Walking through the Tunnel at Tunnel

Photograph from inside of railway tunnel.

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.

Getting there

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.

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Walking along the Briseis Water Race

Walking track following trench through forest

The Briseis Water Race (sometimes described as “The Great Briseis Water Race” or just “The Great Briseis Race”) transported water from Ringarooma to the Briseis Tin Mine at Derby. Built between 1901 and 1902, it was an immense engineering effort for its time, covering 48 kilometres, employing 300 workers and costing £60,000.

Most of the race is on private land, overgrown or otherwise inaccessible; part is still in use to bring water to the Branxholm Reservoir. Fortunately an unused section of the race at the town of Branxholm has been set aside for a walking track.

Getting There

Driving to Branxholm from most parts of Tasmania is simple. However, it can be time-consuming due to the winding roads in its area. Once there, we turned south onto Donald Street. This became Ruby Flats Road, which was unsealed for about two kilometres to the car park.

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Walking around Mount Paris Dam

River flowing through hole in concrete dam wall

Mount Paris Dam sits on the Cascade River south of Derby, Tasmania. It was built as the Morning Star Dam, water source for a nearby tin mine of the same name. If it were filled, it would just be another medium-sized dam among many in Tasmania. However, in 1985 the Rivers and Waters Supply Commission intentionally holed the dam. With the dam now empty and the Cascade River running through the middle, it is a fascinating place to explore.

Getting There

Mount Paris Dam is just off Mount Paris Dam Road. This may be reached from the Tasman Highway at either Branxholm (to the west) or Weldborough (to the east). Branxholm is closer from Launceston or Hobart, but the distance driven on Mount Paris Dam Road is longer: 17 kilometres from Branxholm, or 6 kilometres from Weldborough.

Mount Paris Dam Road was an unsealed forestry road. We found it to be wide, solid and no trouble to drive on. Stay clear of the drainage ditches on the south side. The final few hundred metres to the car park were not as good; if your vehicle has a particularly low wheelbase, you may prefer to park on Mount Paris Dam Road and walk from there.

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