Always keen to investigate a historical site, particularly if it’s disused or in a forlorn state, I drove to the Dularcha Railway Tunnel in Landsborough. Located roughly 95kms north of Brisbane, the tunnel was abandoned almost 100 years ago and lies amidst flooded gums, piccabeen palms and rainforest plants in Dularcha National Park.
I arrived at the park on a bright sunny Sunday, and the trees were luminous in the morning light. Following the Tunnel Track, which runs parallel to an active train line, I passed beneath tree tunnels, above mottled shadows and through small dips where cicadas pulsed in the heat. Roughly 20 minutes after I set off, I arrived at the tunnel entrance.
Dularcha Railway Tunnel – a brief history
The Dularcha Railway Tunnel was completed in 1891 with basic machinery and horses, and was used to link communities and reduce travel time from Brisbane to Gympie. According to the park’s information plaque, some of the line’s first passengers were “troops sent to quell a shearer’s strike”. The line was abandoned in 1932 when it was moved to its present location further east.
Today, the tunnel is frequented by walkers, cyclists, horses and – as I was about to find out – a rather lively colony of bats. I traversed the tunnel three times, during which I stopped and investigated some recesses in the wall and the bats, which appeared to materialise out of the tunnel ceiling, through dark cracks. They fluttered noisily about (listen to my TikTok video below), no doubt at home in the dark, cool surrounds of the old tunnel.
I enjoyed the concentric circles that line the tunnel walls – which give it some atmosphere – and after a few laps, I was disappointed it wasn’t longer.
On my third and final lap, some cyclists yelled as they rode through the tunnel. Interestingly, the QLD Parks and forest website states “care for roosting bats – avoid disturbing them and walk quietly through the tunnel”, yet horses, cyclists and walkers are all allowed to pass. Perhaps the bats like the tumult that no doubt frequently echoes along the 95 or so metres of their concrete home.
If you’re a keen walker/explorer like I am, I recommend you complete Roses Circuit, which loops around Dularcha National Park. If you’re a family with small kids, give it a miss, as it’s a nine or so kilometre hike which ascends a ridge that’s steep in places and undulates around the park.
There’s loose gravel on occasion and if it’s hot, like it was when I hiked it, make sure you bring at least two litres of water per person, preferably more. I took with me just a litre and as I had to get back to my family to give them the car, I completed the loop in an hour and a half. I enjoyed glimpses of the Glass House Mountains and the walk for the most part, but at the end I was slightly delirious and certainly parched.
I was annoyed at myself for being so foolish, as I’ve walked on bigger trips my whole life, all over the world. Never underestimate a hike, no matter how long! A little while later, while I was waiting in line at the IGA in Landsborough for chocolate and some water, I heard the check-out kid say to the guy in front of me, “hottest day on record”. Luckily, I had a good hat and decent shoes, but again, take plenty of water.
Additionally, if you’re allergic to bees, perhaps give Roses Circuit a miss, as there’s an apiary along the trail (although it’s slightly off to the side). There’s also long grass covering the wide trail at points, and as it was hot, there’s a good chance you’d see a snake or two. So I stomped loudly in places that looked snake friendly but didn’t spot any.
A few fast facts
- There’s a safety code for right of way in Dularcha National Park – cyclists give way to horses and walkers, and walkers give way to horses. Cyclists, being at the bottom of the etiquette pyramid, must alert others when they’re approaching.
- If your horse is averse to the tunnel, there’s a tunnel bypass alongside the tunnel.
- You can begin Roses Circuit before you get to the tunnel, but it also starts from the tunnel bypass, which is where I started from.
- Roses Circuit would be amazing in the rain, as there’s a rainforest gully – which was dry when I did it – towards the end.
- According to Atlas Obscura, the tunnel contains legends of ghost trains. I heard a train when I was inside the tunnel but it was a real train on the adjacent line (I think!).
- The Dularcha Railway Tunnel was heritage-listed in 1999, as it’s a rare example of a concrete tunnel constructed for a narrow gauge line.
- The tunnel is close to the Australia Zoo, so you could make a day of it.
- The bats are active seasonally, so time your visit if you want to see/avoid them.