This is not only the oldest railway tunnel to be constructed in NSW, it is the only remaining on-site relic of Sydney's first railway line of the 1850s. The tunnel-like construction was called the 'Darling Harbour Dive' ('diving' under George Street)
The siting of the Rail Corridor along what was the edge of Darling Harbour strongly influenced the development of Pyrmont and Ultimo. Because of it, wool stores, engineering works and other industries were built here after the 1870s, giving this part of Ultimo its industrial, rather than residential, flavour.
The first steam locomotive to use the line is preserved in the Powerhouse Museum and a ticket for the line's first train journey is part of the Mitchell Library's collection.
In 1855, the tunnel was cut under what was then known as Parramatta Street, beyond Railway Square just before George Street becomes Broadway, as part of a spur line from the newly completed Sydney Station to Darling Harbour, where a goods yards and dockside rail facilities were being built.
Like the Darling Harbour goods line, the tunnel remained busy until after World War II, when freight that traditionally came through Darling Harbour began to be redirected to newly developing facilities at Port Botany.
This was a two-track tunnel but became gauntlet track in 1956 when the line was electrified to allow electric locomotive-hauled freight trains to access the former Darling Harbour. There was insufficient clearance in the tunnel to install overhead catenary above both tracks.
The original stone-clad tunnel under George Street still exists, though it has been extended to many times its original length by the addition of concrete structures which form the foundations of buildings on either side of George Street in the vicinity.
Locomotives in this photo
Copyright of the photo remains with the original author.