Railway Square | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Railway Square

Item details

Name of item: Railway Square
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Other - Transport - Rail
Primary address: George Street At Broadway, Pitt & Lee Streets, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
George Street At Broadway, Pitt & Lee StreetsSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Railway Square is listed on the Heritage Streetscape Map in the Heritage LEP 2000. Railway Square combines monumental heritage buildings and streetscapes with a sequence of varied open spaces. It is the major visual and functional gateway to the city centre from the west for both public transport and road traffic. High Significance:The views and vistas of various landmark Federation era buildings.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Physical description: Railway Square is located at the hub of Central Sydney, where the city centre and Ultimo / Pyrmont street grids coverage, and where southern end of the city centre is focused by the wedges of Darling Harbour to the north-west and parkland to the north-east.

Key transportation node physically defined by several significant landmark Federation era buildings, associated with commerce and the development of the Central Railway and Station. Fine examples of brick and sandstone eight to ten storey buildings. Expansive views to Central Station, contained views in other directions. Category:Streetscape - Corner Sites. Style:Federation era buildings. Storeys:8 to 10 storeys. General Details:Refer to Archaeological Zoning Plan.
Further information: State Themes:Central Railway and Station.. LocalThemes:Gateway to the city CP_SHI_Location:Heritage Group (1997) HA_Location:Godden Mackay Logan (1989, 1999,2000) Comments:The drinking fountain, is on Schedule 3 of the Central Sydney Heritage LEP 2000. Streetscape:Railway Square is a complex sequence of places and spaces, at the crest of a low hill, on different levels, linked by roads, ramps, bridges and stairs for pedestrians, public transport and vehicular traffic. However the sense of place and spatial definitions in Railway Square itself is currently decimated by heavy road traffic crossing from four directions.

Heritage items include: Central Station including its ramps, bridges and garden, the former Parcels Post Office, Sydney Technical College, the lottery office building, Agincourt Hotel, Westpac and TAFE Information Centre in George Street, the Christ Church ST. Lawrence Group, the George Street block from Kings Disposal Store on Quay Street to Suttons Forest Meat Building on Valentine Street, the refurbished buildings at the corners of the George / Pitt / Rawson Place block, and the AGL group on Pitt Street.

Vistas include south along Pitt Street to the Central Station clocktower, south along George Street to the former Parcels Office, north along George Street to the C and L Building, west along Foveaux Street to Central Station Clocktower and west along Devonshire Street to the Sydney Technical College tower.

Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Streetscape
Former use: Streetscape, Transport interchange, Bus Shelter, Café.


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

One of Sydney's busiest and largest intersections constructed at the former junction of George Street, Parramatta Street (now Broadway) and Devonshire Street. This intersection has traditionally dispersed traffic and pedestrians into and out of the city. Formerly the site of tram interchanges.

In the mid 1980's the Department of planning produced urban design guidelines from Broadway which identified the role of Railway Square as a gateway. The gateway theme was taken up in an ideas competition conducted by the Institute of Architects which produced a wide range of proposals for Railway Square, Central Station and the locality.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Of historical significance as a Federation urban plaza associated with the Central Railway Station and as a road transportation interchange for the southern and western approaches to the city. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Railway Square functions as a transport interchange for road traffic, railway, light rail and pedestrians. Has aesthetic significance at a State level.
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:

Overshadowing of Public Places: New buildings shall ensure that no further overshadowing of the ground plane occurs. Maximum Heights: Build to maximum heights of 36 meters in George Street, 40 meters in Pitt Street and 20 meters above perceived ground level at Central Station Platform 1, to a depth of 15 meters. Beyond the nominated depths, heights may be greater within the same street block, or over the railway tracks, in compliance with overshadowing and sight line criteria, but may be unachievable because of street frontage controls in parallel and nearby streets and other sight line and overshadowing controls for the railway tracks area. Parapet Heights: 1. George Street - Maximum 36 meters. - Minimum 30 meters. 2. Pitt Street - Maximum 40 meters. - Minimum 30 meters. 3. Central Station Platform 1 - Maximum 20 meters above perceived ground level (main course level). Maintain vistas and views of the Central Station clocktower against a clear sky from Railway Square and Belmore Park. Articulation and Modelling: Provide articulation and modelling in facades of new buildings or in any refurbishment consistent with the approved design principles, as a non-assertive background to Central Station, and by reference to the existing heritage buildings of the area. The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00 442972
Archaeological zoning planArcPotential    
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  City of Sydney Laneway Study, Vol. 1, 1993. Central Sydney Heritage LEP, 2000. Central Sydney City Council, Areas of Special Significance Study, 1993. Functional Specifications - Central Railway Development; NSW Government, 1989.
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

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: Local Government
Database number: 2424757

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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