Pyrmont Railway Cuttings, Tunnel & Weighbridge | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Pyrmont Railway Cuttings, Tunnel & Weighbridge

Item details

Name of item: Pyrmont Railway Cuttings, Tunnel & Weighbridge
Other name/s: Darling Harbour/Glebe Tunnel; Former Industrial Building Elements "Edwin Davey & Sons Flour Millers"
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Tunnel
Primary address: Quarry Master Drive/Harris Street, Pyrmont, NSW 2009
Local govt. area: Sydney


North: railway corridor on northern side of line; South: Wattle Street; East: tunnel portal exit at Pyrmont Street; West: railway corridor on western side of line
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Quarry Master Drive/Harris StreetPyrmontSydney  Primary Address
Suanders StreetPyrmontSydney  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The brick tunnel and cuttings are significant as a major feature of the landscape and layout of the Pyrmont area and have a significant impact on the visual qualities of the area. They are important components of the former inner-city freight system that operated to the wharfs, including Darling Harbour, and connected through to the southern suburbs. The tunnel and its portals are important brick structures that reflect the industrial nature of the area. The Pyrmont cutting and tunnel are good representative examples of the form and scale of construction practiced by the Railways Department in the early twentieth century.

The weighbridge and associated items are historically significant for their association with the Edwin Davey & Sons mill, one of the earliest existing flour mills in the Sydney Metropolitan area, and as evidence of historic forms of goods handling and transportation. The items are technically significant as early industrial produce equipment and as they are still able to demonstrate their purpose and mode of operation.
Date significance updated: 12 Jan 16
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: Railways Department
Builder/Maker: Railways Department
Construction years: 1901-1922
Physical description: STRUCTURES
cuttings (x2), (1916)
tunnel, double line, (1922)
Rail siding, weighbridge, scale and capstan (1922)

The railway cutting through Pyrmont is a two-track-wide, straight-sided excavation through the ridge of the peninsula from the commencement of Jones Bay Road, where the line deviated from the wharf sidings (now removed), until it enters a tunnel near John Street opposite Mount Street. This tunnel is bored through the escarpment and is brick-lined. It exits near Jones Street at Saunders Lane and the line continues in a cutting which progressively opens out on the western side before falling ground levels bring the line on to a brick viaduct near the intersection of Jones and Allen Streets. This viaduct continues across Wentworth Park towards Glebe and has a separate listing (See No: 4801104).
The railway cutting is through Pyrmont sandstone.

Manufactured by Australasian Scale Co Ltd Makers Sydney. Located adjacent to the Light Rail Line.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The railway cutting is intact and in good condition, although it has been altered in the 1990s. The section between Jones Bay Road and Pyrmont Street has been covered and bridged, with Pyrmont Street now continuous with Point Street. The section between Miller Street and Allen Street is now surrounded and overshadowed by the piers and roadways of the new access roads to ANZAC Bridge.

Rail siding, weighbridge, scale and capstan (1922): poor, rusted
Date condition updated:15 May 09
Modifications and dates: 1996: The cutting and tunnel have been adapted to serve the metro light rail system including the fitting of poles and frames to carry the electric wiring and the introduction of new station platforms for the light rail (John Street and Fish Markets).
Current use: Metro Light Rail tram network
Former use: Heavy Rail goods line


Historical notes: The Darling Harbour/Lilyfield railway goods line (of which the Pyrmont cutting and tunnel are a part) has its origins in the original goods line to the head of Darling Harbour built in 1855 as the first stage in a scheme to link the railway with wharfage at the head of this bay. This line remained largely unused for many years until the 1870s, when it began to be used more regularly with the construction of the iron wharf by the Railways Department.

With the opening of the Goldsbrough Mort woolstore in 1883, the railway connection assumed new importance and over the next three decades the goods yard expanded rapidly, with loading and unloading platforms, storage sheds and numerous new sidings being constructed around the head of the bay. In 1901, the Sydney Harbour Trust was formed to take over control and management of the commercial port areas of Sydney Harbour and it immediately set about removing old, formerly private, wharfage around the waterfront and building large, modern, well-equipped wharf and storage structures, which were then either leased to private concerns or operated as general wharfs. Work commenced at Darling Island in 1901 and continued north along the peninsula.

The completion of the goods line was directly associated with the completion of the Pyrmont (Jones Bay) wharfs by the Sydney Harbour Trust, which were considered the most up-to-date and advanced in the port, with rail lines running along each of the wharfs. The goods line provided a continuous loop connection through Central Station Yard, Darling Harbour Goods Yard and the Pyrmont wharfs, with connections to Rozelle Yard, White Bay and Glebe Island. In this period, Sydney Harbour was the main port for NSW and the goods line provided a direct connection between rural Australia - growing wheat and wool and mining coal - and the ships carrying the goods to export markets. Imported goods arriving on the docks were back-loaded onto the empty trains for distribution around the state.

As this was under way the Railways Department, acknowledging the congestion already prevalent at Central Station, began construction of a goods line from Enfield via a secondary yard at Lilyfield to connect with the north end of the Darling Harbour goods line via cuttings through Pyrmont.

This was completed in 1922 and the line had sidings to the White Bay and Ultimo power stations, the Gillespie and Edwin Davey flour mills and to the oil depot at Blackwattle Bay (now the Fish Markets site). It remained in use until the 1980s but was never electrified. As well as being connected with major transport developments on the waterfront during the period and the continued development of Pyrmont's industrial infrastructure, the cuttings had a big impact on the local community because they divided the peninsula and numerous houses were demolished.

In 1996 the former goods line was adapted to take the metro light rail, which included the laying of new track, the fixing of poles and overhead wiring and the placement of new stations.

Adjacent to the line is the site of the former Edwin Davey & Sons flour mill. The mill was constructed in 1896 and Edwin Davey purchased the site c1900. The mill was substantially rebuilt in 1911 following a fire. A siding from the goods line to the mill was constructed in 1922 for use by the mill, and also the City Council Depot that adjoined the mill on the western side. It was at this time that Edwin Davey constructed the weighbridge and goods lift and excavated for the installation of a wheat hopper (GML, 2011).

The weighbridge and scale were used to weigh the incoming grain when it was delivered to site by rail. (Prior to this the grain was delivered by horse drawn dray or motor lorry). Grain hoppers were shunted from the west rail points eastward, onto the spur line and over the weighbridge. They were returned westward by a steel cable and electrically powered capstan. When a hopper was over the weighbridge its weight was measured and then measured again after it had discharged the grain into the grain pit below. From here the grain was lifted by bucket conveyor to the grain holding bins located on the third level of the mill (GML, 2011).

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 Rail to ship interchange-
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 railway cutting and tunnel has historic significance as part of the separate railway network (1910-22) built to allow for freight trains to traverse the metropolitan area independent of the passenger train network. This was one of the most significant and effective railway projects completed in New South Wales during the twentieth century. The cutting and tunnel date from the key period of development of the Pyrmont wharves and major railway cutting works undertaken on the peninsula in the early twentieth century.

The weighbridge and associated items are historically significance for their assocaition with the historic Edwin Davey & Sons mill, one of the earliest existing flour mills in the Sydney Metropolitan area, and demonstrate the operation of the rail to mill interaction, and as evidence of historic forms of goods handling and transportation.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The railway cutting has an association with the Pyrmont wharfs, having been built to carry the Metropolitan Goods Line.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The railway cutting has technical significance for its ability to demonstrate excavation and tunnelling contraction techniques from the early part of the twentieth century as used by NSW Railways. It has aesthetic significance as a major feature in the urban landscape of Pyrmont.

The weighbridge and associated items are technically significant as items of machinery that demonstrate the operation of historic mill operations.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The weighbridge equipment can assist with understanding historical rail to production systems and the historic operation of the mill.
SHR Criteria f)
The weighbridge equipment is locally rare within the metropolitan rail system.
SHR Criteria g)
The railway cutting and tunnel are representative examples of the form and scale of transport infrastructure constructed by the Railways Department in the early part of the twentieth century.

The weighbridge equipment is representative of the the practice of transport of produce by rail for production.
Integrity/Intactness: Medium with some additions in 1996 for the Metro Light Rail and the covering of portions of the cutting between Jones Bay Road and Pyrmont Street effecting its integrity. The weighbridge equipment is intact and although rusted has moderate 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 register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA122State Rail Authority  No
Pyrmont/Ultimo Heritage Study1990 Anglin Associates  No
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Godden Mackay Logan  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenDepartment of Environment and Heritage1998Australian Heritage Database
WrittenJohn Oakes2001Sydney's Forgotten Goods Railways

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: 4801122
File number: 2431129 / 2424375

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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