Eveleigh Railway Workshops | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Eveleigh Railway Workshops

Item details

Name of item: Eveleigh Railway Workshops
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Workshop
Primary address: Wilson Street, Redfern, NSW 2043
Local govt. area: Sydney


The listing boundary is formed by Wilson St the north west, Redfern Station to the north east, Cornwallis and Garden Sts to the south east and the property boundary to the new development fronting Henderson Rd to the south.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Wilson StreetRedfernSydney  Primary Address
Cornwallis Street, Burren Street, Eveleigh StreetRedfernSydney  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Eveleigh workshops are the best collection of Victorian period railway workshops in Australia and are considered to have world heritage signficiance by curators of the Smithsonian Institute Washington DC, USA and to be of the highest significance in the development of the railway system and of the State. They represent the pinnacle of manufacturing achievement in NSW and the equipment was once (and remains) the best collection of heavy machinery from the period. The buildings are fine examples of workshop architecture and are an important part of the historic fabric of the inner city.

The Eveleigh Railway Yards are some of the finest historic railway engineering workshops in the world and Eveleigh contains one of the most complete late 19th century and early 20th century forge installations, collection of cranes and power systems, in particular the hydraulic system. The place is of international significance and is one of Australia's finest industrial heritage items. The value of the place is increased by the fact that it is comprised of assemblages, collections and operational systems rather than individual items. Conversely, the significance has been reduced by its closure, relocation of some machinery and its disassociation from the operating rail network. (State Projects 1995: 109)
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.


Designer/Maker: George Cowdery
Builder/Maker: George Fishburn
Construction years: 1882-1897
Physical description: BUILDINGS
locomotive works managers office - 1882
locomotive workshops - 1882
carriage workshops - 1882
buildings include:
- locomotive workshops
- large erecting shop
- new engine shop
- carriage workshops including
- paint shop
- timber shed
- store
- ACDEP carriage depot

pedestrian tunnel from carriage works to loco under mains lines
up engine drive, 1890`s including brick vents on Redfern station
turntable - 105`,Erskinville end of area
traversers - 2 in carriage works, 1 between loco workshop and large erecting shop
foundations to topping up coal stage, Everleigh loco side
gasometer at McDonaldtown end

The Eveleigh Precinct is located approximately four kilometres south of the Sydney GPO and is bounded by the inner city suburbs of Darlington, Redfern, Alexandria Park, Erskinville and Newtown. The total area of the precinct, which runs from Redfern Station in the northeast to Erskinville and MacDonaldtown Stations in the southwest, is approximately 51 hectares. It is located across the main railway corridor to Sydney Central Station. Most of the southern portion of the overall site has been declared surplus to railway needs and much of this area has been cleared and was used as a parking area for Paddy's Markets while they were occupying the Locomotive Workshop. Other portions of the southern precinct have been redeveloped for public housing. Several former railway buildings stand vacant. (Schwager Brooks 1994:1)

THE LOCOMOTIVE WORKSHOP - The external walls are of sandstock brickwork laid in English bond with arched window and door openings picked out in white bricks. The pediments have circular vents filled with louvres. The brickwork is modulated into bays forming piers which strengthen the walls. Externally, brick walls feature sandstone cornices, parapets, sills and base courses. The stone generally extends the full depth of the wall. The top face of the parapets (and cornices) are splayed to fall to the outside to discharge water and they are joined on the top face by cast iron toggles, about one inch thick. On the pedimented areas roof flashings are recessed in a trench in the stone. The walls and internal columns are supported on massed brick footings. In bays 1-4 there are brick arches between piers and each pier is supported on a timber platform and timber piles, 12 in each corner and 6 at each column. Inside the building is a grid of round, hollow cast iron columns moulded in a classical style supported on footings. The columns support the crane girders and the roof. The corrugated iron clad roof is supported by fine wrought iron trusses with diagonal wind bracing which fixes through the walls at each end. The purlins are wrought iron ‘Z’s. Timber purlins have been added in some places for ease of fixing replacement roofing. Monitor roofs run the length of the bays with a curved roof supported on curved wrought iron rafters. Along the south side of the building are a series of annexes of varying dates of construction. Along the south of the building are two sets of tracks and several associated turntables. To the east in the space between the Loco Shop and the new Loco Shed a track lays parallel to the building, sections of which are now exposed. (State Projects 1995: 60-65)

CARRIAGE WORKSHOPS - The construction of these workshops are essentially the same as the Locomotive Workshops.

PAINT SHOP - A large single storey building containing 8 roads in the brick section and 5 roads in the adjacent metal clad section. Each road is separated by a single row of cast iron columns which support the saw tooth south light roof.

TURNTABLE & TRACKWORK - This is located west of the Large Erecting Shop.

AIR RAID SHELTERS - These are scattered along the existing rail corridor, generally located along embankments or cuttings. There are numerous collections of machinery within the buildings on the site, including equipment adjacent to the Locomotive Workshops and machinery inside the buildings. (Schwager Brooks 1994: 20-21)

Machinery associated with Locomotives Workshop (Australian Technology Park)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical Condition: Fair
Archaeological Potential: Medium-High
Date condition updated:10 Dec 08
Modifications and dates: 1899 - Large Erecting Shop added to the site.
1901 - By this year the new foundry and laundry had been constructed.
1902 - Most overhead cranes in workshops converted to electric drives. - A new copper and tinsmiths shop erected.
1907 - The New Locomotive Shop designed and constructed. - A new compressor house constructed. 1914 - Electrification of machinery in the workshops. - New Locomotive Shop extended to the south. 1917 - Resumption of adjacent houses to the south for the Alexandria Goods Yard. - Several new buildings completed, leading to a rearrangement of the workshops.
1925 - Northmost bay of Running Shed demolished.
1965 - Southern and middle bay of Running Shed demolished.
1970s - Workshops rearranged internally to update the works and the Spring Shop was removed. (State Projects 1995:28 - 34)
2008: Carriage Works building adapted for use as an arts space
2013: Transfer of Lots 1, 2 & 3 of DP 1175706 to Urban Growth Development Corporation
Current use: Public housing, Australian Technology Park and temporary uses.
Former use: Railway workshops and yards


Historical notes: When Sydney's original railway terminus was built in the Cleveland Paddocks, which extended from Devonshire and Cleveland Streets to Chippendale, the station's name was chosen to honour William Redfern. The station was built of iron and the first stationmaster was a Mr Fielding. In 1874 the station was replaced by a brick and stone structure, covering two platforms. At that time the present Redfern station was known as Eveleigh, after a lovely old home standing on the western side of the railway line.

When Central Station was built, on the site of the Devonshire Street cemetery, the name of Eveleigh Station was changed to Redfern. The name Eveleigh was retained for the huge railway workshops, just beyond the station, on the site of the original Hutchinson Estate.

When John Whitton first conceived the idea of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, they were to undertake the construction of the infrastructure of the railways including the safe working systems and some of the perway systems. However, their main tasks were the maintenance and repair of locomotives and railway stock and the manufacture of rolling stock such as wagons and passenger carriages. At the time there were no other facilities in NSW for the construction of locomotives. The workshops were set up on both the north and the south sides of the main western and southern railway lines, which led to a duplication of some workshop functions, but the really heavy work such as forging and casting of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, was to be carried out on the locomotive side. When the workshops were established most of the rolling stock had a wooden chassis, so the separation of services was not a major impediment to production. The site for the Eveleigh railway yards was chosen in 1875, resumed in 1878 and the compensation price settled in 1880. Approximately 100 000 pounds was paid for 64.5 acres of land. Clearance began two years later. Much work went into the design and construction of the buildings because of the sandy nature of the soil. In the meantime, Eveleigh Station had been opened in 1878. In 1906 it was renamed Redfern Station. The former Redfern Station was renamed Sydney Terminal (Central). The Engine Running Shed, now demolished, was the first building completed. Cowdery was criticised for the extravagance of this building. It comprised three segmental arched bays, each covering seven 'roads' without intervening columns. George Fishburn was awarded the contract for bays 1-4 of the Locomotive Workshops in 1884 and work was commenced soon after. They were officially opened in 1887. Workshops 5-15 were opened later in the year. This initial building phase also included the construction of bays 16-25 of the Carriage Sheds, the Paint Shop, a General Store and various smaller buildings and the associated turntables, traversers and rail lines. Development continued into the 1890s. The workshops were open every day of the week until 1892 when union negotiations led to the workshops being closed on Saturdays. The residential development of the area proceeded in the 1870s and 1880s around the railway workshop and was stimulated by the need for housing generated by the workshops. The names of many early settlers are continued in the street names in the area, including Eveleigh, and many of the property boundaries and former watercourses are reflected in street patterns. At the time of the development of the railway workshops, Darlington School was also built, as were other municiple buildings since demolished for the university. For some time Eveleigh had its own gas works which were located near MacDonaldtown Station. However, in 1901 with the establishment of Ultimo Power Station which belonged to the Rail and Tramway Department, electric power was made available to the workshops. Shortly after work commenced on the conversion of the rope-driven cranes to electric motor drives. Work also commenced on the replacement of the steam engines at the south end of the workshops by powerful electric motors. This, however, was not completed until 1914. In 1907 the Commissioners for Railways decided to begin the manufacture of new locomotives at Eveleigh and the New Locomotive Shop was designed and constructed for this purpose. A Public Works Annual Report in 1915 concluded that the Eveleigh Works were too congested and recommended the establishment of a new locomotive and repairing works. Adding to this situation, strained conditions led to eight strikes at Eveleigh between July 1915 and July 1917. In 1916 James Fraser, Acting Chief Commissioner, addressed workers at Eveleigh on the introduction of the Taylor card system. The introduction of this system on 2 August 1917 led to an 82-day general strike. It began when 1100 men struck at Randwick Tramway Depot and 3000 at Eveleigh. Volunteers kept trains running including boys from Newington and S.C.E.G.S. (Shaw) private schools at Eveleigh. This all took place during the First World War which brought worse conditions and declining wages. The rail yards continued to develop. Additional land was resumed to the south-west and 230 houses were demolished to allow for the construction of the Alexandria Goods Yard sometime around 1917. During 1925 the manufacture of new locomotives ceased. As a result of World War 2 (1939-45), bays 5-6 were cleared of machinery in 1940 and plans drawn up for the installation of equipment supplied by the Department of Defence for the manufacture of 25lb field gun-shells. A mezzanine floor was added to Bay 5 in 1941 and the machinery for shell manufacture installed by February. Bay 8 was altered for an ammunitions annex. By 1943 Bay 8 had been abandoned by the Department of Defence as it had organised its own factories. Production of the shells ceased in 1945 and the construction of new locomotives was reintroduced. This post-war locomotive manufacturing lasted until 1952 when Eveleigh once again became a repair and maintenance facility. The decision to abandon steam locomotives in 1963 meant that Eveleigh, which was dedicated to steam locomotive maintenance and repair, entered its final phase. The yards continued to grow and expand, and functions were continually changing. In later years workshops at Chullora in 1937 and later Clyde took over aspects of work formerly performed at Eveleigh and functions were rearranged accordingly. Re-organisation and attempts at modernisation in the 1970s came too late. Too much of the machinery was suited only to the steam locomotive era. Buildings containing old equipment, machinery which had become progressively inappropriate to a modern transport era, and a changing work culture, has seen the yards decline gradually in the late 20th century until its closure in 1988. After closure, bays 5-15 were used by Paddy's Markets while other buildings on the site were demolished over an extended period. These included the Pattern Shed, Foundry, Smith's Shops and the Wheelpress Shop. In 1991 the NSW Government announced the creation of a technology park at Eveleigh in association with the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and the University of Technology. Decontamination works were carried out to cleared areas of the site progressively. In 1994 Paddy's Markets returned to Haymarket. City West Development Corporation took ownership of the Locomotive Workshops, bays 1-15, in addition to the New Locomotive Shed and the Manager's Office. Today the functions fomerly carried out at Eveleigh are no longer carried out by government enterprises or no longer carried out in Australia. (State Projects 1995:19-22, 27-33, 43-51)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Building the railway network-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The workshops were an important part of the NSW rail network which was instrumental in the development of the state during the 19th and 20th century. The construction of the workshops influenced the development of the local area (which was developed for worker's housing) both by providing employment and by its bulk and presence, starting bells and sirens. The yards were associated with developments in working conditions now crucial to the Australian cultural identity. The yards had an important association with the labour movement. The place was seen initially as a positive instrument of state socialism and in later periods as the site of important labour actions and of restrictive work practices. They were conceived by Whitton, the 'father' of the NSW railways, and were an integral part of his NSW rail system, and were executed in detail by Cowdery (State Projects 1995:109)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The entire complex has a strong industrial character generated by the rail network itself, by the large horizontal scale of the buildings, the consistent use of brick and corrugated iron, the repetitive shapes of roof elements and of details such as doors and windows and because of the uniform grey colours. The simple, strong functional forms of the buildings have landmark quality, not only as important townscape elements in the Redfern/Eveleigh area, but as part of the visual train journey of thousands of commuters, marking arrival in the city centre. The major buildings from the original 19th century development of the site are well designed, detailed and built exhibiting a high degree of unity of design, detailing and materials. (State Projects 1995:109)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Workshops were one of the largest employers in Sydney at the turn of the century, declining only in the latter half of the 20th century. It was and is an important source of pride and in demonstrating the capacity of Australian industry and workers and a high level of craft skills. The place is significant to railway workers, former railway workers and railway unions and is associated with the stories of many, including workers and locals, which are important to cultural identity. Although no longer operating as a workshop, the place maintains symbolic value for the community as a former workplace and a place that provided economic input into the local area. It has strong symbolic ties with existing trade unions. (State Projects 1995: 106-111)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Eveleigh railway workshops have considerable research potential for understanding the operation of railway workshops. This potential is enhanced by the extent of archival material available and because the relatively recent closure means that there are many former workshop workers who are still alive and who know how the place operated. They have unique educational value enhanced by the highly valuable location and the relationship with the ATP and the three universities. They contain the potential to achieve an understanding of the work practices of today through an understanding of the cultural continuity between 19th century technology and 21st century technology. There is potential for further research to yield information about the labour movement, labour relations and the nature of work practices in the 19th and 20th centuries. Archaeological remains have the potential to reveal further information about the operation of the Yards. (State projects 1995: 109)
SHR Criteria f)
The size and quality of the site is rare. (State Projects 1995: 107)
Integrity/Intactness: The Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops are the largest surviving, intact railway workshops dating from the steam era in Australia, and possibly the world. (State Projects 1995: 110)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerSRA s.170 Register    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA102State Rail Authority  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDon Godden and Associates1986Eveleigh Railway Workshops Heritage Study
WrittenHeritage Group, State Projects.1995Eveleigh Rail Yards Locomotive Workshops Conservation Management Plan
WrittenSchwager Brooks and Partners1994Eveleigh Precinct Sydney Conservation Policy

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4801102

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