October 6, 2020

Spotlight on: Glenbrook Tunnel

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Locked away at the foothills of the Blue Mountains is the Glenbrook Tunnel. Abandoned since World War II, the Glenbrook Tunnel has remained closed to the public. However, its history behind its closed gates is profound and important.

The tunnel was built from April 1891 and was completed in December 1892. However, due to its steep incline and the climate within the tunnel, it caused some serious issues when it was open. Some trains often couldn’t make it up the slope and often had to try multiple times to get through. The seepage in the tunnel caused trains to slip on curves in the tracks.

The tunnel officially closed in 1913 when old Glenbrook Station was shut and was left to decay. Twenty-four years later, the tunnel would serve a new purpose for the RAAF in World War II. The underpass was transformed in a mustard gas storage facility – one of 15 in the country.

When the war was over, mushroom beds were installed, hence gaining a second name as the “Mushroom Tunnel”. The tunnel’s humidity and lack of light are perfect for growing the mushrooms. The tunnel was then abandoned for the third time in 1992. It is unsure why the previous owners moved on from the heritage-listed spot, but there has since been a large amount of waste, rubbish and unwanted equipment. In the 2000s, a small operation began on the tunnel but it was shut down for reasons unknown.

Workers at the Glenbrook Tunnel during WWII. Credit: Pauline Conolly.

To many locals, the tunnel is a missing piece of the tourism puzzle. The potential to connect Glenbrook and Lapstone to Emu Plains, Leonay and Penrith are what a large section of the community desires and are pushing for. If reopened, the tunnel could be a perfect passageway to the Nepean River and its circuit. Glenbrook resident and tunnel advocate Adam Podolski is one local who is very keen to see the Glenbrook Tunnel reopen to the public.

“The tunnel is a great link for people to get up Lapstone Hill safely. Currently, there is no safe way to come up the Great Western Highway. There are alternative routes, but they are out of the way,” Mr Podolski said.

The community has been showing support through Facebook. Mr Podolski is an admin of the ‘Open Glenbrook Tunnel’ Facebook page which currently has over 1800 likes. “The Facebook page has been an integral part of gaining community awareness, as well as media and political interest. The tunnel had been slowly progressing in the background, but social media has really helped build momentum.”

One entrance of the Glenbrook Tunnel runs along the Great Western Highway on Lapstone Hill.

With all its uses in the past as a mushroom farm, gas storage and train line, many issues need to be addressed before reopening. “The main issue has always been funding and a lack of vision. It is a costly exercise to clean up and rehabilitate the tunnel, let alone the other works needed to improve access around the tunnel,” Mr Podolski said.

Glenbrook Tunnel is currently under the control of the NSW Government and Crown Lands. “They are slowly securing the site and will hopefully commence a clean-up. The gates were installed by Crown Lands in a way to secure the tunnel and prevent access. This will hopefully lead to safe access for workers in the near future,” Mr Podolski said.

While there have been updates of new gates and installation of bollards, the plan to reopen is still a waiting game. Fingers crossed for keen locals, bushwalkers and cyclists, it’s sooner rather than later.

A map of Glenbrook showing the tunnel, important landmarks and existing routes for walkers and cyclists. Credit: Adam Podolski

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Article by Dan Jennings

Daniels is a director, licensed real estate agent, stock and station agent and auctioneer servicing the Blue Mountains and Nepean Valley.

In 2019 Daniel started Stubbs & Co Estate Agents to pursue his passion for real estate …