Info Blue Mountains Railway Pages
Glow Worm Tunnel
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Originally part of the remarkable Wolgan Valley Railway, the Glow Worm Tunnel area is today a beautiful and curious part of Wollemi National Park.

Wollemi National Park, Blue Mountains, Australia

Bushwalkers, mountain bikers.

This page: Access & Bushwalking | Description | Ecology of the Glow Worm | Additional Info
Related pages: National Parks | Tourist Info.


Glow worms are sensitive to habitat disturbance, in particular, noise, lights and pollution from smoke and exhaust fumes. They are also destroyed by touching.


Access, Bushwalking, Cycling

Access from the Top

Leave the Bells Line of Road at Clarence (Zig Zag Railway), and follow the gravel road through Newnes State Forest for 34kms. A picnic area is provided, in a pine plantation, along the way.
The Glow Worm Tunnel parking area is located 3km past the junction of the Glow Worm Tunnel Road and the Old Coach Road.
From here it is an easy 5km walk to the tunnel along the original railway formation, the gradient being 1 in 25. The route features cuttings, embankments and a rock tunnel as the line descends into the gorge. Alternately, you can drive on to the vehicle barrier, and walk only 1km. Note, however, that the railway formation is narrow, and parking is limited beyond the car park at the Wollemi National Park boundary.

Features of the landscape include magnificent rock formations, known locally as pagodas; canyons; and places where streams pass underground. The water is tinged reddish-orange by algae, contrasting sharply with the green ferns and mosses. Like many areas of the mountains, it is at its best after rain.

The glow worm tunnel has become a water course, and you may have to wade through water. Torches (flashlights) are essential, but must be turned off in order to see the glow worms, and should not be shown on the worms.

Access from the Bottom

Leave your vehicle at the old concrete ford (approx. 7km before Newnes). Do not block access to the ford! After crossing the Wolgan River, there is a steep climb of 1km to the old railway formation, then an easy 3km to the Glow Worm Tunnel. Round trip takes about 4 hrs, grades classified as medium.
Either return by same route, or follow the Pagoda Track and Old Coach Rd for a circuit walk.


Bushwalkers at the northern (Newnes) portal to Glow Worm Tunnel. The line crossed a bridge in the right foreground. Glowworm_Ropewerx.jpg (21473 bytes)
Photo Ropewerx. Ropewerx offer tours to Glow Worm Tunnel.

Walking to / from Newnes

Below the Glow Worm Tunnel, the track follows the railway formation for 11km to Newnes, the turn-off to the ford being 3 km from the tunnel.

Mountain Bikes

Leave the train at Bell, and cycle through Newnes State Forest.

Riders must dismount from their bike before entering the tunnel. In addition, the railway formation from the tunnel to the ford turnoff is overgrown and washed out in parts, requiring that riders walk and carry their bikes through various sections.

A 3 day ride begins at Bell railway station and proceeds via the tunnel to Newnes, returning to Lithgow via the road to Lidsdale or via Blackfellows Hand Fire Trail. Total distance is around 85km, with 100m variation in elevation.


View from tunnel portal. Blue Mountains. The view from inside Glow Worm Tunnel, looking out of the northern portal into Tunnel (or Penrose) Gorge. Tree ferns grow in profusion.
Newnes staight ahead, Bells Grotto to the left.
Photo   Geoff Murray

Description

The Second Tunnel, 1320 ft in length, curves to the north-west, its centre thus becoming as dark as Egypt's night, the only illumination being afforded by points of cold light given out by myriads of tiny glow-worms clinging to the wet and clammy surface of the rock walls. Emerging from the darkness of the tunnel the line passed beneath the shelter of a huge cave formed by an overhanging rock shelf, water dripping from above in all directions and ferns are massed in great clusters.

Above the tunnel portal the vertical cliff wall towers to a height of some 600 feet, closing in the northern end of this outer section of Penrose Creek Gorge at first sight. However, the creek, flowing through Bell's Grotto, circumnavigates the western and northern side of the tunnel spur, and in the immediate vicinity was dammed to provide a water supply for the locomotives, the pool being bordered by hundreds of tree-ferns and overshadowed by a dense rainforest. Caves line the banks of the stream where rushing waters have undermined the soft base strata.

It was customary for Up trains in particular to stop at this attractive fern-filled spot, located at about 24mile 35chain, and here the Shay locomotives lifted the water into their tanks by means of a steam ejector and hose arrangement.

The more hardy and adventurous passengers left the train during the watering operation and rejoined it at the 24mile 10chain Loop after walking the narrow footpath through the beautiful Bell's Grotto. The foot track diverged from the railway line near the tunnel portal and traversed the creek bank to finally emerge through a narrow defile near midpoint of the loop. This was a pleasant escape from the smoky discomfort of the tunnel with its continuos five chain curve and 1 in 25 grade. Whilst not sign posted, this route can still be followed

Adapted from
The Shale Railways of N.S.W., Eardley & Stephens, Australian Railway Historical Society.


Ecology of the Glow Worm

Glow worms are the larvae of insects belonging to the Order Diptera (Flies). Glow Worm flies are known as Fungus Gnats.

The scientific name for the Glow Worm is Arachnocampa richardsae. Glow Worms live in caves and other damp, dark places, where they spin snares of hanging silken threads studded with sticky droplets to entrap small insects such as mosquitoes, which are attracted by the light produced by these larvae.

A blue glow or bioluminescence of the larvae is the result of a reaction between body products and oxygen in the enlarged tips of the insect's four excretory tubes. Bioluminescence can be controlled by regulating the supply of oxygen to these tubes.

The life history of the Glow Worm involves four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult fly. Eggs are laid in large numbers directly onto the cave wall. After three weeks they hatch into tiny larvae which immediately emit a bright light. The larvae grow over a period of months until they reach a length of about 30 mm.

When about to pupate, the larvae shrink in size and become translucent. The larval skin is shed and the larva develops into a pupa, which is suspended vertically. The pupal stage lasts about 12 days. The female pupa is larger and stouter than the male and possesses two prominent bulges at the rear of the abdomen. Both male and female pupae glow. Both adults can also glow, though once egg laying commences, female flies seldom glow. Male flies tend to live longer than females and can live up to four days. Please respect these fascinating creatures by helping to protect the Glow Worms and their habitat so that others can enjoy seeing them in the future.

Glow Worm Tunnel provides an excellent opportunity to see Glow Worms. However, these animals are sensitive to habitat disturbance, in particular, noise, lights and pollution from smoke and exhaust fumes. They are also destroyed by touching.

The floor of the tunnel is wet, rocky and slippery in places. The curve of the tunnel prevents light from disturbing the glow worms. If you want to see the glow worms, turn off your torch, keep quiet and wait a few minutes. The larvae will gradually "turn on" their bioluminescence and be visible as tiny spots of light on the damp walls of the tunnel.

Reproduced from
Newnes & the Glow Worm Tunnel
, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1996.


Additional Information

Wolgan Valley Railway
Design and construction of the Wolgan Valley Railway | Descent
Bushwalking (hiking) Links
Newnes - Lithgow Tourism

World Heritage Region

 

 
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