Swan View Tunnel

The Swan View Tunnel is a 340 m (1116 ft) railway tunnel located on the southern side of the Jane Brook valley at Swan View, Western Australia on the edge of the Darling Scarp. Currently inactive, due to its location (31°52′55.51″S 116°4′15.59″E / 31.8820861°S 116.0709972°E / -31.8820861; 116.0709972 to 31°53′2.76″S 116°4′4.89″E / 31.8841°S 116.068025°E / -31.8841; 116.068025) within the John Forrest National Park, the tunnel and its adjacent landscape exist within a conserved state. Prior to the construction of tunnels for the Mandurah line in 2004, the Swan View Tunnel was the only tunnel built for the Western Australian railway network.

Construction

It was built on an alignment which replaced the original Eastern Railway passing through Smiths Mill, Glen Forrest, and Mundaring. The project to build the new line, including the Swan View Tunnel, was managed by C Y O'Connor, who, at the time, was Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia's Government Railways. Work began in 1894, and was completed in 1895, at a cost of about £12,000. The unstable nature of the jointed granite, along with clay seams, caused difficulties during construction of the tunnel. A masonry-lined face prevented rock falls, but reduced the inner diameter.

The tunnel's small diameter combined with the steep gradient (1:49) to cause smoke accumulation. Incidents involving near-asphyxiation of train crews started in 1896, and continued throughout the tunnel's operating life. The first serious incident of this nature was in 1903.

The tunnel's design was incompatible with the ASG class Garratt steam locomotives used by the Western Australian Government Railways in the 1940s. The worst accident in the tunnel was in 1942, when several train crew workers were asphyxiated, one dying, when a fully laden train passed through the tunnel at walking pace, due to the excessive grade.

Between 1934 and 1945, a signal cabin was located at Tunnel junction, on the eastern end of the tunnel, for managing the transition from the tunnel's single line to the dual lines of the system. The single line tunnel was insufficient for traffic, and a diversion was added on the northern side of the hill that the tunnel passed through. The diversion was completed on 25 November 1945.

Railway closure

The railway line through the tunnel was lifted after the closing of the older and steeper Eastern Railway and the building of the Avon Valley diversion completed in 1966.

After the 1960s, gates/doors were put at either end of the tunnel though these were later removed.

The tunnel remains intact, and is part of the John Forrest Heritage Trail (a component of the larger Railway Reserve Heritage Trail). During the 1990s, the government authority in which the tunnel land is now vested - the Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia) (known as DEC and formerly known by the abbreviation CALM) allowed a number of night time 'Ghost walks' in the tunnel as part of the Hills Forest programmes, based at the Mundaring Weir headquarters of DEC .

Image gallery
  • Eastern end, showing deviation to the right

  • Western end, showing narrow approach

  • western end

  • western end, showing deviation to the right

  • photograph inside the tunnel