Auburn Railway Signal Box | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Auburn Railway Signal Box

Item details

Name of item: Auburn Railway Signal Box
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Signal Box
Primary address: Rawson Street, Auburn, NSW 2144
Parish: Liberty Plains
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Auburn


North: the Rawson Street boundary; East: 10 metres from the building; West: 10 metres from the building; South: 10 metres from the building.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Rawson StreetAuburnAuburnLiberty PlainsCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Auburn railway signal box is significant as the first of a series of four elevated power signal boxes needed for track amplification works from Auburn to Blacktown during the 1950s, designed as a cohesive group in a post-World War II period functionalist style. The signal box is a good example of this last group of signal boxes to be built to a standard railway design in NSW and it remains in operation in 2009. It has a high degree of intactness and retains its original operational equipment including the CTC panel, desk and illuminated panel.
Date significance updated: 24 Dec 12
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.


Designer/Maker: NSW Department of Railways
Builder/Maker: NSW Department of Railways
Construction years: 1954-1954
Physical description: SIGNAL BOX (1954)
External: Auburn signal box is an 'S' type post war version of the elevated power boxes. Others of this type are Clyde, Granville and Blacktown. The signal box operates by relay interlocking machines and features 90 Kellogg Keys levers.

Constructed of polychromatic face brick, it is a two-storey electric power signal box with a single storey relay wing and designed in the Functionalist style. The massing reflects a dominant entrance/ amenities tower contrasting with curved walls of the signal box. Windows are shaded by a cantilevered concrete awning. Upper level ribbon windows are timber framed, as are doors, however the ground floor signal room windows have been replaced with aluminium fixed or double hung types. The flat roof is concealed behind the brick parapet.

Internal: Internally, a two-flight staircase leads to the operating (or upper level) signal room that contains the original toggle switch control panel, desk and illuminated wall diagram (paper based, dated 3/6/52). Staff toilet facilities are on the first floor. The ground floor relay room still operates with some original equipment such as the main control panel. A brick single storey relay room annex with flat metal tray roof has been added to the east end. Original doors, and wall and ceiling linings are also evident.

The only moveable items observed were the original desks and equipment.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The signal box is in good condition both internally and externally.
Date condition updated:10 May 09
Modifications and dates: 1981: Air conditioning installed in signal box upper level.
c1985: Some of the signal box window frames removed and replaced with modern materials and brick relay room annex added to signal box.
2015: Signal Box decomissioned from operational use
Current use: Signal Box
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: A single railway track was opened through Auburn in 1855, and the line was duplicated in 1856. The original station was opened at this location in 1876. Nothing is known of the original buildings but they were replaced with a standard, second class set featuring a substantial main brick station building, approved by George Cowdery, Engineer for Existing Lines, in 1886.

In 1909 the NSWGR approved the demolition of the two original side platforms (slightly staggered) and they were replaced between 1909 and 1913 with an island platform and a standard Federation style building. There were 2 subways provided under the platform, with a ticket booking office on the platform between them, and an on-platform parcels office is shown in a 1938 plan. Plans also show a goods lift was installed on the platform c1950.

With the 1954 quadruplication of the line, the station was almost completely rebuilt, at which time the former c1913 platform building was demolished and a new simple canopy structure built. A second island platform was also built which featured simple steel canopies with small control rooms. Access to the platforms was provided by subway.

Improvements to the station were undertaken during the late 1980s and the 1954 station has been almost completely rebuilt.

The present Signal Box was opened on 20 June 1954 to assist in the management of traffic between Auburn and Granville when the number of main line tracks was being increased from three to five. Specifically, the signal box controlled access to Clyde down and up yards. It was one part of a much larger scheme to increase the tracks to four main lines between Lidcombe and St. Marys during World War II in order to provide maximum track capacity to the American ammunition and general store built at Ropes Creek. It took over 32 years until all aspects of the quadruplication were completed between Westmead and Blacktown. Quadruplication reached St. Marys in 1978, while the Granville to Westmead section was finally completed in 1986.

When opened in 1954, the Auburn Signal Box was the first of four Functionalist style boxes between Auburn and Blacktown, these being Auburn, Clyde, Granville and Blacktown. The style was only used from Auburn to Granville as the railway system was largely in place by this time. These boxes represented the last time when conventional, elevated signal boxes were built utilising the traditional model of a ground floor relay room and an upper level where the interlocking frame was operated. A subsequent design of elevated boxes was used in the 1960s but these did not accord to the classic, two-level design with a rectangular footprint.

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 Signalling and safe working-
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 Auburn signal box is of historical significance as the oldest building remaining in the Auburn railway precinct. It is further significant as the first of four signal boxes constructed in 1954 to assist traffic management between Auburn and Granville when the number of main lines was increased from three to five as part of the rebuilding of the Main Western line after 1948.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The signal relays are reported to be made by well known international signalling firm McKenzie & Holland who began supplying interlocking machines and signalling equipment to the NSW Railways in 1881 and continued until 1927.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The signal box is aesthetically a good example of post World War II period functionalist style railway architecture demonstrating key elements of the style including brick banding, ribbon windows and curved cantilevered awnings.

The Signal Box has technical significance as it retains much of its original equipment including its original toggle switch control panel, desk and illuminated wall diagram and some original equipment in the downstairs relay room.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The place has the potential to contribute to the local community's sense of place and can provide a connection to the local community's history.
SHR Criteria g)
The signal box is representative of the four signal boxes built between Auburn and Blacktown after World War II in the functionalist style, the others being Granville, Clyde and Blacktown.
Integrity/Intactness: The signal box has a high degree of intactness, both in building fabric and electric signalling.
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:

1. Conservation principles: Conserve cultural heritage significance and minimise impacts on heritage values and fabric in accordance with the ‘Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance’. 2. Specialist advice: Seek advice from a qualified heritage specialist during all phases of a proposed project from feasibility, concept and option planning stage; detailed design; heritage approval and assessment; through to construction and finalisation. 3. Documentation: Prepare a Statement of Heritage Impact (SOHI) to assess, minimise and prevent heritage impacts as part of the assessment and approval phase of a project. Prepare a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) prior to proposing major works (such as new additions, change of use or proposed demolition) at all places of State significance and all complex sites of Local significance. 4. Maintenance and repair: Undertake annual inspections and proactive routine maintenance works to conserve heritage fabric in accordance with the ‘Minimum Standards of Maintenance & Repair’. 5. Movable heritage: Retain in situ and care for historic contents, fixtures, fittings, equipment and objects which contribute to cultural heritage significance. Return or reinstate missing features or relocated items where opportunities arise. 6. Aboriginal, archaeology and natural heritage: Consider all aspects of potential heritage significance as part of assessing and minimising potential impacts, including Aboriginal, archaeology and natural heritage. 7. Unidentified heritage items: Heritage inventory sheets do not describe or capture all contributory heritage items within an identified curtilage (such as minor buildings, structures, archaeology, landscape elements, movable heritage and significant interiors and finishes). Ensure heritage advice is sought on all proposed changes within a curtilage to conserve heritage significance. 8. Recording and register update: Record changes at heritage places through adequate project records and archival photography. Notify all changes to the Section 170 Heritage & Conservation Register administrator upon project completion.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerAuburn Signal Box    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 City Plan HeritageCPH Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenARHS2009Historical information prepared for S170 update project
WrittenBill Jordan & Assoc P/L with David Sheedy P/L2001RIC Sites in Metro West Assessment of Cultural Significance
WrittenForsyth J.H1974Historical Notes on Railway Lines
WrittenForsyth, John New South Wales Railway Stations: An Alphabetical Arrangement of Railway Station and Place Names Excerpts for Stations in the Metro West Region
Management PlanNSWR1916Signal diagram Auburn Circular 137 of 1916
Management PlanNSWR1909Signal diagram Auburn Circular A149
WrittenSharp, S.A.1982The Railway Stations of NSW 1855-1980
Oral HistorySignal Maintainer, Clyde and Auburn Signal Boxes2009Verbal information provided to the Office of Rail Heritage
WrittenStuart Sharp1984Survey of Railway Structures in NSW
WrittenTaaffe, R.T.1990The Use and Selection of Materials in Railway Signal Box Construction 1912-1990

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: 4800009

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