Day 18 – 7,982 KM. Town 27: Wollondilly is not actually a town but a shire consisting of some 27 town, villages and locales. I decide to visit the ‘capital’ of the shire – Picton.
Picton is some 80 KM south of Sydney and driving through the town is almost like driving back in time. The quiet streets have many older properties including The George IV Inn, reputedly constructed in 1839, is considered to be one of the oldest hotel buildings in Australia. With temperatures in the high 30’s today, the pub was not short for clients, but instead of quenching a thirst I decided to seek out a couple of local interests. Firstly, the ‘Picton Railway Viaduct’ (officially called Stonequarry Viaduct) is a stone viaduct opened in 1863 to also cross Stonequarry Creek (which is still in use to this day) and a ‘haunted’ disused railway tunnel.
A signpost indicated our way down a side street to a good viewing spot for the viaduct. Its stands proudly in a mass of greenery but blends in quite naturally with having been there and weathered for so many years. Picton features strongly in reports of paranormal activity in Australia and it is alleged that over the years many people drowned in the creek. The sounds of people swimming and splashing in the water have been heard by locals who upon inspection, find not a soul around. There was little water in the creek today so any splashing noises would have been totally out of place – there were none.
Next on the agenda was a visit to a disused railway tunnel, commonly known as the “Mushroom Tunnel”. Redbank Range Railway Tunnel was opened in February 1867 and was the first railway tunnel to be used by the NSW Railways. It was eventually closed to rail in 1919 when a new deviation line opened. During World War II it was one of a number of disused railway tunnels used to store ammunition and other military supplies including mustard gas. The 592ft long tunnel was also used for commercial mushroom growing after 1950 when the RAAF moved out.
It took us two attempts at finding the tunnel having taken the wrong fork in the road which firstly took us to the Picton underground reservoir. Before long though the tunnel was before us. At 592 feet it is not difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Graffiti and old tin cans line the walls and floor and by the time the mid point is reached it is dark (not helped by wearing sunglasses (doh!). Is the tunnel creepy? Maybe a little but then it was the middle of the day with bright sunlight at each end of this construction. I am sure it would be a different matter on one of the Ghost Hunts that regularly visit the tunnel at night.
On researching for this I have since learnt that the Redbank Range Railway Tunnel is s owned by Wollondilly Shire Council & is open to the public Monday – Friday between the hours of 8am & 2pm. Access out of these hours is via Picton Ghost Hunts only. Police patrol the area regularly and anyone found trespassing will be asked to leave and may even be charged. There is NO legal access to enter the tunnel itself, viewing is from the entry arch only, gates & signage indicate this point and the council have kindly clarified this point to prevent future visitors being fined.
For further information, please refer to http://www.visitwollondilly.com.au