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Early pioneers’ tunnel vision

Exit to the Dularcha Tunnel near Mooloolah


Early pioneers’ tunnel vision

AUDIENNE BLYTH takes a local bushwalk with a lesson in our early railway history.

If you like to go bush, Dularcha National Park has popular trails for walkers, mountain bike riders and horse riders.

It was gazetted in 1924.

Dularcha is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘blackbutt’ and the park contains significant Aboriginal sites.

Well before the gazettal, the North Coast Railway line that would eventually link Brisbane with Gympie was built through this area of bushland.

A part of the old line can be easily accessed from Dorson Drive, Mooloolah.

An abandoned railway tunnel, the Dularcha Tunnel (opened in 1891 and closed in 1932) is about one kilometre along what seems to be the old track.

Visitors can venture through the 92.5m to the exit. It is dark inside, with a bat colony squalling in the darkest spot. Be prepared with a torch. A bypass track can be accessed for those not tempted by the tunnel. You can hear the present-day electric trains passing close to the old track.

The line was relocated in 1932 and the Dularcha Tunnel was closed to rail traffic. In the 1940s, the tunnel was used for mushroom farming; in the 1950s, it was opened for public access.

The Brisbane Courier reported in January 1889 that T. Jesser & Co had the contract to build the line from Landsborough to Yandina. The clearing of scrub was described as an especially arduous nature, being nearly all heavily timbered. There was an abundance of timber of all kinds: ironbark and stringybark, bloodwood, blackbutt, tallowwood, turpentine and mahogany, as well as gum trees, tree ferns and palms alive with birds and other fauna. The contractor commented that he had never encountered country so richly timbered with such an abundance of fresh water.

Camps were set up. Two thousand men, including navies and draymen, were employed in different gangs. Picks and shovels were their tools. Three hundred horses were used for heavy loads. The most-intensive work was tunnelling, with only hand labour and the lining of the interior with concrete. A sawmill nearby provided thousands of wooden sleepers.

The railway link from Landsborough to Yandina took two years to build and was opened on January 1, 1891. The line from Yandina to Cooran would take another six months. It encountered the difficult terrain of the Eumundi Range.

In July 1891, the line was opened from Gympie to Brisbane and services began.

The journey took 12 hours: much faster than the earlier horse-drawn coaches or sea travel. Queensland celebrated the building of the North Coast Line. Freight trains were able to carry farmers’ produce to city markets. Supplies could be delivered on a regular basis. The public enjoyed a good passenger service. More settlers were attracted by the transport system. Towns along the route began to grow, along with services and industries.

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