Museum Railway Station | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Museum Railway Station

Item details

Name of item: Museum Railway Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.8781689498817 Long: 151.208624658901
Primary address: 3 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney


The listing boundary is the whole of the underground structure and the above ground entrances including all finishes. The boundary includes 5 metres either side of the Liverpool Street entry building and the street entries to the former Mark Foy entry on Castlereagh Street. The underground boundary includes a radius of 5 metres in all directions around the station, tunnels and pedestrian subways.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
3 Elizabeth StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Museum Station has state significance as the first underground station in Australia ( with St James opened the same day) and demonstrates the adaptation of the London tube style station to the Australian situation. The station is well constructed, proportioned and detailed and represents the culmination of many years of political lobbying to have a city railway system in place.

The station complex is an important part of the larger NSW railways network, particularly the inner-city system, and has associations with prominent persons such as JJC Bradfield and organisations such as the Department of Railways. It played an important part in the development of the CBD in Sydney as evidenced by direct pedestrian subway connections to adjacent department stores such as Mark Foys.

The Museum Station entry building (Liverpool Street) is a fine and largely intact example of a small-scale Inter-War Stripped Classical style building which adds to the general character of the immediate area. It has significance as one of two buildings of its type and style remaining in the city (the other being St James). The combination of the entry portals, pedestrian subways and decorative interiors including light fittings, tiling and signage contribute to the aesthetic significance of the place and evoke a former era of railway travel.
Date significance updated: 26 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
Builder/Maker: Department of Railways
Construction years: 1922-1926
Physical description: BUILDINGS
Underground Station, (1926)
- entry buildings
- concourse

Pedestrian subways, (1926)
Subway to Platforms 1/2, (1926)
Platforms 1/2 including concrete ceiling and finishes, (1926)

The Museum Railway Station complex consists of the entrance building, two concourse areas, platforms and pedestrian tunnel/subway areas.

The entry building located diagonally across the corner of Liverpool and Elizabeth Streets is a "L" shaped brick building in the Inter-War Stripped Classical style and features rectangular timber panelled windows and sandstone detailing. Sandstone columns feature in the entrance which is covered by a bracketed awning clad in pressed metal sheeting. Roman numerals denoting 1926 are carved in the sandstone frieze and a modern brick and glass restaurant has been added to the north façade.

Apart from the main entrance building, access to Museum Station is via six other subway entries, one in Hyde Park adjacent to the obelisk , one via 227 Elizabeth Street, one via 229 Elizabeth Street, one via 297 Elizabeth Street, one at 149 Liverpool Street and one from Downing Centre in Castlereagh Street. The Downing Centre entrance was the former Mark Foy's department Store subway entrance and retains the original sandstone entrance building and large tiled wall sign inside the entrance.

Concrete stairs lead down to the concourse area which contains many original features, including hanging light fittings, timber doors and ticket windows, decorative metal barriers, timber hand rails and station clocks. The male and female toilets on the concourse also feature original fitouts, including timber doors, stall dividers and wall tiling.

Narrow, barrel vaulted tunnels and stairs with tiled walls connect to the platforms which are located within a single reinforced concrete barrel vault. The walls are clad in the same distinctive ceramic tiles, being a cream body tile and red top and bottom courses. The platforms are brick and have new cement finish and period advertising signage. Some original signage, such as directions to exits also remain on the platforms. Lighting has recently been upgraded to return the platform area to its original 1930s look.

In the Station Master's office two original timber painted signs remain. One is on the Station Master's door and has 'Station Master/NSWR' painted on it. The second is a direction sign for the men's and ladies' retiring rooms, 1994 State Rail Telephone Directory, steel coin tray, cast iron ticket punch.
In storage: collection of ticketing-related stamps, receipt books, ledgers etc, collection of CityRail printed timetables, freestanding revolving wire rack stand.

Some archaeological potential exists in Hyde Park in relation to the railway construction, however the massive intrusion of the railway open cut excavation in the 1920s removed any archaeological evidence of periods prior to this.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Entries: Generally the entry building is in good condition. The external awning is in good condition, although some vegetation is growing from the brick course above. Internally the entry building is in good condition, although some surfaces appear soiled and there is some evidence of water penetration.

Pedestrian subways: Internally, pedestrian subways are generally in good condition. Some tiling has been replaced with modern replica tiles for both walls and coloured banding.

Concourse and platform subways: Many intact original features such as ticket office and WC areas, wall tiling, signage, balustrades and railings have been retained and repaired where necessary. The tunnels and concourse areas have been refurbished. Some evidence of water penetration is noticeable in the tunnels, with bubbling and peeling paint. Some tiling has been replaced with modern replica tiles for both walls and coloured banding.
Date condition updated:15 May 09
Modifications and dates: c 2001: restaurant/café added to northern side of Liverpool Street entrance building
c2002: upgrade of toilets and installation of LCD train arrival and departure screens
2017: New lifts and stair modifications along with extensive conservation works to bathrooms, joinery and tiles etc. Decluttering of fixtures and fittings, brick and masonry repairs, lighting LED replacements – All Vandalux and Pole top lights fittings replaced to LED fittings, Painting of previously painted surfaces in accordance with paint scrapes for SHR Stations.
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: From as early as 1857 plans were prepared for the extension of the railway line into the city from the terminus in Devonshire Street. Various routes were proposed over the successive years but agreement on a city railway service could not be achieved despite two royal commissions investigating the options. In 1908 a third royal commission was appointed and recommended a plan for a loop railway which included six underground stations located generally in the positions of the current stations.

In 1915 the Chief Engineer of Metropolitan Railway Construction, JJC Bradfield, submitted a plan for an electric underground city railway loop, a harbour bridge crossing and connection from the city network to two lines to head north and various branch lines heading east and west. St James was proposed to form a vital link in the network by being built on two levels. Work on the railway commenced in 1916 for the link between Central Station and Macquarie Street. Funding problems forced construction to cease in 1918. From 1917 to 1922 Bradfield maintained a publicity campaign to rally support for his scheme. Excavation work for Museum and St James stations began in 1922.

Costing 2,007,943 pounds, Museum Station was built as a single main tunnel arch in concrete, spanning the east and west platforms and two centre tracks. The station is free from columns and other structures in the European 'tube' style tradition. Concourse areas were formed above the platforms of the stations, acting as focal points for pedestrian ways from the street entrances. Each station on the city circle line was tiled throughout with cream body tiles common to all, but with coloured top and bottom courses distinctive to individual stations. The tiling was part of Bradfield's scheme to assist in easy identification of stations by passengers. At Museum Station red tiles were used which remain in place.

After several years of construction the first underground electric railway was opened on 20 December 1926 when the new line sections of Central, Museum and St James stations were connected by trains. The building of the city circle and their associated stations at Museum and St James encouraged the commercial development of the city area with stores such as Mark Foys, David Jones and Farmers (later Grace Brothers) building large department stores in the city close to the new railway stations. Mark Foys was connected directly to Museum Station via a pedestrian subway and an elaborate sandstone entrance building in Castlereagh Street.

After 1956, the opening of Circular Quay Railway Station resulted in reduced passenger usage.
An upgrade of Museum Station was carried out c2005.

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]
Museum Station was, along with St James, the first underground railway station to operate in Australia and has been in continuous use since its opening, retaining most of the original fabric of the station intact. It was part of the development of transport services in the early twentieth century and provides evidence of the expansion and upgrading of public utilities in the inner city during this period. Its contribution to the development of the city retail and commercial trade is evident through its subway connection to the former Mark Foys department store.

The station is associated with early plans for the development of a city rail network and demonstrates the adoption of the European-style tube station. The underground location of the station is a result of citizens concerns over losing parkland. By enabling ease of transport for workers into the city it has contributed to the expansion of Sydney's suburbs from the early to mid twentieth century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The station is associated with prominent persons such as JJC Bradfield and organisations such as the Department of Railways. JJC Bradfield was Chief Engineer for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and City Transit and had a direct hand in the design and layout of Museum Station.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The station demonstrates a period of railway technology in NSW and Australia and reflects the underground stations of the London and European systems of the 1920s. The scale and methods of construction represent a major feat of engineering for its time.

The brick and sandstone entry building is a fine and largely intact example of a small-scale Inter-War Stripped Classical style building. Its setting in the southwest corner of Hyde Park has an aesthetic significance and adds to the collection of built items in the Park. The interior retains much of its original detailing and elements, such as tiling, light fittings, station clocks and other period details which evoke a former era of railway travel.
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 f)
It is rare as one of only two 1920s underground stations (the other being St James) built in Sydney based on the ideas and designs of the London underground rail network.
Integrity/Intactness: The Station and entry buildings have a high level of intactness. Some integrity has been lost to the Liverpool Street entry building through the addition of a café building to its north side. Recent upgrades have had little overall impact on the heritage significance of the station.
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 registerSRA s.170 Register    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA92State Rail Authority  No
Heritage and Conservation Register State Rail Authority of NSW1993261Paul Davies for SRA  No
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Godden Mackay Logan  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCecil Weerakoon2001Museum Station heritage impact statement : refurbishment/upgrade of ladies' and gents' toilets by Weerakoon, Cecil., Rail Infrastructure Corporation.
WrittenJJC Bradfield1987Electrification fo the Sydney and Suburban railways: The City Railway 1926
WrittenLester Firth Associates Pty Ltd1993Conservation Study and Policy Guidelines: Museum Station

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: 4801092
File number: 2424096

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