St James Railway Station | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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St James Railway Station

Item details

Name of item: St James Railway Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.8722853210292 Long: 151.209257277283
Primary address: 108 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney


The listing boundary includes the whole of the underground railway system under Hyde Park, including the pedestrian subways and exits to Elizabeth Street and Macquarie Street, the concourse and platform areas and to the southern end of disused tunnel complex (to where it is blocked with rubble). To the north, the boundary extends to 5 metres beyond the northern end of the disused platform area. The boundary of the above-ground entrances to Elizabeth Street includes the footprint of the entire entry area including the café. The curtilage includes a radius of 5 metres in all directions around the underground structure. Please note the curtilage for the State Heritage Register listing is the same.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
108 Elizabeth StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

St James Station is of State significance because, along with Museum, it was the first underground station in Australia and demonstrates the adaptation of the London tube-style station to the Australian situation. The station is well constructed, proportioned and detailed.

The station complex is an important part of the larger Sydney Harbour Bridge and the electrified City Underground Railway scheme and has associations with prominent persons such as JJC Bradfield, chief engineer and designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and city underground and organisations such as the Department of Railways and represents the culmination of many years of political lobbying for a city railway system. The construction of the city underground and position of St James Station encouraged the retail and commercial development of the Sydney CBD in the late 1920s and 1930s, with large department stores constructed around the stations.

The St James Station entry building 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 railway system (the other being Museum Station entrance) and is a rare example of this type of station building.

The underground platforms and concourse retain many original features and provide one of the most ornate station interiors in the NSW railway system. Disused platforms demonstrate the grand plans of the 1930s railway network of Bradfield, while the air raid shelter areas in the southern tunnels are rare surviving elements of Sydney's World War II defences.

Individual elements, such as the tiling, ornate stairs, lights and clocks add to the ambience of the station, while the Chateau Tanunda neon advertising sign at the Elizabeth Street entrance is a rare surviving example of a 1930s neon sign in Sydney.
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 (Engineer)
Builder/Maker: Department of Railways
Construction years: 1922-1926
Physical description: BUILDINGS
Underground Station (1926)
- Elizabeth St entrance
-Macquarie Street entrance
-Pedestrian subways

Concourse including finishes (1926)
Platform faces (1926)
Two tunnels (1920s)
Track dead-end tunnels
Unused tunnels

St James Station includes the Elizabeth Street entrance building and amenities block (converted to a café), the concourse, platforms and tunnels and the Macquarie Street entrance at Queens Square and north Hyde Park.

The main façade of the building fronting Elizabeth Street features smooth faced sandstone with decorative string course, steel-framed windows and a pair of stone columns with copper sheet covering which frame a large opening. This entrance is covered by a bracketed awning clad in pressed metal sheeting. A stepped parapet hides the slate roof and features a cartouche with the date '1926'. The eastern portion of this building which formerly included male and female toilets has been converted into a café/restaurant in the 1990s.

Internally, concrete steps lead to two vaulted subway tunnels which connect to the concourse level. The subways are lined with ceramic cream body tiles with green top and bottom courses. A similar tunnel extends north and connects to Macquarie Street where several openings have been added in concrete with pebble finish, two to Hyde Park north and one to Queens Square.

The concourse area is lined with the same cream ceramic body tile and green banding as the pedestrian subways. The ticket area includes five ticket windows, edged in green tile with timber counters and decorative iron work grilles, with iron and timber barriers in front of each. The ticket office and station manager’s office are adjacent to each other on the western side of the concourse area. Both offices are accessed via six panel timber doors. Two small retail shops (newsagent and snack bar) are located on the concourse level, both have recently been vacated (2009).

Two sets of electronic ticket barriers lead to the paid concourse area, one serving the Elizabeth Street pedestrian subway and one serving the Macquarie Street pedestrian subway. Both sets of barriers are framed by a decorative iron entry way with concertina latticework gate and pinecone shaped finials atop three columns. All date from the original 1926 station.

The supporting steel columns within the concourse area are tiled with the same cream body tile and green banding as the subways and walls to the same height, approximately 2m up the column. The top half is painted render. The concourse features stairs to the platforms below, with a set on the eastern and western sides, both of which have a double stairway (leading to the north and south) to the platforms below. The stairs feature original timber balustrade and iron work banisters, with riveted steel stringers and decorative newell posts topped with pinecone shaped finials. A hanging station clock is suspended from the concourse ceiling, as are two decorative light fittings. All date from the station construction phase.

The four barrel-vaulted concrete platforms (two are operational) are located below the concourse level and are accessed via several steel and cast-iron framed stairs. The working platforms are located on the east and west side, both being brick single line platforms, serving the Up and Down lines of the City Circle. The lighting on each has recently been upgraded. Platform walls and columns are tiled with cream body tiles and green top and bottom courses, as common throughout the station area. These tiles are also present on the closed platforms, although many have been removed to replace damaged ones in the public area. Two station clocks are affixed to columns, one on each platform and are contemporary with the station construction. A large central concourse area between the two platforms represents the proposed extra platforms that were never completed. Tiled columns support the public entry concourse area overhead. Entry to the disused tunnels both north and south is from this section of the station.

To the north and south of the public area, tunnels and platforms built during the 1920s for proposed extensions and lines of the city underground remain in place. Each end is accessed via doors in temporary walls. These platforms are in the same style as the working platforms, although they have never been completed. The platform areas are used for storage. From the southern disused platform, a locked steel gate blocks access to the tunnel which was converted for use as an air raid shelter during World War II. This section of the tunnel includes concrete blast doors and walls, as well as the former ABC sound effects bell.

NSW Railway heritage listed sites contain significant collections of stored movable railway heritage, including furniture, signs, operational objects, ex-booking office and ticketing objects, paper records, clocks, memorabilia, indicator boards and artwork. Individually, these objects are important components of the history of each site. Together, they form a large and diverse collection of movable objects across the NSW rail network. Sydney Trains maintains a database of movable heritage. For up-to-date information on all movable heritage items at this site, contact the Sydney Trains heritage team.
Key items at this station include but are not limited to:
Three station clocks (one on the concourse area, two on the platforms),
The 1920s light fittings
The ABC Bell in the disused tunnel (c1938)
The Chateau Tanunda neon sign at the Elizabeth Street entrance.

Intrusive Elements: Pebblecrete finish to tunnel and exits at Queens Square and Macquarie Street.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
External: Structurally the entry building and amenities block are in good condition; however some sandstone is fretting and stained. The external awning is in very good condition.

Internal: Internally, the entry building is in good condition, having had recent upgrades to lighting and cleaning of the public areas.

The tunnels and concourse areas have been refurbished (c2005) with new lighting provided throughout. They retain many intact original features which are in good condition.
Much of the original wall tiling is retained, although some was replaced with reproductions in the 1990s. Damaged and missing tiles are being replaced with matching ceramic tiles. The platform area has also been upgraded in the past five years, including new lighting in the tunnel area.

The disused platforms are closed to public access but remain in reasonable condition and include original features from when they were used as sidings. Wall tiles from these areas are used to replace broken or damaged ones in the main station area when possible.
The disused tunnels at the southern end, including the air raid shelter are closed to the general public. They are in reasonable condition, with some water seepage, graffiti and general wear and tear. It should be noted that some of the graffiti is considered historic graffiti dating from the war years and soon after.

Date condition updated: 1 April 09
Date condition updated:05 Jun 09
Modifications and dates: 1990s: Some tiling was replaced using both new and recovered tiles from the disused platforms
N.d: The station was upgraded with automated turnstiles and other equipment and facilities.
N.d: A 1926 signal box was removed (information provided by St James Station staff).
1990: Major refurbishment
2007: New lift between platform and concourse within paid area
2009: Accessibility upgrade including provision of lift access between street level at Elizabeth Street and concourse level; modification of existing ticket window to meet accessibility requirement; and modification to existing staff facilities to provide a meal room, conference room, and new male, female and accessible amenities.
2017: Toilet refurbishments, De-cluttering of fixtures and fittings, brick and masonry repairs, conservation refurbishment to joinery, tiles, brass work, ticket windows, entry building masonry and glazing etc., 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: St James Station group is located underneath Sydney's Hyde Park. Hyde Park was set aside and dedicated by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810 as part of his wider scheme for Sydney's development.

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 following 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 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, two lines connecting the city with the North Shore via a bridge crossing the harbour, 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. As a result, excavation work for Museum and St James stations began in 1922.

St James Station was constructed in concrete with four platforms and four tunnels, two of which have been used to date. The other two tunnels, running both north and south from the platforms, were intended as a part of a line linking Gladesville to the eastern suburbs line, which was never constructed.

The construction of the station was undertaken using a cut and cover method in Hyde Park, which, along with the building of Museum Station, meant that more than half of the Park was excavated and fenced off from the public throughout the construction phase. The massive disruption to the Park resulted in a design competition being held after the completion of the underground stations for the Park's layout. This competition was won by Norman Weekes in 1926 and his design was implemented in the reconstruction of the Park in the later 1920s.

During World War II, the two redundant tunnels on the north side of the station were utilised by the RAAF as protected bunkers and headquarters, at least until 1943, when these operations moved to Bankstown. A staircase was built to exit the easternmost tunnel into Shakespeare Place. To the south of the station, the disused tunnels were also used as air raid shelters with a public access from Hyde Park above. Concrete blast doors were built into the tunnel walls to protect doorways between the adjacent tunnels in case of a bomb penetrating to the shelter. These World War II era structures remain in place in the tunnel under Hyde Park, although the public entrance was blocked and the southern sections of the tunnel area filled in.

In the post war years the northern tunnels were used as sidings and for train storage before the completion of the City Circle link in 1956, while the southern sections were used by sound engineers from the ABC to record fake sounds of Big Ben for a television series in the 1960s. The bell they used remains in place in the tunnel. The tunnels were used in the 1990s for other television productions such as 'Police Rescue'. Parts of the northern tunnels include the fabled St James Lake, a low lying area of the tunnels that has slowly filled with water creating a large artificial lake.

Concourse areas were formed above the platforms of the stations, acting as focal points for pedestrian ways from the street entrances. After several years of construction, the first underground electric railway was opened on 20 December 1926 when the new line section between Central, Museum and St James stations was completed. 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 St James Station, green tiles for the banding were used which remain in place.

The building of the City Circle and its associated stations at Museum and St James encouraged the commercial development of the city area with stores such as Mark Foy's, David Jones and Farmers (later Grace Brothers) building large department stores in the city close to the new railway stations. St James Station had its main entry building on Elizabeth Street, directly opposite the newly constructed David Jones Department Store.

In 1997, St James Station received a Historic Engineering Marker (HEM) from the Institution of Engineers in Australia in recognition of the massive amount of engineering work involved in the construction of this underground electrified railway and its continuance as an essential component of Sydney’s railway network. The marker is located on the concourse level of the station.

St James Station underwent an upgrade in c2005 including new lighting, general maintenance and cleaning of the public areas.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Encouraging commercial development-
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-
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]
St James Station was, with Museum Station, one the first two underground railway stations to operate in Australia. It has been in continuous operation since its opening and has retained much of the original fabric 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. St James 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 construction of St James and Museum Stations on the eastern edge of the city encouraged the development of commercial and retail property in this part of the city with large firms including David Jones, Farmers (later Grace Bros and now Myers) and Mark Foy's all building large stores near the stations to take advantage. The underground location of the station is a result of citizens' concerns over losing parkland. The St James Railway disused tunnels are also historically significant as part of Sydney's wartime experience, with both military headquarters and civilian air raid shelters located within sections of them during World War II.
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 St James Station.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
St James Station provides evidence of developing railway technology in NSW and Australia in the 1920s and reflects the underground systems of England and Europe of the same period. The scale and methods of construction represent a major feat of engineering for its time. The sandstone entry building in Elizabeth Street is a fine and largely intact example of the Inter-War Stripped Classical style, and includes significant neon signs in its entrance way. The entry building is a prominent feature in north Hyde Park and at the top of Market Street. The wall tiling within the station and the pedestrian tunnels, including the green indicator banding, is a distinctive and significant element of the interior of the station, which retains a number of original features including light fittings, station clocks and timber work.
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 disused tunnels at St James Railway Station have some research significance through their uses during World War II as air raid shelters.
SHR Criteria f)
St James Station was one of the first two underground railway stations to operate in Australia. The layout of St James, along with Museum, based on the London underground, is unique in the NSW railways network, while the surviving World War II air raid shelter sections are rare remaining examples of public air raid precautions in the Sydney area. The neon Chateau Tanunda (Brandy) sign within the Elizabeth Street entrance building is a rare surviving example of a pre-World War II neon sign in Sydney and a local landmark.
SHR Criteria g)
The station entrance (Elizabeth Street) is representative of a low-scale public building constructed in the inter-War Stripped Classical style. It is representative of a facility designed to cater for the ongoing transport of Sydney's citizens. It was associated with early plans for the development of a city rail network, and demonstrates the adoption of the European-style tube station.
Integrity/Intactness: St James Station Group has a high level of intactness with some modifications and upgrades, such as replacement tiling, new entrances via north Hyde Park and the inclusion of a café in the former entrance building amenities effecting its overall integrity.
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 Study1999SRA96State Rail Authority  No
Heritage and Conservation Register State Rail Authority of NSW1993296Paul 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
WrittenGodden Mackay Logan1999Heritage Impact Assessment
WrittenLester Firth Associates Pty Ltd1993Conservation Study and Policy Guidelines Museum Station
WrittenLester Firth Associates Pty Ltd1993St James Station Evaluation of Wall Tiling Options
WrittenRichard Raxworhy1989The Unreasonable Man: The Life and Works of JJC Bradfield

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: 4801096
File number: 2423994

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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