During the late 19th Century, railways were a vital economic and social link. They still took some time to spread across Tasmania, due to the inconvenient number of mountains and rivers. This is evident in the history of the North-Eastern Line, which opened from Launceston to Scottsdale in 1889, with extensions to Branxholm in 1911 and Herrick in 1919. The North-Eastern Line included a rare feature: a 704-metre tunnel. This was so unusual for Tasmania that the locality was named “Tunnel” and the nearby station was named “Tunnel Station”.
With increased use of road vehicles, use of the North-Eastern Line slowed from the 1960s onwards and ended in 1992. However, many sections of the old line may be walked. A 24 kilometre section of line from Tulendeena Station at Billycock Hill to Scottsdale opened in 2015. This was the North East Rail Trail, with plans to eventually cover the full length of the old North East Line for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. As of March 2017 North East Rail Trail work to replace tracks with gravel had not reached Tunnel, but the area was accessible to walkers who didn’t mind stepping between sleepers.
The roads to the tunnel were helpfully named “Tunnel Road” (which passed over the top of the tunnel) and “Tunnel Station Road” (which led to the car park). Both were unsealed, with a combined length of 2.2 kilometres. Tunnel Road began about 6.5 kilometres north of Lilydale, turning west off Golconda Road. Tunnel Station Road then turned south off Tunnel Road.