Mooloolah is a small town of 3,263 which is located just a 20 km drive from Caloundra at the base of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Being 77 km from Brisbane on the North Coast line, there are plenty of trains that pass through the single track tunnel located between Landsborough and Mooloolah. Back in 1932 however, this section of railway line was realigned, and a new tunnel built to replace the old one. So just what become of the old 1891 railway tunnel? They placed it on the heritage listing, and today it is part of a hiking trail through Dularcha National Park.
|The north entrance (Mooloolah side) of the original 1891 railway tunnel. The Dularcha Park Rail Trail is flat, the path leading down to it from Roses Road is not. 2014.|
To hike the Dularcha National Park Rail Trail, you have to start from either Landsborough end on the corner of Beech Road and Cunningham Avenue, or the Mooloolah end at Paget Street with car parking off Dorson Drive. Or, you can be a bit lazy like me and drive to the end of Roses Road (a dirt road off Tunnel Ridge Road with very little parking), and hike the very steep 350 metre descent to the tunnel entrance. I downloaded the Queensland Government Dularcha National Park map to use as my reference, and there are some signs along the way, if like me, you choose to drive to the end of Roses Road.
|There really is light at the end of the tunnel. Walking through the 100 metre long old Mooloolah railway tunnel is not a stumble in the dark experience while ducking from swooping bats. Anyone can do this. 2014.|
The Dularcha National Park Rail Trail would also make a perfect day out by train from Brisbane City. Just download the map, catch a Sunshine Coast Line train to either Landsborough or Mooloolah Railway Station to walk the 3.2 km trail, have lunch in one of these charming country towns, and then catch the train back to the city. The tunnel is 100 metres long on a gentle curve, is not pitch black inside and there are no bats to worry about for the scared-at-heart. It is relatively flat, (being a former railway line), and is located closer to the Mooloolah end of the trail if you are looking for a shorter there and back option to walk.
|Emerging from the south portal (Landsborough side) of the old Mooloolah railway tunnel. Isn't she gorgeous? Umm... my wife that is, not the tunnel. 2014.|
The advantage of driving to the end of Roses Road however, is that for train enthusiasts like myself, the road passes over the current alignment of the North Coast Line. At the top of the new (well, the 1932 version makes it new-er), Mooloolah Tunnel is a clearing that gives great camera angles to the north and south of the approach to the tunnel. I parked by car on the side of the road, and in a one hour period on a Saturday afternoon photographed three trains, (including the steam train special I had come to photograph), while running back and forth across the road to take photos as each train emerged from the tunnel.
|The approach to the new-er 1932 Mooloolah railway tunnel looking to the south with the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance. 2014.|
Two mountain bikers who I had passed on the old tunnel hiking track earlier stopped and asked our group of a dozen grown men who were positioned in the bushes with cameras what we were taking photos of. After explaining that a steam train special was about to pass through any minute, they waited eagerly on their mountain bikes with us for the next hour, trying not to laugh as we ran left and right across the road to photograph passing freight trains and suburban electrics.
|A southbound Aurizon freight train exiting the Mooloolah tunnel, 2014.|
When the BB 18 1/4 class steam locomotive came, went, and finally whistled out of sight, one of the lads said something along the lines of, "well, thanks a lot boys. That was the greatest anti-climax ever. Maybe I was expecting the Man from Snowy River to be riding alongside the train, but I can't believe we just waited an hour to see that."
|The Glasshouse Country Festival steam excursion to Mooloolah exiting Mooloolah tunnel, Saturday 25th October, 2014.|
I guess it's true. To even the most casual observer, we train nuts can come across a little strange. And while my wife and son were busy laughing their heads off in the car as the two mountain bikers pedaled off saying that at least watching the train photographers was amusing, they were waiting in the cool of the car that was parked beneath a shady tree, catching the breeze from our vantage point high on the hill. I, on the other hand, had just stood in the hot sun for a little over an hour after our hike, waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect photo. As I write this now, my head is as sun-burnt as a beetroot. In making sure I had my national park map printed out, camera packed, batteries fully charged, a blank SD card to shoot nothing short of 148 photos, and some drinks packed in a small cooler bag, I had left my hat at home on a scorching hot Queensland spring day. I'm sure the guys on bikes weren't that silly.