Newnes was established about 1906 for the purpose of mining and processing oil-shale. There were two main adits on the north side of the Wolgan River that runs through the site. The industry continued here intermittently until the 1930s, when the works were transferred to Glen Davis, on the other side of the mountain to the north of Newnes. The site was connected by rail to the Blue Mountains line at Clarence. Shay type locomotives were used to haul trains because of the steep gradients and sharp curves. These were cut up on site and a side frame still exists beside a bridge south of the Glow Worm tunnel. It was built through a spectacular landscape in a remarkably short time of 13 months which included two tunnels. The longer tunnel is populated by glow worms.
While very little is left of the town of Newnes, there are extensive ruins of the refinery and associated plant, mostly retaining walls and other brick structures. The main works site covers an area of riverbank and adjacent talus slopes extending for about 1km along the Wolgan River.