Over the course of the last two weeks I have heard many stories of wonderful holiday trips. Today, most of these trips are so called ‘road trips’, carried out by car, yet in the past, many holiday makers would have travelled by train. One of the most popular routes was that between Sydney and Newcastle, a route with a fascinating history. This week, the past present focusses on the history of just one section – the Woy Woy Tunel.
When the Sydney to Newcastle railway line was opened in 1888 and at the time was a major feat of engineering in and of itself, being a line built through difficult and often extremely rugged terrain. Yet the line also contained two specific feats of engineering – the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge and the tunnel at Woy Woy. The tunnel, which is a horseshoe shaped brick construction, was at the time the longest railway tunnel built anywhere in Australia at 1.79 km in length. In addition to the brick, the tunnel was of course cut through bedrock and required massive excavation works, especially as it was built to allow line duplication – despite a second line not being put in on this section of the railway for another 20 years! The construction of the tunnel took four years and required a huge number of workers, who lived in a camp on site. In fact, so many railway workers and their families were housed in the camp that in 1884, the year construction began, a school was even established at the site to cater for the children of the workers. The tunnel was officially opened in 1886, a full 18 months before it was required for the line, but basic works continued at the site until 1888, when the line itself opened.