11/06/2001 - report

Participants: Tom Brennan, Fiona Macrae, Mike Baldwin

The Glowworm Tunnel is a nice easy walk, all on tracks. It's even easier if you do it from the Glowworm Tunnel Rd up on the Newnes Plateau since you don't have to climb the hill at the bottom from the Newnes Rd. But as we were driving from Newnes that wasn't really an option.

For some of its distance the walk follows the route of the old railway line that ran from Clarence, near Bell in the Blue Mountains, to Newnes. The railway was built in 1906 and 1907 to haul oil shale from the mines at Newnes up to the main railway at Clarence, and it was an amazing piece of engineering for its day. It ran over 30 miles (50km), through two tunnels and dropped almost 700m from the top of the ridge to the Wolgan Valley at a steep gradient. Consider that it was built in just 13 months, and imagine what time a similar project would take to complete today.

We didn't have a huge amount of time to do the walk. Mike had to be back in Sydney by 3pm at the latest, and it's a good 3 hr drive from Newnes. So when we started after 10am for the 9km walk we figured we'd have to push the pace a bit.

It didn't help that we drove past the start of the walk, at the ford, and had to backtrack to find it. Having to take our shoes off to cross the river didn't help timewise either.

We quickly climbed up to the old railway embankment and followed it. For some considerable way before it enters the tunnel, the railway traverses the base of the cliffs above the valley, and the amount of work to cut it into the cliffs must have been enormous. Here and there we could see were old sleepers, although the tracks themselves have long since been removed.

The track then heads up Tunnel Creek and into a canyon which progressively narrows. I had a new GPS that I was playing with and was surprised to see that it continued receiving until we were actually inside the tunnel itself.

The tunnel used to be part of the railway route, but like the rest, the tracks are long gone. However, it is one of the best places to see glowworms during the day, as the tunnel goes around a sharp curve. In the middle of the tunnel it is pitch black, and the glowworms were fantastic. Unfortunately we had to contend with a few teenagers who seemed insistent on making loud noise the whole way through the tunnel. It's a wonder they saw anything!

Once out of the tunnel we turned left on to the Pagoda Track, to continue around and do a loop walk. As its name implies there are lots of interesting pagoda rock formations visible from the track. The track soon joins up with the Old Coach Rd, which used to be the main road into Newnes. It is somewhat frightening to think of the old vehicles going down that road, as it is a narrow road with a steep drop off the right hand side.

Some quick walking brought us back to where we started along the old railway, and we retraced our steps back to the ford.