33.9 C
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Inside The Disused Tunnels Of St James Station In Sydney

Must read

Speed blitz in Gold Coast hinterland nabs hundreds

A stretch of road in the Gold Coast hinterland has become a pseudo racetrack with a police blitz nabbing 60 motorists for exceeding...

Voluntary assisted dying legal guidelines: Queensland Premier’s promise if re-elected

Voluntary assisted dying laws and $171 million for a palliative care plan have been promised for Queensland if Labor returns to authorities.Premier Annastacia...

Some 13,000 commuters use Sydney’s St James Station every day, but few would pay attention to the simple green door that stands alone against a white arched wall between platforms one and two.

Walk through that door and just like Alice, enter a wonderland — an underground labyrinth of tunnels awaits.

St James in the city’s CBD was one of the first underground stations in Australia, completed in 1926.

Currently two platforms are operational and serve the City Circle line.

Another two that start from the northern and southern ends of the concourse are hidden from the public and have never been used.

They link tunnels and air raid shelters that stretch kilometres beneath Hyde Park and past the Cahill Expressway entrance off Macquarie Street.

“It’s an extraordinary place,” Tony Eid, executive director of Sydney Trains, said during a rare tour of the tunnels.

“When you get to the end and you feel no air, you see the ground reaching the ceiling … you see the effort gone into building these bomb air raid shelters.

“You have to think: back then, how the hell did they get this done?”

The disused platforms and tunnels were built in the 1920s for proposed extensions and rail lines to the western and eastern suburbs.

They were modified into air raid shelters capable of holding 20,000 people and used by the RAAF as protected bunkers and headquarters.

However, following World War II plans to bury the shelters were abandoned.

“One day they just downed their tools and left,” Mr Eid said as he pointed to dangerously exposed pipes of corrugated iron poking out of walls.

“I can see why, because we had a look at some pretty extraordinary steel and concrete meshed together to make up these shelters.

“We saw remnants of concrete being exploded and you can see quite clearly that this was not going to be easy to dismantle and I can appreciate why they would want to give up.”

Sights and sounds inside the tunnels

The walls of the south platform are adorned with the original cream and green tiles that give the station its unique 1930s ambience.

They are slowly being used up for repairs on the functioning platforms.

As you walk towards the end of the south platform, you enter the first chamber which this week was flooded from water seepage and rainwater redirected from the functioning platforms.

Past this point and the bustle of the outside world feels a light year away.

The tunnels are pitch black and eerily silent.

Dry prickly vines hang from the ceiling and thick tree roots, which have pushed through metres of concrete from where they stand in Hyde Park, have broken through crevices and twirl along the ground like a trip hazard.

“Somehow Mother Nature has found its way through this very tight, very exclusive part of the CBD and these tree roots are making their way down here,” Mr Eid said.

“There is absolute life in these tunnels.”


The dim spotlight from a torch reveals walls scribbled with graffiti.

In one tunnel the words “truckie scum” decorate the concrete slab, while in another the concrete doorway is framed with a kitsch screaming skull and a flaming heart likely left behind by curious vandals.

Others are snapshots of WWII history, like the names and registration numbers of workers who built the air raid shelters.

There is the inscription of R Joe Paul with the date July 13, 1942 beneath it.

Worker QX23242 was from Wilmot, Bundaberg in Queensland, while a love note reads: “I love you my dearest darling Robyn Foreman.”

Emblazoned in pink paint in one tunnel are the words: “Sydney Bomb Shelter.”

“If there was an explosion, nothing would penetrate these tunnels,” Mr Eid said.

“I would suggest this is one of the safest places in Sydney.”

Preserving a piece of Sydney

The rattle of passing trains breaks the silence as the tour group makes its way back to the empty platform.

There is a sense of awe among the group having walked through this little known and rarely seen subterranean maze of history.

“You cannot go anywhere else in Sydney and experience something like this,” Mr Eid said.

“It’s something that is quite unique to Sydney and we need to preserve it for many generations to come.”

702 ABC Sydney listeners have the opportunity to win tickets to visit the St James bunker tunnels as part of Sydney Open on November 5 and 6.

Once a year, Sydney Open unlocks the doors of the city’s most historic and architecturally inspiring sites usually off limits to the public.

Tune in to Drive with Richard Glover on Thursday.

Online Source: ABC.net.au.

Latest article

Cricket: Cricket NSW won’t take any gambling sponsors or allow advertising at Big Bash games in NSW

Big Bash games in NSW will be even more free of gambling promotions after a deal was signed to remove all advertising from...

Australia Post spends $12k on Cartier watches as reward for staff

Australia Post spent $12,000 on Cartier watches as a reward for a few senior staff members.Chief executive Christine Holgate was grilled about the...

ACT coronavirus: Diplomat the first positive case in 104 days

A diplomat returning from overseas has become the first person to test positive for coronavirus in the ACT in 104 days.ACT Health confirmed...

Netball: The controvserial super shot rule will remain for 2021

An announcement the controversial “super shot” rule would be kept for the 2021 Super Netball season was met with immediate disapproval. The rule...

Crown Resorts terminates special agreements with James Packer

Crown Resorts has ripped up two agreements with major shareholder James Packer ahead of a highly anticipated shareholder revolt that is expected to...