Waterloo Tunnel
The cellars of Hero of Waterloo Hotel (1844) at cnr Lower Fort and Windmill Streets, Millers Point were once linked by a tunnel to the waterfront of nearby Walsh Bay, its bayside portal being in the vicinity of the most westerly overhead bridge. Legend has it that it was used to carry away press-ganged drunken sailors from the pub to ship at anchor, a common practice in the 19th century. The sailors would wake up the next morning and find themselves at sea.
Rum Smuggler's Tunnel, Windsor
The Macquarie Arms Hotel at Windsor has a tunnel to the Hawkesbury River which was reputedly built for the purpose of smuggling. The large bricked conduit or tunnel, parts of which can still be seen by an observant eye, is said to have been constructed from the river to Andrew Thompson's store to draw up barrels of rum which was illicitly manufactured on a wholesale scale. Thompson's vessels would bring the grog to the foot of Thompson Square near the old Windsor wharf from Thompson's and Solomon Wiseman's still on Scotland Island and into the store's cellars for distribution. There is also reputed to be a tunnel linking two old hotels at Pitt Town. The exact location of the supposed tunnel, and its purpose, remains a mystery.
Sydney's first water supply was The Tank Stream, a brook which flowed from around Hyde Park alongside Pitt Street into Sydney Cove. The town quickly outgrew the creek which became contaminated and the Lachlan Swamps at what is now Centennial Park were selected as a replacement. Water from the lakes was transported to a distribution point in Hyde Park through a tunnel known as Busby's Bore. The water was gravity fed, the fall being 53 mm over 3.2 km from end to end. The tunnel, construction of which began in 1827 and was completed 10 years later, was cut through sandstone and varies in size from 1 to 3 metres in height and from 0.6 to 1.2 metres width. It is lined in some sections with dressed stone slabs to carry water from Busby's Pond in Centennial Park near the corner of Lang and Cook Roads, beneath Fox Studios, Victoria Barracks and Oxford Street to the corner of Liverpool and Oxford Streets, Hyde Park. The tunnel had to be re-routed around the sites now occupied by the Sydney Football Stadium and Cricket Ground and through the Showgrounds (now Fox Studios) because of quicksand encountered in Moore Park.
Very few people know that there have been not one but three tunnels cut under Sydney Harbour. The first, sunk near Birchgrove Primary School by Sydney's only coal mine, was dug between 1897 and 1902 to mine coal from almost one kilometre below the Harbour floor. It stretched east under Balmain for more than a kilometre to coal workings bounded by Mort Bay, Snails Bay, Balls Head and Goat Island. The coal, similar to that mined around Wollongong, was considered excellent for steaming and coking and an estimated 681,000 tonnes was mined from 1902 to 1931.
The Sydney Harbour Colliery was and remains the deepest coal mine ever to have been sunk in Australia. The mine's two circular shafts, named Birthday and Jubilee to commemorate Queen Victoria's birthday and the Diamond Jubilee of her reign, were lined with brick from top to bottom, as was a horizontal tunnel driven between the Birthday Shaft and the dock on Iron Cove.
Sydney's Second Harbour Tunnel
Path followed by the Long Nose Point to Greenwich tunnel, viewed from Manns Point Boat Ramp
The second tunnel under Sydney Harbour, which preceded the current road tunnel by 70 years, passes under Sydney Harbour from Long Nose Point on the tip of the Balmain Peninsula to Greenwich many hundreds of metres above coal mine tunnels in the same vicinity. Constructed between 1916 and 1926, it was part of an important communications link, having been constructed to bring electrical power to the railway and tramway systems of the North Shore from the recently completed Ultimo Power Station.
It was the biggest such venture of its kind to be undertaken in Australia without overseas assistance. The tunnel is lined with concrete in some areas, cast iron in some and bedrock in others. At the centre of the tunnel is a large chamber where pumps were located to remove water. One side of the tunnel is lined with reinforced concrete shelves to house the electricity cables.
The tunnel still holds twelve cables, 8 x 11,000 volt and two 50 pair communication cables. In 1952 the Electricity Commission took over all power generation in Sydney but the railways retained the tunnel and cables which continued to carry electricity despite the tunnel having become flooded due to a lack of adequate maintenance. Use of the the tunnel ceased in 1969. Its northern entrance is marked by a concrete block placed over it in the reserve on the headland of Manns Point. Visitors to Manns Point will enjoy a good view of the Harbour in all directions, as well as observe at close range the ship-loading activities at the neighbouring Shell Oil Refinery Terminal.