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 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
|Bushwalkers at the northern (Newnes) portal to Glow Worm Tunnel. The line
crossed a bridge in the right foreground.
|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.
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
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.
|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
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
The Shale Railways of N.S.W., Eardley & Stephens, Australian Railway
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
Newnes & the Glow Worm Tunnel, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1996.
Wolgan Valley Railway
Design and construction of the Wolgan Valley Railway | Descent
Bushwalking (hiking) Links
Newnes - Lithgow Tourism
World Heritage Region