Exploring The Mushroom Tunnel of Picton
AKA: The Redbank Rail Tunnel of NSW, was on the first ever railing tunnels built during the early 1800s for NSW Railway.
The Mushroom Tunnel had been on my list of places to visit for a while now. You know me (or maybe you don’t), I love me a good tunnel. As long as I can see the light at the end. And I love a good ghost story as well. And believe me, just like most old tunnels of any kind, this tunnel has its fair share of ghost tales.
Of course, none of which can be confirmed. The stories that is, not the ghosts.
Once known as the Redbank Railway Tunnel, it’s historically significant, as it was one of the first railway tunnels used by the NSW Railways. The tunnel is a fine example of the stonemasonry and design of the 1800s and is also one of the structures and works which provide evidence of the Great Southern Railway.
Experiencing some tragedies in its time, the tunnel is rumoured by many locals to experience paranormal activity. Ghost tours frequented the location in the past to witness firsthand the cold and eerie surroundings inside the tunnel, however due to deterioration it’s now dangerous for visitors to walk through.
References on the tunnel show that it was also known as the Old Mainline Tunnel, though it was used for defence storage purposes in WWII and commercial mushroom growing in peacetime after the war, it’s the ghost stories which keep drawing people in to go visit the tunnel.
Once such story is that of a young lady (date and name unknown – of course) who threw herself down in front of an oncoming train coming through the tunnel, when it was still in operation. Though there is no actual record of this happening, some people have sighted an eerily white lady waft in and out of the tunnel. Difficult to say though, as your eyes and imagination can certainly play tricks with you, especially in such a shadowy place, where the light flickers in the trees and then faces into darkness in the tunnel.
Of course, who I am to judge anyone who has seen a ghost there. I have had my share of ghosty encounters at a variety of haunted locations across Australia and in the world.
Though I didn’t feel any ghostly presence at the tunnel when I went, there have many an account of weird apparitions and sounds when popular ghost tours once used to hold vigils at the tunnel, when investigating at the site.
I did hear strange noises whilst walking through the tunnel, I can’t say they weren’t natural noises. As each and every sound made in the tunnel, from the shuffling of our feet, to the soft kicking of stones, and even the swish of our pants as we walked through the tunnel, made eerily strange noises, which echoed through the tunnel.
Either way, the tunnel is a fascinating place to visit, knowing it’s history and admiring the architecture of its time. They certainly don’t make them like they used to. With care and such detail.
There was a time, when the tunnel fell out of popularity and as it sits on private land, visitors were no longer welcome to the tunnel. During this period, unwanted visitors would take to the tunnel, spray painting useless images and words on the walls inside and outside. upsetting to see, and a total disrespect for out history really.
Since then, the tunnel has opened back up for the public to go visit. However, times are restricted, no pets or care are allowed and absolutely no visits after dark. Unless permission is obtained. And even then it may difficult to get nightly access to the tunnel.
The website for the area of Picton does state you are not to go into the tunnel, to ensure you safety. But we went for a walk half way anyways. There is a lot of water, fairly typical for tunnels, and we were a little unprepared for that (we make that mistake often when visiting tunnels and never learn). Otherwise the structure is safe, nothing was crumbling and if you are wearing the right shoes and have a good torch, I see no reason why you couldn’t walk the distance of the tunnel.
Full disclaimer here: If something happens, I am not liable for you entering the tunnel at your own peril. If you decide to make the venture, this is on you, not me – just getting some legal jargon out of there way before continuing.
Respect for the area is a must if you do visit, as the land is now private and should anything be disrespected I have no doubt they will shut the gates again and the tunnel will once again fall out of people’s minds, to be forgotten forever.
A few members of the Picton area are currently trying to get funding to restore the tunnel and open it up to the public properly, with a proper footpath to the tunnel and possible fix the path through the tunnel to make it safe for anyone to visit. Including the opening of weekend as well. However, I am unsure on the progress of this, as it’s difficult to find information online. And a lot of it was pre-covid and we all know covid changed everything really. Sigh!
I do hope they restore it, it was would be sad to see something so amazing lost for good.
If you are planning on visiting, the gates to the tunnel open from 8.30a to 2pm every Monday through to Friday (not open weekends), and they do shut and lock the gate, so you won’t be able to enter.
The tunnel is located at 229 Argyle Street PICTON 2571 and if you need information about the tunnel, you can call on: 02 4677 1100 which goes through to the local information centre of Picton.
It is on a main road and once you find the sign, it’s pretty easy to locate. You will need to park on a side street up the road though, as it’s on a main road. A lot of trucks fly by and there is no street parking, as there is a ratline right there and no side parking at all. Just be careful crossing the road, as the tunnel is surrounded by two sharp bends on either side, so cars and trucks may not see you crossing.
Once you enter the gates, you then turn left into the first dirt driveway you see (there is no sign here either). Follow a little ay and you will see the tunnel ahead and a sign confirming it’s the Mushroom Tunnel.
Remember to wear good shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, mozzie spray and a good torch.