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Top 10 Tunnels in Melbourne

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by Barry J (subscribe)
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Published August 28th 2019
What Lies Beneath?
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(by Govt of Victoria - Culture Victoria)


After the Gold Rush throughout Bendigo, Ballarat and Beechworth, frantic digging began in Melbourne. But instead of golden nuggets, the tunnels became wartime bunkers, ventilation shafts, transport hubs and car parks, sewerage systems and storm water outflows.

These 19th and 20th century underground marvels of have inspired 21st century urban exploration. Budding archaeologists, historians and photographers delve into our past to capture atmospheric tales, haunting snapshots and the odd urban myth from the deepest depths of Melbourne.

Enjoy a weekend tunnelling through time in Melbourne:

Parliament House
Our state's politicians can be turfed out at the next election, but their office on Spring St has endured countless Dorothy Dixers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Dixer since the 1850s.

Tunnels for ventilation, cabling and plumbing were installed in the 1890s. The hot air flowing from Question Time is directed via the ventilation shafts to feed the parliamentary gardens.

The tunnels can be accessed during special open days.


Foy and Gibson Ladies' Store
In 1911, a tunnel was built to connect the buildings straddling Smith St. This underground shortcut allowed Melbourne's ladies avoid dodging rain or trams as they made a bee line for the latest fashion, furniture and manchester in Foy and Gibson Ladies' Store https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/when-department-stores-were-more-than-just-stores.


Royal Melbourne Hospital
A 400-metre tunnel stretches from the basement in Parkfield and under Flemington Rd, sending steam to heat the Children's Hospital.

During WW2, tens of thousands of injured Allied troops recovered in these underground chambers as the above-ground wards filled to capacity.

Since the 1940s, the network grown in size and complexity as it's used by doctors, nurses and patients to reach 9 medical buildings in Melbourne.

During the 2011 Melbourne Open House, visitors took a guided tour of the medical masterpiece.

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(by Har Gobind Singh Khalsa / BY-ND 2.0)


Campbell Arcade
Named after the former Public Works Chief, Robert Campbell, this 30-metre tunnel leads commuters to Flinders St Station Entered via Degraves St, its lined with 1920s art deco tiles.

The 'style moderne' ornamentation is contrasted with contemporary art displays. It opened in the 1950s, just in time for the first Olympic Games outside of Europe and America, the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne.


The City Loop
The underground loop is a product of the 1970s and 80s. Sections of the line peek above-ground, in a network beginning at Flinders St and leading to Spencer St, Museum, Parliament and Flagstaff Stations.

Almost a million cubic metres of earth was excavated to create the 10km labyrinth of tunnels, with thousands of people entering its depths on a Metro Train).


ANZAC / Prahran Main Drain
In Ghostbusters, we're warned never to cross the streams. In Melbourne, we're told keep out of the drains.

But urban explorers ignore the warnings to explore our city's sewers after sneaking through the outflow near the Chapel St Bridge. As it drains into the Yarra, they've painted the walls and giant chambers with graffiti.


Subterranean State Library
Even with your library card, you'll need special permission to access the tunnels beneath Victoria's State Library on Swanston St. Victoria's main library spans 23 buildings but most of the collection is tucked underground in stacks.

The lucky few descend the Foucault stairwell, named for the pendulum which swung from the rooftop. If you can't manage the stairs, take the elephant elevator, designed to handle deliver taxidermied pachyderms to Melbourne Museum.

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Descent into the ventilation shaft in the Citylink Highway's Burnley Tunnel (by Ecb / BY-SA 3.0)


Uni of Melbourne Car Park
The Uni's south lawn is a peaceful place to study but down in the depths of the carpark, architectural innovation awaits.

Rectangular columns are used to support the roof in modern car parks, but the Uni's car park's columns are hollow, widening in the upper segment to resemble funnels.

The design is heritage listed, with the clever construction allowing water and soil filtration for the trees in the park above.

The dystopian effect became part of pop culture alongside the V8 Interceptoras Mel Gibson emerged from its depths in Mad Max.


Moylans Cafe
If you're a pollster at Roy Morgan on Collins St, phone ahead with your order for lunch at nearby Moylan's Cafe on Flinders Lane.

Skip the traffic lights via this custom-built tunnel which links the 2 buildings. You'll have your food before the poll-shocking election result.


Merri Creek Bunker
During World War II, the American General, Douglas MacArthur, headquartered in Melbourne to plan Pacific War battles against the Japanese. The American troops bedded down in Camp Pell in Royal Park. While the MPs guarded the streets, the soldiers still watched the skies for Japanese bombers, fearing another bombing raid similar to Pearl Harbour.

As myths, rumours and conspiracy theories ensued after the war ended, leading a archaeo-adventurers to dig for a secret military bunker. There's no record of military tunnels under Melbourne in the official files, but believers (and X-Files fans) know the truth is out there.

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Campbell Arcade during flooding in 1965 (by Beside the Yarra)


Where have you needed a flashlight under Melbourne? Please let us know with a comment.


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Why? Escape into the underground
When: Anytime!
Where: Throughout Melbourne
Cost: Free!
Your Comment
Fantastic well researched article, Barry.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7763) 1095 days ago
Great Barry, and what novel idea for a story.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|5722) 379 days ago
Great article Barry, congrats on silver
by Brooke. A. R (score: 2|405) 1102 days ago
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