In 1901, workers began to cut a ninety-one-metre tunnel through the sandstone of the Darlington Range. First used in 1903, it is now known as the Lahey’s Canungra Tramway Tunnel. It was part of a privately-constructed tramway route owned by the Lahey family, who controlled a large timber operation and used it to haul logs between their leases in the Coomera Valley and their mill in Canungra.
In 1884, David Lahey began work on Canungra’s first sawmill. He and four of his siblings soon obtained parcels of timber-rich land, totalling approximately 3000 acres. During the late-nineteenth century, they acquired an office in Brisbane, established further mills at Beaudesert and Widgee, and increased their lease-holdings to 16,000 acres. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Laheys’ Canungra mill was the dominant force in the town’s economy. The expanding scope of their operation required them to use inefficient and expensive bullock-trains to haul timber across increasingly large distances. A private tramway, using a geared Climax steam locomotive which could operate on the steep track, offered a possible solution. It initially proved a success, being substantially extended during the early-twentieth century. The Climax locomotive was joined by three Shay patent geared steam locomotives as the haulage task grew.
In 1920, the War Service Homes Commission purchased Laheys’ operation, effective 1st January 1921, and closed the mill shortly afterwards. The Lahey family in the guise of Brisbane Timbers Ltd repurchased the tramway in 1924 and continued to use it intermittently to supply their mill at Corinda. In 1933, it closed for good and the track was dismantled. During the Second World War, the Kokoda Barracks at Canungra used the tunnel to store ammunition. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it gained a new lease on life, opening to the public in 2001 and obtaining heritage listing in 2005.
- Centre for the Government of Queensland. “Canungra.” Queensland Places (https://queenslandplaces.com.au/canungra).
- Susan Prior. “The Laheys’ Legacy.” Secret Brisbane (https://www.secretbrisbane.com.au/home/2017/1/lahey-legacy).
- Queensland Government. “Lahey’s Canungra Tramway Tunnel.” Queensland Government: Queensland Heritage Register (https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602529).
Queensland Museum. “Industrial Light Rail in Queensland.” Queensland Museum (https://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Histories+of+Queensland/Transport+Road+and+rail/Industrial+rail+in+Queensland#.XOYrHMgza70).