St James Tunnels

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Australia’s first underground railway stations at St James and Museum were opened by Bradfield in 1926.

Bradfield also built additional tunnels that were planned to later link St James Station with a connection to the Eastern Suburbs. The Great Depression in the 1930s halted their construction and a revised Eastern Suburbs Railway in the 1970s meant the 1920s tunnels were no longer needed. Since then, the tunnels have been used for a variety of purposes including World War 2 (WW2) air raid shelters, filming Hollywood movies and mushroom farms!

Built

1926

Designer

John Bradfield

About the building

Excavation work for the St James and Museum underground stations began in 1922 and was completed in 1926 via the cut and cover construction method. St James Station was provided with four platforms and four tunnels, two of which have never been used for passenger railway services. 

During WW2, the Railways contributed to the war effort by providing a control centre for certain wartime operations, fighter command offices, army signallers, search lights personnel and the RAAF anti-aircraft headquarters in the ‘disused’ northern tunnels which run from St James to the yet-to-be-finished Circular Quay. 

Meanwhile, the southern ‘disused’ railway tunnels were adapted for civilian air raid protection from about 1940 onwards. These southern tunnels run for approximately 400 metres and are segmented into a series of chambers separated by thick reinforced concrete blast walls. These partitions were designed to provide horizontal protection against potential WW2 bombs blasts, although not from direct hits from above. 

At the southernmost end of the tunnels, the ground ramps up to provide an entrance point from Hyde Park to the shelters (currently backfilled). The walls at this point contain a range of graffiti, the oldest of which are the pencilled names and serial numbers of WW2 soldiers who were involved in the construction or manning of the shelters in the 1940s. 

These air raid shelters under Hyde Park are very important, and rare, surviving structures of Sydney's WW2 defences.

Find out more about the history and heritage values of St James Station and Tunnels.

Virtual tour experience

Your virtual tour will take you through layers of railway and WW2 history to explore this amazing part of hidden Sydney.

Virtual tour by BeThere™

Video: St James Tunnels - Hidden History

Overview of the history of these amazing tunnels in the heart of Sydney. Duration: 2:25
 

Video by BeThere™

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