Central Railway Station and Sydney Terminal Group | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Central Railway Station and Sydney Terminal Group

Item details

Name of item: Central Railway Station and Sydney Terminal Group
Other name/s: Sydney Central Yard; Sydney Steam and Sydney Electric Stations; Central Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Eddy Avenue, Sydney, NSW 2000
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney

Boundary:

North: the Northern side of the Campbell Street underbridge and south side of Hay Street to include Belmore Park; South: the northern side of the Cleveland Street overbridge (excluding the bridge), East: property boundary line of Prince Alfred Park and the former Railway Institute Building along Chalmers Street and Elizabeth Street; West: property boundary line along Pitt Street, Lee Street and Regent Street.Note the Mortuary Station is included within the curtilage and is also subject to a separate listing (4803219). The adjacent Railway Square underbridge is subject to a separate listing (4801079). The Institute Building, former Parcels Office and Belmore Park are not in RailCorp ownership but are included within the curtilage as they are considered integral to the significance of the site.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Eddy AvenueSydneySydney CumberlandPrimary Address
Railway SquareSydneySydney CumberlandAlternate Address
Chalmers StreetSydneySydney CumberlandAlternate Address
Regent StreetSydneySydney CumberlandAlternate Address
Great Southern and Wester Railway Lines Unknown  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Extracted from 2013 CMP:

Central Station is the largest railway station and transport interchange in NSW and is of State significance for its historical, aesthetic, technical values and for its research potential. With its grand sandstone edifices and approaches it is a well known landmark in Sydney.

The site contains the original Sydney Railway Company grant on which the first Sydney Station and yards were opened, in 1855, and so represents over 150 years of railway operations in the same place, making it the oldest and the longest continuously operated yard in Australia.
The Sydney Terminal precinct has a high level of historic significance associated with its early government and institutional uses, as well as being the site of Sydney’s second major burial ground, the Devonshire Street cemetery. Archaeological evidence of the government and institutional uses is rare and has high research potential.

Central Station site contains evidence of the first phase of railway construction in NSW and has been the major hub of rail transportation in NSW since the mid 19th century and has the ability to demonstrate the evolution of changes in the NSW railways and in railway technology over the past 150 years, from steam to electric, reflected in the changes in yard layout and in signaling work practices. The Darling Harbour branch line and associated sandstone Ultimo Railway Overbridge is the only remaining example of railway infrastructure built for the Sydney Railway Company and is the oldest piece of railway infrastructure in NSW. The Prince Alfred Sidings contains some of the oldest remaining workshops in the NSW railway system. The Prince Alfred Substation is part of the Bradfield 1926 electrification works and was designed by Bradfield himself. The site has technical heritage value in such elements as: the Darling Harbour Dive; Central Electrics flyovers; the elliptical arch construction of the Elizabeth Street Viaduct; the western approach ramp underbridge the three pin truss roof of the porte-cochère; the Devonshire Street subway (probably the first of its type in Australia); the underground men’s toilets; and the early mail, parcels and luggage subway system.

The main terminus building, accentuated by its clock tower and approach ramps, exemplifies the predominant use of sandstone at the site and it has been sited to dominate its surroundings and to mark the importance of the railway to both the city and the State. The construction of the Sydney Terminus was the largest planned intervention into the urban fabric of Sydney at the time and it was the only major complex of the period where the urban setting was consciously designed to enhance and provide views to and from the main structure. With its multi layered access modes and above ground level platforms not only was the development extraordinarily innovative but also the largest incursion into the southern part of Sydney prior to World War I.

Some of Sydney's most notable 19th and 20th century architects and engineers have worked on the Central Station site, including: James Wallace and William Randle who together designed and built the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta and the associated Darling Harbour Branch Line; the last serving Colonial Architect, James Barnet (Mortuary Station); the first NSW Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon (the main Terminus building and the Parcels Post Office); and the Chief Engineer for the City Underground and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dr John Jacob Crew Bradfield (Central Electric). Mortuary Station, the main terminus building and the Parcels Post Office were the only designs undertaken for the NSW Railways by the Colonial Architect and the Government Architect within the Department of Public Works.

The main terminus building is enhanced by its Neo-classical architectural features together with the high quality workmanship and materials it contains, from carved sandstone, marble and terrazzo to cedar joinery, acid etched glazing and metalwork balustrades.

The same fine quality in design, materials and workmanship is seen in Mortuary Station, the Railway Institute and also in the Neo-classical Chalmers Street Entrance, the Central Electric Station main façade and the Parcels Post Office, all of which tends to unify these buildings with the main terminus.
The Mortuary Station is a fine and rare example by James Barnet of the Gothic Revival architectural style and is the only remaining example of a mortuary station in NSW. The exemplary Federation Anglo-Dutch architectural style of the Railway Institute is significant and it was as the first institute of its type in Australia, demonstrating 19th century initiatives in railway workers educational and recreational facilities. The Parcels Post Office contains fine brickwork and sandstone detailed facades and documents the association of the site with railway postal services.

The significance of Central Station is widely appreciated by the broad community for its sense of place and theatre; as an extraordinary place of work for employees past and present and their families; and by many specialist transport and heritage community groups.
Date significance updated: 30 Jul 09
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: NSW Government Architect, WL Vernon
Builder/Maker: NSW Department of Public Works
Construction years: 1855-1970
Physical description: See the Conservation Management Plan prepared by Government Architect's Office, June 2013 for detailed inventory sheets of each precinct.


SYDNEY TERMINAL PRECINCT
Main Station Building (1901-1906)
Clocktower (1921)
Main Concourse (1906)
Platforms 1-15 (1906)
Underground tunnels and services (1906)

CENTRAL ELECTRIC PRECINCT
Elizabeth St and Eddy Avenue Entrance (1926)
Suburban Platforms 16-23 (1926-32)
Eastern Suburbs Railway (ESR) Platforms 24 and 25 (1979)
Devonshire Street Tunnel (c.1906, 1979)
Disused Tunnels and Platforms (1979)

SYDNEY YARDS PRECINCT
Yard and Modern Structures
Flyover Junctions (1932)

WESTERN YARDS PRECINCT
Parcel Dock (1906)
Rail Sidings and Yard (1906)
Former Parcels Office

PRINCE ALFRED SIDINGS PRECINCT
Former Workshop Office Buildings (c.1870)
Prince Alfred Substation (1926)

BRIDGES
Hay Street Underbridge (1923)
Campbell Street Underbridge (1923)
Eddy Avenue Underbridge (1923)
Cleveland Street Overbridge (1891)

LANDSCAPE
ARCHAEOLOGY

SYDNEY TERMINAL PRECINCT

MAIN STATION BUILDING (1901-1906)
The Main Station Building (Sydney Terminal) is a landmark Federation Free Classical building with highly detailed sandstone façade, colonnades, columns and arcades on the exterior, with the use of bricks, decorative steel, iron and sandstone for the internal spaces providing fine visual transitions between the public spaces. The building comprises a sandstone colonnade and porte cochere, which originally provided an undercover area for passengers transferring to and from trams and is now used for the Metro Light Rail. The terminus itself forms a U shaped block fronting Eddy Avenue, Pitt Street and the electric city rail lines to the east. The Pitt Street frontage is a long sandstone arched colonnade containing shops and offices, driveway entry into the loading docks of the station and a vehicle entry ramp driveway to the main passenger pick up and set down entrance to the station. The central section (facing Eddy Avenue) of five stories, including Eddy Avenue shop fronts and colonnade, tramway entrance and three stories of offices. This is flanked by two four storey wings. The interiors feature marble and terrazzo stairs, decorative balustrades and banisters, and stained and etched glass panels. Offices in the main building have been recently refurbished and are of modern design and fit out.

Sydney Terminal is a high level, main line rail terminal. It’s elevated siting permits the use of the topography to gain road access to more than one level enabling the development of an extensive subterranean luggage network and separation of differing modes of transport. The commanding position of the terminus with large areas of open space sloping away from the building continues the public domain of Railway Square whilst maintaining a clear vista of the terminus from the square. The terminus creates a formal edge to Railway Square.

CLOCKTOWER (1921)
Above the northwest corner is the Central Railway Station Clock tower which reaches 85.6 metres above street level. The clock has four faces, each 4.77 metres in diameter, with minute hands 2.1 metres long. The tower is essentially hollow to the clock level with a staircase of 272 steps giving access.

MAIN CONCOURSE (1906)
The main assembly concourse is the centre of the terminus, around which all of the ancillary functions, such as refreshment rooms, waiting rooms and the booking hall were arranged. This concourse is accessed from both the east and west decks. The concourse has a high domed ceiling with exposed curved truss supports with aluminium and fibreglass roof sheeting, while the concourse is tiled with terrazzo tiles. The truss supports also hold a large station clock. The concourse is an open plan area, with new information booth and ticket facilities (c2000) located approximately in the middle.

The northern side wall of the concourse is of brick and sandstone with arched openings to shops and offices and two pedestrian arch walkways to the light rail station and Eddy Avenue access. The concourse also contains a heritage centre in the converted main booking office with decorative ceilings, railway offices, a number of cafes and small fast food restaurants, a newsagent and a bar area. These are located in the former refreshment rooms and retain the moulded ceilings and carved mural of Australian historic and railway scenes around the top panel of the walls. A small inlaid clock is positioned above the north door inside the refreshment rooms. The Station Managers office is located close to the entrance to the platforms in the southeast corner of the concourse.

The southern side of the concourse is open to the platforms and is fringed with a decorative iron lattice work grille on top of iron columns.

PLATFORMS 1-15 (1906)
Sydney Terminal now contains seven double platforms and one single platform, each with an awning, servicing a total of 15 tracks. Platforms 1-3 are for country and interstate services, while the remainder are for inter-urban services. The platforms run perpendicular to the main station concourse and all are dead end with the buffer stop.

Platforms 1-3 are covered with relatively recent awnings (c1990s) supported with steel columns. Platforms 4-15 are covered with gabled ended awnings (c1920s) with exposed steel lattice trusses supported with hardwood timber columns.

Platforms 1-10 have a centre run-round track which was for locomotive-hauled trains. It enabled the locomotive to uncouple from its train and either depart or re-couple on the other end to pull the train to the next destination. These centre lines are now used for storage of electric rail car sets in off-peak times. There are long timber-framed awnings over some of the platforms (incorporating Howe trusses). Timber was used in lieu of steel because of the high cost of importing steel at the time of the awnings' construction.

The only locomotive-hauled trains now using Sydney Terminal are the Indian Pacific and special trains which usually use Platform 1. Platform 1 has always been the main out-of-Sydney station with the longest platform. Platforms 1, 2 and 3 were lengthened to their present lengths in 1962 (covering the skylights to the Devonshire Street subway) for diesel hauled trains.

To the west of the southern end of Platform 1 is the Inwards Parcel Office. This was the loading dock for parcels and mail which was loaded via a tunnel from the post office. This was converted for use as a backpacker hostel in 2000. The eastern external wall of this building forms the edge of the platform area.

UNDERGROUND TUNNELS AND SERVICES (1906)
The subterranean levels are criss-crossed with service and pedestrian tunnels that provide access to platforms above, offices, maintenance depots, kitchens and loading docks. Some of these were upgraded and lined for pedestrian usage for the 2000 Sydney Olympics; others remain as service tunnels with services and lines exposed. The design of the station to allow separate pedestrian, train, tram and vehicle movements, as well as the extensive underground system of tunnels and subways to transport luggage, mail and other items without interference in the public space is all part of the complex design of the station to ensure smooth and safe operation.


CENTRAL ELECTRIC PRECINCT
The Central electric system runs near to the eastern boundary of the entire site.

ELIZABETH ST AND EDDY AVENUE ENTRANCE (1926)
There are two major pedestrian entrances to the Central Electric Precinct: one at Elizabeth Street and one at the top of the Eddy Avenue ramp. Both are constructed of Maroubra sandstone with classical detailing.

SUBURBAN PLATFORMS 16-23 (1926-32)
At the northern end of the precinct, six tracks leave the underground tunnels near Goulburn Street and pass over Hay and Campbell Streets and Eddy Avenue where they enter the platform area. The four platforms allow eight trains to use the station, four trains in each direction. The platforms are covered with gabled awnings from the 1920s supported with steel columns and with exposed steel trusses.

EASTERN SUBURBS RAILWAY (ESR) PLATFORMS 24 AND 25 (1979)
The ESR occupies Platforms 24 and 25. They comprise an island platform accessed via two banks of two escalators (original) or stairs. The platforms are open at each end with the platform office located in the centre area. The platform is tiled with small white tiles with concrete columns tiled in dark green. Elements of platform tiling and signage are original.

DEVONSHIRE STREET TUNNEL (c.1906, 1979)
Access to the southern end of the station is via the Devonshire Street tunnel, a long pedestrian tunnel which extends between George Street and Elizabeth Street. The tunnel is tiled with digital print murals of railway history and scenes on panels along its length. The Elizabeth Street entrance includes a ticket booking office, ticketing machines, newsagent and take away food outlets.

DISUSED TUNNELS AND PLATFORMS (1979)
Above the ESR platforms are two disused or 'ghost' platforms which were constructed as part of the ESR project but never completed. These platforms are bare concrete and include tunnel openings and areas for installation of office space or equipment. They are not open to the public.


SYDNEY YARDS PRECINCT

YARD AND MODERN STRUCTURES
The Sydney Yard Precinct is located south of the Devonshire Street tunnel extending to the Cleveland Street Bridge and between the Central electric precinct and the Western Yard precinct. The track layout to platforms 1-15 has remained virtually unchanged since it was originally laid out in 1906.

Major items from the Sydney Yard's period as a steam locomotive-hauled train yard have been removed. These items included the eastern carriage shed, coal stages and engine docks at the head of each platform. Ash pits and water columns that were part of the yard have also been removed.

There is only one "yard controller" remaining within the Sydney Yard Precinct. It is a small two storey brick building located at the southern end of the yard approximately 100 metres from the southern end of Platform 8/9, close to the junction of the former Darling Harbour Goods line. The building, which dates from the c1960s, was not inspected internally during this study (2009). Previously, at least two signal boxes would have been located in the yard at any one time, but these have been removed due to the mechanical interlocking system being computerised and pneumatically operated.

The yard buildings have been altered significantly since the eastern carriage shed was demolished. This large shed divided the central yard from the central electric lines. The land where the shed once stood is vacant and the only remaining structures adding to this division of the yard are the cleaners amenities, a four wing (the two centre wings were extended to the west post 1943) two storey gabled office building with iron roof and timber double hung sash windows and the former timetable office, a two storey c1960s brick office now used as the Train Crew Superintendent Office and its associated garden. These buildings were not inspected internally for this study.

The rail yard connects to the passenger platforms of Sydney Terminal which are as originally designed and built, with the infrastructure for steam locomotives having been removed (these being water columns between each track near the buffers).

The status of the communications tunnel under the yard (c.1906) is unconfirmed.

FLYOVER JUNCTIONS (1932)
The flyover junctions are two levels of railway tracks between Cleveland Street and Central electric station. The city-bound (Up) tracks are on the top level and the outbound (Down) tracks are on the lower level. By a system of carefully located brick piers and supporting steel beams, the upper-level city-bound trains can change tracks across the full width of this elevated railway, moving transversely (sideways) west to east and vice versa using cross-overs. A similar arrangement on the lower (ground) level enables outbound trains to do likewise, independently of train movements above. The structure supporting the upper level is of simple construction: a series of brick piers carrying simply supported steel beams or girders, some encased in concrete, others with jack arches between, so as to form a ballasted running deck for the Up trains. The Down trains run on an excavated bed and weave their way through the brick piers.


WESTERN YARD PRECINCT

PARCEL DOCK (1906)
The Parcel Dock is physically connected with the main station complex and has four platforms. The use of rail transportation for parcel delivery has declined considerably. These platform sidings are still in use for temporary portable offices mounted on rail flat cars. The sidings closest to platform 1 are used for the loading of automobiles for the Indian Pacific.

RAIL SIDINGS AND YARD (1906)
The Western Rail Yard precinct is an area that is west of the No. 1 main line extending to the Regent Street boundary, Devonshire Street subway and Cleveland Street Bridge. The track layout of this yard has remained virtually unchanged since 1906.

The rail sidings that take up the bulk of the land area were known as the Botany Road yards. These siding lines are still in service but are seldom used. A branch line cuts through the precinct providing access to the Darling Harbour Goods Yard. The underpass and overbridge date from 1855 and are subject to a separate listing (No. 4801079).

The yard was designed for locomotive-hauled trains. As this technology has gone out of use except for the Indian Pacific and special trains the yard has little present functional use. With locomotive-hauled trains the train was marshalled for running in one direction. It has the locomotive at the head of the train and a brake van near the rear. This meant that after a journey, trains had to be remarshalled before commencing their journey out of Sydney Station. (Today's trains with driving positions at both ends of the train do not require this process.) As the station originally handled locomotive-hauled passenger trains for suburban, country and interstate services this activity was considerable. Most of the steam loco facilities and trackwork has been removed. The decline in shunting and the removal of coal and water storage has seen a reduction in the level of activity and associated infrastructure in the yard.

The former West Carriage Shed was demolished c1999-2000 to make way for new office buildings and an associated plaza. It had been the last remaining carriage shed at Central Station. A number of other buildings and structures associated with the Western Yard were demolished at this time, including an elevated water tank and water column, a series of brick sheds and offices and amenities blocks. These are covered in detail in Rod Howard Heritage Consultants Pty Ltd report on the redevelopment of Henry Deane Park undertaken for Australand in February 1998.

Although it has progressed through various configurations, the landscape has maintained the same ground level since 1856 with its final layout being enlarged in 1906 by the removal of some houses and the realignment of Regent Street to its present format.


PRINCE ALFRED SIDINGS PRECINCT
The Prince Alfred sidings are on the eastern perimeter of the site, making up the boundary with Prince Alfred Park. Prior to the construction of the electric lines the yard was a goods yard containing produce and goods sheds as well as the first carriage shed. The sidings area is now largely used for car parking. The tunnel portal for the airport line is located in the southern section of this sidings area. With the construction of the airport line saw the demolition of most of the remaining workshops in this area.

A number of mature trees are growing on the boundary, the largest being a Moreton Bay fig which is at least 80 years old.

FORMER WORKSHOP OFFICE BUILDINGS (c.1870)
Only the former District Engineer's Office, restored and used as offices and Former Draughtsman's Office, vacant and boarded up, remain in the sidings area. A retaining wall forms the boundary with Prince Alfred Park. The retaining wall has been incorporated into the rear wall of the blacksmiths workshops.

PRINCE ALFRED SUBSTATION (1926)
The electric substation and switching house is part of the 1926 electrification works and is linked with the substation at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The substation is a three storey brick building with steel framed windows (the eastern façade windows now bricked in), it has reinforced concrete floors with rendered brick walls and steel stairways. All original machinery was reported removed prior to 1988. The substation includes air compressors for the operation of pneumatic points within the yard and the City Circle lines. The switching house is a similar design, being brick of two storeys with flat roof with a gantry walkway along its eastern façade allowing access to office space. Neither was inspected internally as part of this study.


BRIDGES

HAY STREET UNDERBRIDGE (1923)
The Hay Street Underbridge is a stone and reinforced concrete single span, barrel, elliptical arch of clear span 24.86 metres (81.5 feet). Designed by engineering staff, Way and Works Branch, NSWGR and built by Metropolitan Railway Construction Branch in 1923.

CAMPBELL STREET UNDERBRIDGE (1923)
The Campbell Street Underbridge is a single stone and reinforced-concrete span, barrel, elliptical arch of clear span 15.25 m (50 feet) built in 1923 as part of the city underground system.

EDDY AVE UNDERBRIDGE (1923)
A wide reinforced concrete beam and slab bridge in which the parallel ribs have their soffits curved to simulate arches but there is no arch construction or action, it is purely an architectural treatment. There are three main spans of 13.9 m (45.5 feet). The central span was originally used by trams turning to and from Elizabeth Street, flanked by one-way roads then footway spans of 4 metres (13 feet). Designed by engineering staff, Way and Works Branch, NSWGR and built by Metropolitan Railway Construction Branch in 1923.

Eddy Ave Steel tram underbridge is a riveted-steel plate girder underbridge with decorative iron balustrades. The underbridge is set on stone piers and is approached from the north by a ramp through Belmore Park.

CLEVELAND STREET OVERBRIDGE (1891)
Defining the southern limits of the Central Station precinct is the Cleveland Street Overbridge. The structure is a six span overbridge comprised of: Spans 1 - 4 are 8.8m span brick arches; Span 5 is an 8.8m brick and jack arch; Span 6 is a 15.2m jack arch. All original spans have been extended with PSC girders. The bridge is excluded from the listing.


LANDSCAPE
Central Railway Station Group is a landmark feature on the southern boundary of the city and has a number of landscape features associated with it. As part of the development of between 1901 and 1906 of Central Railway Station, and due to its elevated position, a series of large sandstone retaining walls were constructed along Pitt Street and Elizabeth Street, which also acted to carry tram lines and the electric city underground line. The retaining walls act as visual boundaries to the main Station building and are important elements of the Station group design. The retaining walls enclose Belmore Park which lies directly north of Central Railway Station across Eddy Avenue. Belmore Park is a medium sized urban park, covering one city block, with pedestrian pathways, exotic and native plantings, large lawn areas and public shelters and a rotunda. It is often used for small festivals and public events. Although the Park is a separate element to Central Railway Station, its location in front of the Station acts as an important approach way to Central and is part of the wider landscape of the railway precinct.

On the western frontage is a small formal garden that sits adjacent to the vehicle ramp near Railway Square. Although this has been a larger more prominent feature of the station entrance in the past, it is currently a small lawn and garden space. The space is enclosed with a sandstone boundary fence with decorative iron palisade uprights and heavy iron link chain. Two sandstone columns are also set within the wall, one marking the southern entry to the garden, the other set in the middle of the western side of the low wall. The garden is divided by a curved bitumen path through the centre. To the east a number of mature trees are set along the boundary towards the northern end, while to the south the area is a lawn with a small formal garden planting with flowers. A small memorial to 'Donna' a hearing guide dog is located in the eastern section. This consists of a sandstone plinth with brass dogs head statue.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Overall, the Central Railway Station Group is currently in good condition, showing minor wear and tear but being functionally sound.

ARCHAEOLOGY
The Central Railway Station Group has been built on the site of the two earlier Sydney railway terminals, the former Devonshire Street cemetery, a number of colonial era buildings including the Benevolent Society Asylum, as well as having a number of earlier railway buildings, such as the Eastern and Western carriage sheds demolished in various phases of expansion. As such there is likely to be archaeological potential across the site relating to these various phases of development. See the Conservation Management Plan prepared by Government Architect's Office, June 2013 for a detailed archaeological zoning plan.
Date condition updated:31 Jul 09
Modifications and dates: The Central Railway Station Group, including the station and yards has undergone a series of major and minor changes from the opening in 1906.

1900-1901: Demolition of old Central Railway Buildings
1921: Clock Tower
1926: Central Electric Station
1958: Removal of tram lines
1979: Eastern Suburbs Railway
1980: Restoration of platforms and concourse, includes new aluminium and fibre glass domed roof on concourse
1984-1985: Restoration of clock and clock tower
c1991: New coach (bus) terminal built on Eddy Avenue
1993: Conversion of parcels and luggage subways for use as pedestrian subways
1995: Old male toilets on concourse closed
1996: Re-instatement of Metro Light Rail tram Lines
1998: Sale and conversion of Parcels Post Office to apartments
1998-2002: Demolition of Western yard Carriage Sheds, includes removal of elevated water tank and water column
1999: Airport Line and Tunnel Portal, including demolition of Prince Alfred siding workshops
2004: Conversion of Inwards Parcels Office for backpacker accommodation
2011: Completion of Sandstone restoration to clocktower, new entrance structure to Devonshire St Tunnel
2012: Upgrade to ESR tiling
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Nil

History

Historical notes: See the Conservation Management Plan prepared by Government Architect's Office, June 2013 for detailed inventory sheets of each precinct and a summary of historical analysis.

In 1849, the newly formed Sydney Railway Company applied to the government for four blocks of land between Hay and Cleveland streets to construct a Sydney Railway terminal. Although the Surveyor General favoured Grose Farm (now the grounds of the University of Sydney), which was further from the city and less costly to develop, the company was finally granted land in the Government Paddocks between Devonshire and Cleveland Streets for the construction of the first Sydney railway terminus which was located there from 1855. The first station included timber and corrugated-iron station buildings, an engine shed, carriage shed and goods sheds. A branch line to the Darling Harbour wharves and goods yard ran from the western side of the rail yard. The overbridge that carried Parramatta Road across this line remains as the oldest piece of railway infrastructure in the NSW system (see entry 4801079).

The position of the station was at the southern end of the town, at the point where journeys into the interior of the colony began. With the addition of the new railway station, this part of the town grew in importance as an entry point to the city. Shops began to be built around the station and in the adjacent streets. By the turn of the twentieth century, major department stores were positioned in George and Pitt Streets to take advantage of the growing number of commuters coming through the area. This was particularly the case after 1879 when the first steam tramline to the station was installed, linking it with the Hunter Street in the city.

As the importance of the railways increased, the station and the Sydney Yard attached to it were also extended. A new sandstone engine house was constructed in 1866 on the eastern side.

In 1869, the Mortuary Station was constructed in the western yard, to connect to the new general cemetery at Rookwood. The station, designed by Colonial Architect James Barnett, provided a siding with an elaborate gothic station building, which included a chapel and waiting rooms, for the transport of coffins and mourners to the cemetery where a sister receiving station had also been constructed. Mortuary Station at Sydney is the only surviving example of such a station in situ in the NSW system and is a rare survivor of the first phase of the Sydney Yard. Mortuary Station is written about in more detail on a separate listing (No: 4803219)

In 1876 the original Central Railway Station building was replaced by a new brick station building (the second station). John Whitton, the Engineer-in-Chief, designed a neo-classical station building to be constructed of brick with decorative detail using polychromatic and relief work.

Almost immediately the demand for platform space during peak times resulted in additional branch lines and platforms being constructed adjacent to the original passenger station.

Between 1876 and 1902, Whitton's second station group and the yard were undergoing constant upgrades and expansions, with the addition of carriage sheds, goods sheds, workshops, new sidings and other railway infrastructure. At its peak there were 13 passenger platforms in the 1876 station as well as the Mortuary Station on the western edge of the yard. By 1890 Whitton's station building had become engulfed within a sea of sheds and platform canopies.

In 1890, on the eastern side of the yard facing Chalmers and Devonshire Streets, an elaborate Railway Institute building was built. The Institute was built for use by the railway workers providing both an educational facility and a social club. A design competition was held, won by the architect Henry Robinson. The building was built in a Queen Anne Revival style and was the first public building in Australia to use Marseille roof tiles. The building continued to function in its intended role until the later 1970s. It has more recently (2007-08) been converted for non-railway uses.

In 1888, the then Railway Commissioner, Edward MG Eddy began work on the quadruplification of the Western Line to Homebush and the duplication of other suburban lines. As part of this project he proposed a new Sydney terminal station closer to the city. The first proposal was for a station in King Street in the city. This would have resulted in large-scale demolitions and resumptions, including much of Hyde Park. Eddy submitted an alternative proposal in 1891 for a site north of the existing station on the land occupied by the former Devonshire Street cemetery (closed to burials since the 1860s), the Benevolent Asylum (c1818) and a police barracks. This site was chosen for a new grand station complex to be built, not least as it was already in government hands and largely devoid of major structures.

Work began on the third Sydney station, Central Railway Station, in 1901, with the removal of the cemetery being the first priority. The bulk of the construction work occurred between 1902 and 1906, including the exhumations, excavations, demolition of buildings on the site and construction of the station. The construction work began in mid 1902, with the foundation stone being laid on 30 April 1902 by the Secretary for Public Works, the Hon EW O'Sullivan. By mid 1903 it was reported that the general earthworks were completed and work on the various subways was underway, with a second foundation stone at the base of the clock tower being unveiled in September 1903.

The station was officially opened on 4 August 1906 despite the main building not being completely finished. Construction had only been completed as far as the first floor, but included all the underground subways for the transfer of luggage and mail as well as pedestrian subways (Devonshire Street tunnel). The new station had moved one block north from the previous incarnations, closer to the city. If Belmore Park is included, all the land now occupied by the railway at Central and Redfern coincides with the Sydney Railway Company's original selection of four blocks between Hay and Cleveland Streets.

The main terminal building was built using Pyrmont sandstone to a design of the Government Architect WL Vernon. A feature of the design was the deliberate separation of passenger, vehicle, train and tram services, all of which entered the station from different levels and directions, eliminating the danger of accidents which had been a feature of the previous station arrangements. The new design created a multi-level transport interchange, able to handle major traffic and pedestrian flows effectively and safely. The trams entered the station via two underbridges at the western and eastern ends of Eddy Avenue. The eastern-end underbridge was a steel bridge with decorative ironwork balustrades and a riveted steel plate girder. It remains as a rare piece of Sydney's original tramway infrastructure and since 1997 has been in use for the Sydney light rail system.

Another feature was the prominent positioning of the station at the southern end of the city. The relatively low rise of the city at the time of the station's completion meant it was a major landmark, visible from much of the city. The inclusion of the existing Belmore Park in the wider railway complex design, the planting of gardens on the western side facing George Street and the main vehicle entrance, and the location of Prince Alfred Park to the south of the new station placed the complex in a garden setting, further enhancing its status as a city landmark.

From the time of opening, work continued on both the station building and the Sydney Yard associated with it. In August 1906 Platforms 9 and 10 were opened, while overhead signal boxes were opened as lines and platforms were completed. At first, four signal boxes were required, using a mechanical system of signals. These were reduced to two boxes from 1910 when electro-pneumatic technology was introduced. By the early 1920s, a complicated series of lines, cross-overs, junctions and points was in place directing trains in and out of the station and yard complex.

In 1921 the clock tower was completed with the clock beginning to operate from March of that year. The clock tower was the last of the major built elements in the first phase of the station to be completed. The top of the dome sits 64.3 metres above the concourse or 85.6 metres above mean sea level. Even more so than the station itself, the clock tower became a major city landmark, with the clock being utilised by workers in the surrounding factory districts as their daily time piece, earning it the nickname 'the worker's watch'.

In 1915, before work on the main station was completed, the first extension began. Following recommendations for a city railway system and underground network from a royal commission into Sydney's planning in 1909, approval was given via the City and Suburban Electric Railways Act, 1915, to begin construction on a suburban electrification and underground railway. Although excavations got under way in late 1916, they ceased in 1918 as funds were diverted away from the project into the war effort. Work resumed in earnest in February 1922. A new entrance at Elizabeth Street was constructed to serve the electric platforms. The entrance was built using sandstone to match the main station, with four ionic columns as features. New baggage subways and electric lifts were also installed and linked to the existing tunnel network.

Eight new platforms were built to the east of the original 1906 station platforms at a higher level to take the new electric trains between 1922 and 1926. These platforms were named 'Central' to distinguish them from the 'Sydney' or steam-train platforms.

As well as new entries, subways and platforms, a complicated series of flyovers was built to carry the new electric lines. The flyovers were built using steel beams on brick piers with large concrete foundations. As part of their construction, an old carriage shed and several storage sheds were demolished, while an old sewer was also diverted. The flyovers allowed for trains on the Up line (heading towards Sydney) to go up and over trains on the Down line (heading away from Sydney) without interfering with each other or requiring point cross overs. When completed, this was the largest collection of flyovers in the world.

Adjacent to the northern end of the flyovers, on the eastern side, a new substation was built in 1925-26. Known as the Prince Alfred substation, it was constructed as part of the electrification of the suburban lines. The substation was one of fifteen built for the electrification between 1926 and 1932, and one of three 'Bradfield' designs, the other two being at Meeks Road (Marrickville) and Hurstville, both of which remain in use.

The first electric train ran from Central Station on 1 March 1926. In December the new line to the first section of the Sydney underground also opened, with trains to Museum and St James. The underground system required the construction of new underbridges from Central north across Eddy Avenue, Hay and Campbell Street. This bridge was built using an innovative combination of 5-span continuous reinforced concrete beams with variable depths that creates the impression of arch construction. This was a pioneering and complicated use of reinforced concrete in railway bridge design.

A change in train locomotion technology began to appear at Central from the 1940s, when four diesel-electric shunting engines were leased from the US Army, originally intended for work at the munitions factories but utilised instead by the NSW Railways in the Sydney Yard. Two were eventually acquired outright in 1948, with the other two transferred to Commonwealth ownership. In 1951, the first diesel electric locomotive on main line service was introduced in NSW. Initially only on goods trains, from 1955 dieselisation of passenger trains began to replace steam. The last steam train on a regular service left Central in October 1969. The end of steam saw the removal of much of the associated infrastructure such as water columns, water tanks, coal hoppers and storage.

In the 1951, an interstate booking hall was created (in the former refreshment room, now the railway bar). Murals depicting railway scenes lined the walls and a terrazzo map of Australia was installed on the floor. Modernisation programs were undertaken in 1955 and again in 1964. This was followed in 1979 by the opening of the Eastern Suburbs Railway (ESR) and Illawarra Lines on platforms 24 and 25. Construction had begun on these in 1948 but had been on again off again until the mid 1970s. Above these platforms, two other platforms were excavated for future extensions that never happened. These remain as 'ghost platforms' 26 and 27. The pedestrian subway to the ESR includes the railway war memorial honour boards.

In October 1980 a modernisation program at the Sydney Terminal commenced. The objective of the work was to improve the facilities for passenger convenience and comfort. The start of this modernisation program coincided with the 125th anniversary of the NSW Railways and it was at a time when many major service advances were being made to the state rail system. Further work was carried out between 1983 and 1986, with renovations on the clock tower and Mortuary Station.

In the mid-1990s, a new branch line to Sydney Airport was constructed, requiring a new tunnel under Prince Alfred Park commencing near Cleveland Street. This work required the removal of the remaining 1870s workshop buildings from the original workshops complex, leaving only the former District Engineers Office building, which was restored and is currently in use as offices and the former Draughtsman's Office which is currently vacant and boarded up. The line was opened in 2000, in time for the Sydney Olympic Games. A new bus terminal was then created progressively up to 2006 in the western edge of the yard which also saw the removal of the remaining old workshops and buildings in the western yard.

A major conservation program is currently underway (2009) on the sandstone frontage of the Pitt Street and Eddy Avenue colonnade and walls.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Mail trains and parcels services-
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 Making railway journeys-
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-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Servicing and accomodating passengers-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Impacts of Railways on Urban Form-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Making gas/generating electricity-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Railway operations workers-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Remembering the fallen-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Railway time-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Railway Administration-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Evolution of design in railway engineering or architecture-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Railway Gardens-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Railway celebrations and commemorations-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Significant railway identities-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Central Railway Station group and associated yard and structures have historical significance at a state level as the major railway terminal on the NSW system. The station was built within the original grant area of the Sydney Railway Company and on the site of the first railway terminal, which opened in 1855, making it the oldest continually operating train yard in NSW.

The construction of the Central Railway Station or the Sydney Terminal on the site of the old burial ground was one of the largest planned interventions into the urban fabric of Sydney undertaken prior to World War I and is a rare example of a scheme that not only included a formal public building but also parkland and roadway. The deliberate creation of the formal approaches, the widening of the streets to form avenues and create vistas, the separation and multi-layering of tramlines, vehicular and pedestrian access and the creation of subways resulted in the creation of an urban environment of a scale and character not before seen in Sydney, a character that would have been in sharp contrast to the residential character of the surrounding suburbs of Redfern, Chippendale and Surry Hills.

The development of Central Railway Station resulted in an increase in the commercial activity around Railway Square and influenced the choice of the site for department stores. Following the introduction of trams, Railway Square and later Central Station also became a major tram and transport interchange with links to the suburbs and Circular Quay.

Associated buildings such as the Mortuary Station and the Railway Institute were important additions to serve the railway workers and the wider community beyond the workings of the station proper.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Central Railway Station group is associated with the lives and work of a number of important and prominent people in NSW including WL Vernon, Government Architect who designed the station buildings, EG Eddy the Railways Commissioner (remembered in the naming of Eddy Avenue which the station faces) who proposed the new station, Colonial Architect James Barnett who designed the Mortuary Station and Dr JJC Bradfield who designed and oversaw the construction of the city underground network.

The station is also associated with the Sydney Railway Company, the first private railway company established in 1855 to build the new railway system. The overbridge under Parramatta Road on the former Darling Harbour line in the western yard is the only remaining piece of railway infrastructure in NSW associated with that first railway company.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Central Railway Station has aesthetic significance as a major and prominent landmark in the Sydney urban landscape. The dominant use of sandstone for its construction, including its clock tower, sets it out as a major public building in the Sydney collection of sandstone buildings and one of the largest public structures in the city. Its highly detailed sandstone façade, colonnades, columns and arcades on the exterior and the use of bricks, decorative steel, iron and sandstone for the internal spaces provide fine visual transitions between the public spaces. The office spaces and foyers, marble and terrazzo stairs, balustrades and banisters, stained and etched glass panels are fine examples of public architectural features. The clock tower remains as a prominent landmark figure in the city. The surrounding public parks and railway gardens add to the landmark quality of the station complex. Associated structures such as the Mortuary Station and the former Railway Workers Institute are highly decorative examples of public railway buildings. The Mortuary Station is a finely detailed sandstone gothic station which is itself a prominent landmark on the western edge of the Sydney yard. It is dealt with specifically in a separate listing (No 4803219).

The Central Railway Station Group is also technically significant as a major public work, built for the most part by the NSW Public Works Department, Railway Construction Branch.

The changes in the predominant building materials and the way in which they are employed - with sandstone and corrugated iron being used until c1870 for even the most utilitarian buildings such as workshops, then polychromatic brickwork, then sandstone for the more important buildings and brick with sandstone dressings for the lesser buildings - indicates not only changes in technology, but also the changing fashions for the use of a particular material. After the 1899 inquiry into building materials for public buildings, sandstone was used for all major public buildings. The use of sandstone therefore indicates the status of a particular building.

Technical innovation in design can be seen in the flyovers built for the electrification of the suburban lines. The flyovers are a complex group of raised lines to allow Up line and Down line trains to pass each other and to cross to their required platforms and suburban lines without the need for a complicated switching and point system. When built they were the largest such collection in the world.

The design of the station to allow separate pedestrian, train, tram and vehicle movements, as well as the extensive underground system of tunnels and subways to transport luggage, mail and other items without interference in the public space is all part of the complex design of the station to ensure smooth and safe operation.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Central Railway Station has a high level of social significance as the major train terminal for Sydney commuters, intra and interstate railway users for over 100 years, and as a site for the main railway terminal in Sydney since 1855.

The station was designed with a capacity to double the passenger number to an expected maximum of 40,000 per day. With the increase in the use of the private car in the late twentieth century the reliance on public transport has lessened, however Central Railway Station is still used by a large number of commuters on a daily basis.

The Central Railway Station was designed with an elaborate and impressive booking hall which was not only experienced by passengers buying tickets but also glimpsed by passengers passing through onto the assembly platform [concourse]. The experience of buying a ticket in such an elaborate and formal space would have heightened the sense of romance associated with travel.

Associated with the assembly platform [concourse] was a series of amenities which reflect the attitudes and customs of the period, for example separate dining, tea and waiting facilities were provided for ladies and gentlemen. A barber and change facilities, including baths, were provided to allow passengers to clean up after their journeys.

A reading room and dining room were provided for the railway commissioners and their staff to mitigate the distance of the terminal building from the centre of town.

Associated buildings such as the Mortuary Station and the Railway Institute are socially significant as places of special use by community groups and the public. The Mortuary Station was in use from the 1870s until the 1930s for funeral trains, with a chapel for mourners provided on site. The Railway Institute was in use until the 1970s as a social venue for railway workers and provided an important role in the educational and social development of the employees.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Central Railway Station has research potential for its archaeological resource. In addition to the extant remains of the early stages of the site's development (such as the Darling Harbour Branch Line and the imprint of the demolished heavy goods shed), evidence of the former uses of the site remains in the archaeological record. The site of the main terminus was formerly occupied by the Benevolent Asylum, Carters Barracks and the Devonshire Street cemetery. Relocation of the graves and demolition of the structures was recorded in the documentary evidence. While it is unlikely that much remains of these structures due to the excavation and then raising of levels to create the new station, some potential for archaeology does exist across the site, including evidence of the first station building's yard. Other contemporary building projects were constructed leaving the former foundations in situ.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Central Railway Station is a rare example of a major city railway terminal and station building and is the largest example of such a complex in NSW. The overbridge at Railway Square (Separate Listing No 4801079), associated with the original Darling Harbour Goods Line, opened the same day as the main railway in 1855 and is the oldest piece of railway infrastructure remaining in NSW and the only known feature built by the original Sydney Railway Company. Within the Sydney yard, the flyovers built for the electrification of the suburban lines are the largest examples in the world and a unique engineering solution to the complexities of a large suburban network. The Mortuary Station is rare and thought to be the only surviving mortuary station in situ in Australia. The Railway Institute is a rare surviving example of a nineteenth-century Railway Institute building on a grand scale and was the first public building to utilise Marseilles tiles for its roof. The steel tram underbridge at the east end of Eddy Avenue is a unique feature of the station and a rare piece of surviving infrastructure from Sydney's original tramway system.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Central Railway Station is a fine representative collection of buildings and structures of the NSW Public Works Department Railway construction branch work on NSW government railways. The Prince Alfred substation is a good representative of the three 'Bradfield Design' substations built for the electrification of the suburban line. The Campbell Street and Hay Street underbridges are good representations of concrete arch construction and are comparable to those built at Milsons Point as part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction.
Integrity/Intactness: Overall, despite ongoing modifications and upgrades to suit new railway technology and expansion, the Central Railway Station Group retains a high level of intactness and integrity in relation to its design function. In particular, the Station Building and platform areas are largely intact retaining much of the original fabric, layout and design features. A number of individual items have been removed in the Station's history including the workshops of the Prince Alfred sidings and the carriage sheds and buildings of the western yard and most structures from the first and second phase of the railway station and yard. Items associated with steam travel have also been removed as technology changed and steam was phased out.Except for the intrusion of the Airport Railway, the flyovers retain their original fabric and structure. Campbell Street, Eddy Ave and Hay Street underbridges retain their original fabric and structure. Cleveland Street overbridge has been altered condsiderably with the addition of PSC girders.
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.

Recommended management:

Manage site in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan prepared by Government Architect's Office, June 2013

Listings

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 Study1999SRA296State Rail Authority  No
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Godden Mackay Logan  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDepartment of Public Works & Services Heritage Group1996Conservation Management Plan - Sydney/Central Station
WrittenDon Fraser1995Bridges Down Under
WrittenDR Keenan and HR Clark H R Clark First Stop Central
WrittenHeritage Group State Projects1999Sydney/Central Station Conservation Management Plan
WrittenHoward Tanner & Associates1987Sydney Central Station and Sydney Yard Conversation Management Plan
WrittenJJC Bradfield1926Railway Electrification V
WrittenJohn Forsyth Historical Notes for the City and North Shore Railways, 1960s
Management PlanJohn Oakes2007Sydney's Central: The history of Sydney's Central Railway Station
WrittenRappoport Heritage Consultants2012Research Materials prepared for Central Station CMP
WrittenStaff writer1925City Railway, Flyover in Central Station Yard

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: 4801296


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