Glebe Road Tunnel

Sydney's Railway Tunnels

Because of Sydney's terrain, the use of tunnels has been mandatory in the construction of railways throughout the inner and outer Sydney metropolitan area.

City Circle

The complete railway network within the Sydney central business district is below ground, the majority of it being built by the cut and cover method (a tunnel dug, then covered over) along the line of George Street to the west and Macquarie Street/Hyde Park corridor to the east. Central to St James, a 2.0 km section, was opened in 20 Dec 1926. St James to Wynyard, covering 1.2 km, came into service on 22 Jan 1956. Wynyard was linked to Milsons Point (via the Harbour Bridge) and to St. James via Circular Quay with a 2.6 km section of track in February 1932. The Eastern Suburbs line is not part of the City Circle, though it shares a platform at Town Hall station.
  • Building Sydney's City Circle Railway

  • Eastern Suburbs Railway

    Opened in June 1979, the line passes through three tunnels. The Erskineville to Woolloomooloo tunnel, which goes under the city centre, is 1.45 km long. A tunnel between Edgecliff and Woollahra is 3.45 km long. A third tunnel, between Woollahra and Bondi Junction, has a length of 4.73 km.

    Darling Harbour Railway Tunnel

    This tunnel is not only built around the oldest railway bridge to be constructed in NSW, that bridge 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). The stone bridge was built in 1855 to carry what was then known as Parramatta Street over the new Darling Harbour Goods Line. The bridge is situated below Railway Square and is directly below the open space between the Mercure Hotel and Michels Patisserie. The eastern extremity of the Mercure Hotel building in fact follows the line of the tunnel's western wall. Wembley House, at 841 George Street on the opposite side of the street, is built immediately above the northern end of the tunnel.

    The railway was originally a double track spur line connecting 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 it serviced, 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, but the tunnel, the now single line through it and a substantial section of track on either side of the tunnel remained in place. The single line of track remaining on the Darling Harbour side of the tunnel was lifted in 2015 when the Goods Line Pedestrian Precint was created along its corridor.

    The original stone-clad bridge under George Street still exists (above), but has had tunnel extensions added many times in conjunction with the foundations of buildings constructed over the line on both sides of George Street. The bridge its has been hidden from view by these buildings for over a century. The tunnel is located at the end of a disused section of the rail corridor behind the ABC building.l The corridor has since been turned into a pedestrial space and renamed The Goods Line.

    North Shore Line

    The North Shore Line opened in 1890 from Hornsby to St Leonards. Three years later the line extended to a terminus at the southern tip of Milsons Point where it was met a ferry on Lavender Bay. When the Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932, the section from Waverton onwards was redesignated as the North Sydney Car Sidings, and used to store suburban trains during the off-peak period. This section of single line track passes through a tunnel and over the Lavender Bay viaduct on its way to the sidings near Luna Park.

    Today the North Shore line passes through three tunnels. The 2.2 km long tunnel from Wynyard station to the Harbour Bridge was opened with the bridge when the North Shore Line was connected to the rest of the system in 1932. The 422 metre long tunnel between North Sydney and Waverton and the 144 metre long tunnel beyond Waverton station were brought into use at the same time. The Lavender Bay tunnel, some 310 metres in length, is on the original line opened in May 1893 which terminated at Lavender Bay where Luna Park now stands. The line is reserved for use as a siding.

    Airport Line

    Tunnel portal at Wolli Creek station

    9.6 km of the 10.7 km line passes through a tunnel between Redfern and Wolli Creek stations. The line was opened in May 2000. The four stations on the line within the tunnel section are Green Square, Mascot, International Airport and Domestic Airport. Wolli Creek station is at the end of the underground section.

    Main North Line

    The Main North Line passes through a series of eight tunnels on its way from Hornsby to the Central Coast. Four of these, known as Boronia Tunnels numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, are on the Cowan Bank section between Cowan and Hawkesbury River stations. They are 421, 602, 141 and 74 metres in length respectively. Boronia Tunnel No 5 is no longer used. The five brick-lined tunnels were cut in 1887. Before crossing the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, the line passes through a tunnel across the end of Long Island. It replaces an earlier tunnel which was aligned to the now demolished original Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

    Main South Line

    There are no tunnels on this line within the metropolitan area.

    Main Western Line

    Glenbrook Gorge and railway tunnel

    The 494 metre long Glenbrook tunnel was opened in 1913 as a replacement for the original Glenbrook tunnel. The only other tunnels on the line within the metropolitan area are two dives between Blacktown and Parramatta which allow trains to pass from one side of the 4 track line to the other.

    Illawarra Line

    Two dives, located between Redfern and Central stations, take Illawarra inter-city trains from one side of the railway lines to the other. The down dive has a 286.7 metres long tunnel, the up dive tunnel is 241 metres in length. These dives were originally used to allow rail access between the two sections of Everleigh Workshops which are located on either side of the through lines. The Illawarra line passes through three tunnels within Royal National Park on its way to the Illawarra Coast. Metropolitan passenger services on the Illawarra line continue on beyond Central to the Eastern suburbs via a 1.45 km long sub-city tunnel between Erskineville and Woolloomooloo.

    Olympic Park Line

    Olympic Park rail tunnel

    Opened in May 1998, this loop line contains 3 tunnels; the approach (620 metres long) and departure (240 metres long) tunnels of Olympic Park station and a 60 metre long tunnel under Olympic Boulevard.

    Glebe Road and John Street Railway Tunnels

    The Glebe and Pyrmont tunnels, now used by Sydney s Light Rail, are important relics of the inner city rail freight system, having remained virtually intact as the line was never electrified. The double track tunnels and associated cuttings were created in 1919 as part of the Western Goods Line between Darling Island and Balmain Road Jctn. The 4.1 km long section of track which passes through them was opened on 23rd January 1922 and closed to goods rail traffic 74 years later to the day. The brick-lined Glebe Road tunnel is 744.8 m long and runs from Pyrmont Bridge Road to Jubilee Park, passing below Glebe Point Road. The western portal is adjacent to the former Rozelle Tram Depot. Both portals now frame Metro Light Rail's Glebe and Jubilee Park Stations.

    John Street tunnel

    The John Street Tunnel was built, opened and closed for traffic simulataneous to the Glebe Road tunnel. A curved brick-lined 123.8 metre long tunnel, its takes the line under the sandstone heart of the Pyrmont Peninsula. The line's corridor lay dormant until it was brought back into use by Metro Light Rail which operates a service to Lilyfield using the goods line's tracks, bridges and tunnels. John Street Station was created within the cutting beyond the eastern portal of the John Street Tunnel.

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Formerly disused rail bridge over Ultimo Street has been given a coat of paint and is now a major feature of The Goods Line Urban Renewal Project (below)

Abandoned track on the Darling Harbour goods line that was lifted in 2014 to make way for The Goods Line Urban Renewal Project.

Wembley House, at 841 George Street, Haymarket, is built immediately above the northern end of the Darling Harbour rail line tunnel

Entrance to the twin North Sydney tunnels. The tunnels were built wide enough to each carry two tracks, but the line is single track in each direction.

John Street tunnel and light rail station, Pyrmont

Redfern down dive

A train passes through a tunnel near Bondi Junction on the Eastern Suburbs railway line

A 1980s XPT train exits the Long Island tunnel before crossing the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge

A train exits the Ciry Circle tunnel at Circular Quay station

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