Sydney’s Secret Train Tunnels

Friday October 21, 2016 Written by Genevieve

St James train station

Every day, thousands of commuters pass a non-descript door between platforms 1 and 2 at St James Station in Sydney. But few, if any, would guess the wonders it conceals.

Built in 1926, St James was one of the first underground stations in Australia, and a testament to the Sydney’s coming of age as a world-class city. When it first opened, commuters were introduced to the two large, beautifully tiled platforms still in use today. But what most visitors to the station don’t know is that these platforms were just the tip of the station’s proverbial iceberg. 

St James train station

As this investigation by ABC News points out, behind that non-descript door between the platforms lie another two platforms, initially intended to be gateways to the western and eastern suburbs. But when WWII broke out, these enormous tunnels were modified into air raid shelters, big enough to hold up to 20,000 people. Luckily the shelters were never needed, but they’ve remained there as an unappreciated testaments to the quick thinking and skill of the strategists and servicemen who realised the epic conversion ever since.

Tony Eid, director of Sydney Trains, believes the secret tunnel system of St James is still “one of the safest places in Sydney”. And there’s a whole lot more Tony could tell you, if you get a chance to join one of his underground tours with Sydney Open. Keep an eye on their website to find out when the next opportunity to go down is coming up. 

St James train station

Images: Top, Demas Rusli and Sydney Living Museums; middle and bottom, Amanda Hoh, ABC.