Honestly, mushrooms creep me out a bit, but even I have to admit that this is pretty cool – an enterprising company that uses a decommissioned 19th century railroad tunnel located in New South Wales as a one-of-a-kind fungi farm. The tunnel itself, now the property of Li Sun Exotic Mushrooms, was originally part of the Great Southern Railway that carried passengers and natural resources in the form of cargo between Sydney and Goulburn. The single-line railroad ran for 224 kilometres when it was finished in 1869, complete with a tunnel bored through the side of Mount Gibraltar between Mittagong and Bowral. The construction of the tunnel, which is over half a kilometre in length and 70 metres below the surface of the mountain at some points, was recognised as Australia’s greatest engineering feat of the time.
Sadly, the construction of a double-line railroad between Sydney and Melbourne made the Great Southern Railway obsolete in 1919. Afterwards, the Mt. Gibraltar tunnel was used to store explosives and ammunition during WWII, until it was taken over in 1987 by microbiologist Dr. Noel Arrold. Dr. Arrold turned the defunct tunnel into what it is today – the first Australian farm of its kind and the perfect subterranean habitat for growing all kinds of exotic mushies.
The cool, damp and dark environment of the tunnel closely mimics that of the East Asian mountain ranges where these tasty toadstools – chestnut, enoki, king brown, nameko, oyster, shiitake, shimejii and woodear mushrooms, among others – originate.
Li Sun Exotic Mushrooms even runs tours of the tunnel/farm a few times a year – but you’d better hurry to book, because there’s not “mushroom” in there, and spots are reserved for “fun guys” only (sorry).
Sophia Softky is an armchair philosopher and wayward American trying to make her way in Melbourne. Sometimes she writes things, and sometimes they get published. She is a millenial and therefore lives inside of the Internet.