In the Dark

Close to home #10 Boolboonda Tunnel

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

Visiting the small Queensland town of Mt Perry, with its quiet streets and single general store, we wouldn’t have known it was once at the centre of a booming copper mining industry. Today around 480 people live in the town, but in the late 1800s a population of more than 30,000 supported several mines, shops, churches and five hotels.

To link Mt Perry to the coastal town of Bundaberg, a railway line was constructed in 1883-84. One part of the line included a 192 metre tunnel, dug by hand through the hard granite of the Boolboonda Range. The excavators worked for two years to complete what is still the longest unsupported and unlined railway tunnel in Queensland.

The railway opened in 1884 and was in operation until 1960, when this section of the line was closed. In 1961 the railway track was removed and the tunnel became part of an unsealed road linking Mt Perry to the town of Gin Gin. Several gates along the way remind today’s travellers they are passing through privately owned farmland; drivers must make sure they close each gate as they go.

The tunnel is wide enough for just one car and, while it’s interesting to drive slowly through with the headlights on, the best way to explore is on foot. It’s wise to carry a torch, as the light quickly dwindles just a couple of metres in.

The darkness, combined with high humidity and warm temperatures, has given the tunnel a second purpose, as the ideal home for a colony of little bent-wing bats. At the halfway mark the arched entrances seem far away, and the rustling movement and constant calling of the bats create an eerie atmosphere.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon with only the bats for company, it’s hard to imagine how loud it must have been when a train loaded with freight came rumbling through this dark and narrow space. That’s probably why the bats didn’t move in until the trains moved on!

35 thoughts on “In the Dark

  1. Great photos and video. I have just enough claustrophobia to not enjoy a visit inside that tunnel nor would I want to get that close to bats. We visited Austin, Texas, years ago and one of our stops was a bridge that had become a home to a large colony of bats. The smell was overpowering and when they flew out, it was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • These bats were tiny, no bigger than the palm of my hand and they weren’t flying around. I wouldn’t have liked it if they were on the move. Interestingly there was no smell. We couldn’t really seem them well in the dim light of our torches.

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  2. Not at all sure I would want to drive through that tunnel, but it looks like a great place to visit. Funny isn’t it to see these places that were once so busy and prosperous, now rather desolate. I find it hard to imagine how Cornwall must have looked like in the mid 1700s – 18 00s when it was the largest producer of tin, copper and arsenic in the world and one of the most wealthiest parts of the world. Now it is one of the poorest areas in the United Kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

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