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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tim reveals his tunnel vision

The Mercury: Tim reveals his tunnel vision [30nov05]

THE tunnel that gave its name to Tunnel Hill is used for cosmic ray research -- but former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer would like nothing better than to see trains running through it again.

The historic tunnel at Mt Rumney -- which formed part of the old Bellerive-Sorell railway line -- operated from 1892 to 1926.

Although it's unlikely to be used as a railway again, with his iconic Akubra tourism hat firmly on, Mr Fischer said: "Let's salute our heritage.

"It's the greatest tunnel in Tasmania.

"It is over 110 years-old and it's structurally as sound as it was when it was built."

Train buff Mr Fischer was launching The Bellerive to Sorell Railway Revisited, which captures a wide sweep of historical and present importance of rail, both for passengers and freight.

The 162-page book, with more than 150 images, tells the stories of hundreds of individuals and families connected with the railway at the time and since. It took the Bellerive Historical Society a year to write.

It covers the planning of the railway, its construction, operation and demise. And it features newspaper reports, official documents, drawings and old and new maps.

Mr Fischer praised the Bellerive Historical Society for its valuable contribution to rail tourism.

He said there was a vital role for railway in the state.

Bellerive Historical Society Committee member John Houghton said yesterday was a magnificent moment in the railway's amazing history.

"We still have the ceremonial spade that dug the soil in 1891," he said.

When the tunnel was closed off it was used as a Defence Department store for records from Anglesea Barracks.

Now, part of it is used by the Physics Department at the University of Tasmania, and the Antarctic Division, for cosmic ray research.

The owners of the remaining part, Dean and Anita Smith, said the tunnel would be used to cultivate mushrooms.

Mr Smith said he'd heard about old railway tunnels in NSW being used for mushroom farms, as they provided perfect growing conditions.

The book retails for $33. It is available from The Bellerive Historical Society.


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