Situated halfway between Yea and Molesworth in Victoria, Australia, the 201-metre-long Cheviot Tunnel was built between 1887 to 1889. The tunnel can be reached by taking Limestone Road and then Cheviot Road from Yea and there is a carpark near the tunnel from where it is a short walk. An information board nearby tells the story of the tunnel. the Great Victorian Rail trail stretching 134 kilometres from Tallarook to Mansfield passes through the tunnel.
The train line from Tallarook to Yea was opened on 16th November 1883 with Yea as the terminus. The tunnel was opened for traffic on 12th November 1889 and formed part of the Tallarook to Mansfield railway line. This is the only tunnel on the line and was constructed of hand made bricks made from local clay, sourced from Quinlan’s pit in a nearby paddock just west of the Tunnel. An estimated 675,000 bricks were used for the construction.
Kenny brothers won the tender for building the railway line as part of the Yea to Cathkin section at a cost of £88,661/2/11. The construction of the tunnel became a necessity in order to negotiate the ascend at McLoughlin’s Gap. Several casualties happened during the construction. An explosion on 14th December 1887 killed 3 people. In May 1899, a worker died of injuries suffered from a rock fall.
The township of Yea is 172metre above sea level. After Yea station, train crosses the Yea River floodplain where used to be a mile long wooden trestle bridge which was replaced in 1946-47 by concrete and steel bridges. Then commences a steep five-kilometre climb to the tunnel at almost continuous1:40 grade with many curves. The grade is briefly broken at the station which is at a 1:200 grade. The tunnel is constructed at 1:60 grade. Once the end of the tunnel was reached, the hard-working stoker could take a well-earned rest as the train descended 8km on similar gradient past the Ballam Siding to Molesworth Station. The descend with several tight 500m, 600m and 800m radius curves, presented a difficult challenge to the train drivers. Several minor and major accidents occurred at Suicide bend (near Sheepwash lagoon) as trains descended at speeds to Molesworth Station.
Within a few years of its opening, the rail line was used to transport hardwood timber from the nearby Murrindindi Forest to Melbourne. Major timber mills operated in the area in the late 1800’s like Foran, Vinning, Wightman, McKenzie and others, transported timber to Cheviot Station along some 23km of 3foot gauge timber tramways using horse drawn trams. The tramlines were used to minimise damage to the earthen roads and tracks. Two six-ton derrick cranes were installed at the station yards in the 1920’s to handle the large volume of timber transported. The timber industry peaked in the area from 1907 until the breakout of World War I and between 1923 till the Great Depression years.
Tunnel Length: 201 metres
Tunnel Height: 4.7 metres
Date Built: 1887 -1889
Gradient in Tunnel: 1:60
Railway service opened: 16th November 1889
Passenger service closed: 27th May 1977
Goods service closed: 3rd February 1978
Railway line closed: 8th November 1978
Location: 5181 Goulburn Valley Highway Yea 3717