Wynyard Former Tram Tunnels | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Wynyard Former Tram Tunnels

Item details

Name of item: Wynyard Former Tram Tunnels
Other name/s: Wynyard Tram Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Tramway Station/Waiting shed
Primary address: Cumberland Street, Wynyard, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney


Within a 5 metre radius of the outside edge of the tunnels from Wynyard Park to the former exit to Argyle Street (close to Argyle Underbridge for the Sydney Harbour Bridge) and the footprint of the structural elements of the tunnels themselves. Note: current access is from Cumberland Street. Note: Portion of site falls within SHR curtilage for Sydney Harbour Bridge.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Cumberland StreetWynyardSydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Transport Asset Holding Entity (former Railcorp) - Transport for NSWState Government 
Transport Asset Holding Entity (former Railcorp) - Transport for NSWState Government 
Transport Asset Holding Entity (former Railcorp) - Transport for NSWState Government 

Statement of significance:

The former tram tunnels at Wynyard are significant as rare surviving remnants of the Sydney tramway network - at its peak was the largest tramway sevice in Australia and one of the largest urban tramway systems in the world - and as rare remnants of the only underground tramway and tram station in the system. The tram tunnels are closely associated with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the design and specifications set down by JJC Bradfield, chief engineer and designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city underground railway network. The tunnels were constructed using engineering techniques that were at the forefront of civil engineering for the period.
Date significance updated: 24 Jun 09
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: JJC Bradfield; Sydney Harbour Bridge Construction Branch NSW Department of Public Works
Builder/Maker: Sydney Harbour Bridge Construction Branch NSW Department of Public Works
Construction years: 1927-1932
Physical description: TUNNELS (1932)
The Wynyard tram tunnels consist of two concrete lined arched tunnels heading north from Wynyard Station, reaching ground level on the south side of Argyle Street. Single line tunnels for the City Underground were built to be 4.6 metres wide and 3 metres high to the springline of the semi-circular arch, giving a centre height of 6.9 metres.

The former track areas around the platform concourse have been filled and the tracks, signals, indicators and electrical infrastructure have been removed although some evidence remains in riveted steel I-beam columns and other associated features. The former concourse area has been utilised as a car parking station since 1964 and the eastern tunnel provides the main exit from the car park to Cumberland Street, where a transverse penetration was made from the tunnel to the street. The floor of the tunnel is asphalted and lighting has been installed along the tunnel. The western tunnel was reputedly utilised as a police pistol firing range for some time but is now used for storage.

Considering the scale of excavation to build the underground railway and tram stations, the potential for archaeological remains from the former military barracks or earlier periods is low.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The tram tunnels are generally in good physical condition.
Date condition updated:24 Jun 09
Modifications and dates: 1931-1932: Different track and fittings installed for trams (the tram tunnels were originally designed and developed for trains).
1958: The tram station closed and most of the infrastructure was subsequently removed.
1964: The concourse area and eastern tunnel were altered by levelling of the surfaces and then building a ramp down to tunnel floor within the concourse area and creation of a road exit to Cumberland Street
Further information: A small portion of the northern end of the tunnel at Argyle Street is located within the curtilage of the Sydney Harbour Bridge heritage listings: State Heritage Register; National Heritage List (105888);
Current use: Carpark
Former use: Tram tunnels and station


Historical notes: The Wynyard Tram Tunnels were built as part of the larger Sydney Harbour Bridge and city underground development, one of the largest and most complicated engineering projects the city had seen. The Tram Tunnels were associated with the construction of the Wynyard Railway Station and both are located beneath Wynyard Park. The Park was created in the 1840s as part of the redevelopment of the former military barracks, the first large barracks complex built in Sydney in the late 1790s. These had been demolished when the army relocated to Paddington barracks in 1836, and the parade ground was subsequently redeveloped as Wynyard Park.

As part of the general design of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the City Underground, a rail connection was planned to run from Wynyard over the Bridge to the north-east towards Mosman and the Northern Beaches and the bridge was originally designed to carry four train lines, two on the west and two on the east. However, as works progressed, this proposal was abandoned and, instead, a tram line to connect to the North Shore tram service heading over the new Sydney Harbour Bridge was proposed. Despite opposition from the railway commissioners to a tram service, by 1931, the decision had been made to extend the trams from the North Shore across the bridge to the city, thereby eliminating the need to change from tram to train or ferry to cross the harbour which had been a feature of North Shore public transport since its inception.

Work on the tramway began in earnest in 1931 and was largely completed by February 1932. The tramlines ran down into a tunnel beside Cumberland Street through to the terminus at Wynyard. The tram station was located on the upper level of Wynyard Station using Platforms 1 and 2 adjacent to the railwayPplatforms 3 and 4 used by the North Shore line trains. The trams were accessed via a separate concourse entrance. The Wynyard line was the last of the main Sydney tram lines built.

At its physical peak in 1933, the Sydney tramway system was one of the largest tramway networks in the world, covering 291kms and operating 1600 cars. Passenger patronage peaked in 1945, with 405 million passenger journeys for the year. However, from 1933, tram service began to be replaced with motor bus services and during 1950s, the tram service was discontinued across the entire Sydney network. The last tram in Sydney ran out of Wynyard in the early morning of 29 June 1958.

In c1964, the former tram tunnels and underground terminal were converted for use as a carpark for the Menzies Hotel and as a public parking station. The down track tunnel was converted for use as a storage facility.

The tram tunnels remain in use as a carpark in 2009.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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-
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-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The former Wynyard tram tunnels are significant as part of Sydney's tramway system which, at its peak, was one of the largest urban tramway systems in the world. They were important components in the public transport network and a linkage to the extensive North Shore tramway and the last of the main lines to be constructed. Wynyard Tram Station hosted the last tram to run on the Sydney network before its final and complete closure in June 1958. Their integration into the Wynyard underground railway station created one of Sydney's main transport interchanges.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The former Wynyard tram tunnels are associated with Dr JJC Bradfield, chief engineer and designer of the Sydney underground railway network and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Wynyard tram tunnels have technical significance in regards to their construction, using tunnelling and cut-and-cover as part of the larger Wynyard Station development. The construction methods represented the peak of engineering technology for the period.
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 e)
[Research potential]
The former Wynyard tram tunnels have some research potential as part of the Wynyard Park archaeological group which includes the colonial Sydney military barracks.
SHR Criteria f)
The Wynyard tram tunnels form a rare surviving section of the Sydney tramway network that was largely removed on the closure of the system in the 1950s and the only example of an underground tram station and line on the Sydney network.
Integrity/Intactness: The tunnels are intact but have a medium to low level of integrity, most of the infrastructure having been removed.
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 register  18 Mar 10   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Godden Mackay Logan  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDavid Keenan1987The North Sydney Lines of the Sydney Tramway System
WrittenIan MacCowan1992The Tramways of New South Wales

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: 4800281

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