Canley Vale (Orphan School Ck) Viaduct 1891 | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Canley Vale (Orphan School Ck) Viaduct 1891

Item details

Name of item: Canley Vale (Orphan School Ck) Viaduct 1891
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Primary address: Orphan School Crk; Railway Parade, Canley Vale, NSW 2166
Local govt. area: Fairfield


North: A line across the rail corridor 5 metres past the abutments at the northern end of the viaductSouth: A line across the rail corridor 5 metres past the abutments at the southern end of the viaductEast: The property boundaryWest: The property boundary
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Orphan School Crk; Railway ParadeCanley ValeFairfield  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The brick viaduct which crosses the Orphan School Creek just north of the Canley Vale Railway Station has local historical significance as it was built to serve the upgrading and duplication of the Granville to Liverpool railway line in the 1890s. The viaduct represents the earliest examples of brick arched viaducts built by NSW Railways from the 1890s using local building materials during the cost-cutting period of the 1890s depression.

With its original structure and fabric intact it is significant as a fine example of its type constructed by the NSW Railways. The viaduct is aesthetically distinctive and has landmark qualities because of its picturesque natural setting at the Orphan School Creek. Another distinguishing feature is the shared pedestrian bike path which winds under the viaduct and which allows full public appreciation of the historical structure.
Date significance updated: 29 Sep 05
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 Government Railways
Builder/Maker: NSW Government Railways
Construction years: 1891-1891
Physical description: VIADUCT (1891)
The red brick viaduct over Orphan School Creek consists of 9 x 6.22m arched clear spans between piers and carries the Up and Down railway lines. The semi-circular brick arch is 4 brick courses deep, and springs from a brick impost 4 courses high, topped by a course of splayed plinth bricks. Both intermediate piers and abutments are constructed in solid red brick. Brick piers are wider every third arch to accommodate engaged piers which project laterally to the same depth as the abutment piers.
Coursing is in English bond. A continuous projecting band of brickwork above the crown of the arch is in the same size and profile as the impost. The parapet above is topped by a course of bullnose bricks. The abutments are U-shaped in plan. Both the engaged piers and the abutment piers are topped with sandstone capping stones.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The viaduct is in good condition, with some staining and efflorescence from seepage through brick joints.
Date condition updated:05 Nov 09
Modifications and dates: 1929: Railway electrified
Current use: Railway Viaduct
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: The original single-track railway from Granville to Liverpool (part of the Main South line to Goulburn) was completed in 1857 and had timber beam bridges. By the 1880s, the volume of traffic was sufficient to justify duplication of the line and an upgrade. Commissioner Eddy, who was appointed in 1888, embarked on major upgrading of the railways, including extensive duplication works. However, the depression of the 1890s resulted in cost-cutting which included the use of local materials rather than expensive imported iron bridges. All of the major bridges on this line were thus rebuilt as brick arches. The Sydney region has extensive deposits of Wianamatta clay, ideal for making bricks.

This brick arch viaduct was built in 1891 as one of a group of such railway bridges, being associated with the first duplication and upgrading of the original 1857 Granville to Liverpool railway and then with the 1858 extension to Campbelltown. In addition, they were the first examples of a major use of brick arch constructions by the Railways that continued through to the early 1920s. Nearly all of the brick arch bridges are still in use, Cabramatta Creek viaduct being the longest of the group at 17 spans and the Collingwood viaduct at Liverpool being second-longest at 11 spans.

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-
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. Creating railway landscapes-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The brick viaduct at Canley Vale has local historical significance as it was built as part of the duplication and upgrading of the single track Granville to Liverpool line in the early 1890s. It is also significant as it represents one of the first examples of brick arch construction employed by the Railways that continued through until the 1920s. Its brick fabric reflects the period of the 1890s depression when cost-cutting included the substitution of local materials in place of imported steel bridges.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The viaduct has aesthetic and technical significance at a local level as it exemplifies the particular brick arch viaduct design employed by the NSW Railways during the period from the 1890s to the 1920s. The viaduct is aesthetically distinctive and has landmark qualities because of its location along a main public thoroughfare and its picturesque natural setting over Orphan School Creek.
SHR Criteria f)
The brick viaduct is not considered rare as there are a number of similar structures still remaining in the Metropolitan area.
SHR Criteria g)
The viaduct at Canley Vale has a high level of integrity and is therefore a good representative of this type of arched brick viaduct which was constructed by NSW Railways from the 1890s to the 1920s and which were the first examples of their type. This viaduct particularly is a good example because of its picturesque natural setting over Orphan School Creek and the capacity for the general public to appreciate the structure by the use of the adjacent shared pedestrian bike path.
Integrity/Intactness: The viaduct retains its original fabric. The arches at each end of the viaduct have been filled in with steel mesh and electrical troughing has been installed on top of both brick parapets.
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 registerRailcorp S170 Register    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDon Fraser1995Bridges Down Under: the history of railway underbridges in New South Wales
WrittenJohn Forsyth1960Historical Notes for the Granville to Liverpool railway
WrittenTony Prescott2009Historical Research for RailCorp's S170 Update Project

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: 4800204

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