G014 : Glenbrook Tunnel (Lapstone Hill) | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


G014 : Glenbrook Tunnel (Lapstone Hill)

Item details

Name of item: G014 : Glenbrook Tunnel (Lapstone Hill)
Other name/s: Railway Tunnel
Primary address: , Glenbrook, NSW 2773
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 GlenbrookBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The tunnel has high local significance as a major engineering component, expensive in men and money, in the first rerouting of the initial ascent of the Blue Mountains by rail.
Date significance updated: 18 Feb 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1891-1892
Physical description: The Glenbrook Railway tunnel is a brick oviform tunnel entered at the west end from a cutting through the sandstone hill. A three brick arch with a stone torus mould surrounds the entry. A parapet above is built in margined rockfaced sandstone. Brick buttresses are either side of the entry arch.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:17 Jan 00
Modifications and dates: Rails removed
Doors at ends
Current use: Mushroom Farm
Former use: Railway Tunnel; storage depot


Historical notes: The original line of railway which was opened in 1867 scaled the escarpment above Emu Plains by the Lapstone Zig Zag. At the top of the Zig Zag the railway followed the route now occupied by the Great Western Highway through Glenbrook as far as Blaxland. Because of the delays caused by the Lapstone Zig Zag and the increase in rail traffic, it was decided in 1891 that a tunnel should be built bypassing the Zig Zag. The tunnel and its new approaches were designed to form an elegant S-shape, starting at the Bottom Points of the Zig Zag and ending at old Glenbrook station (now demolished, on the present Great Western Highway).

The building of the tunnel in 1891-2 was contracted to George Proudfoot, whose labourers and their families were established in two substantial camps at either end of the works, one at Glenbrook, the other at Lapstone. Because of Sir Arthur Streeton’s great painting ‘Fire’s On!’, the building of the tunnel and the fatal blasting accident which killed Thomas Lawless have become part of Australian mythology as well as railway history.

The new tunnel opened to traffic on 18 December 1892, but it was never a success, because of the steep incline and the suffocating atmosphere particularly in the west-bound trains. The problem was finally addressed after the Lithgow Zig Zag deviation was completed in 1910 and the railway gangs were moved to Glenbrook. Really major works were involved in bypassing Glenbrook Tunnel: a new viaduct (G 025) was built over Knapsack Gully to the east; and the new line then ran through virgin country south of the old alignment as far as the present Lapstone station and then turned west through a short tunnel under The Bluff and finally north to the present Glenbrook station.

Initially it was planned to continue using the 1892 Glenbrook Tunnel for up trains and when the new deviation opened on 11 May 1913 the tunnel was still used for east-bound trains. But the new line had been duplicated and the up line was activated in September. Glenbrook Tunnel was last used for trains on 25 September 1913 and old Glenbrook station was closed.

The lines in the tunnel were raised and it quietly decayed until, like some other disused railway tunnels, it was reopened as a mushroom farm. Today the entire 650 metres underground are occupied by mushrooms, grown by Mushroom Biotech under a lease granted by the State Rail Authority.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The tunnel has high local significance as a major engineering component, expensive in men and money, in the first rerouting of the initial ascent of the Blue Mountains by rail.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Glenbrook railway tunnel is a fine example of an oviform tunnel on a large scale.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Retain and conserve character of house facing both Raymond and Park Streets. Retain and conserve extant shop facing Raymond Street.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP2005G01407 Oct 05 122 
Heritage study G014   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983G014Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992G014Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Register Review1999G014Jack, R. I. for University of SydneyRIJ & PH Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008G014Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAston, Nell1992Rails, Roads and Ridges: A History of Lapstone Hill - Glenbrook, Part 1
WrittenSingleton, C. C.,1956Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, No. 227, September

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170262

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.