Helensburgh Railway Station Group | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Helensburgh Railway Station Group

Item details

Name of item: Helensburgh Railway Station Group
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Tunnel Road (North Of), Helensburgh, NSW 2508
Local govt. area: Wollongong City


North: the boundary of railway property fronting Wilsons Creek Road;East: 5m east of the end of the station platform (east of and including the Park Street overbridge);South: 5m south of and parallel with the railway tracks adjacent to the car park, and to the edge of the overbridge abutments; West: 5m west of the railway station platform.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Tunnel Road (North Of)HelensburghWollongong City  Primary Address
Vera Street (North Off)HelensburghWollongong City  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Helensburgh Railway Station - including its 1915 platform, platform building and Park Street overbridge is of historical significance for its role as a transport hub for Helensburgh since 1915. The rebuilding of Helensburgh Railway Station in 1915 is historically associated with the construction of the "Helensburgh Deviation" a massive NSW Railways construction project undertaken from 1914-1920 to eliminate the original single Illawarra line route south of Waterfall with its steep grades and poorly ventilated tunnels. Helensburgh Railway Station is of aesthetic significance for the unique curve of its platform and platform building, its bushland setting, and the fine quality of its representative Federation period platform building.
Date significance updated: 23 Sep 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: NSW Government Railway
Builder/Maker: NSW Government Railway
Construction years: 1914-1915
Physical description: PRECINCT ELEMENTS
Platform building (1915) (Type 11)
Platform (1915)
Footbridge (2007)
Park Street overbridge (1915, 2010)
Footbridge, stair and platform canopies (modern; 2016)

Helensburgh Railway Station is virtually identical to Scarborough, however at Helensburgh both the platform and the platform building are slightly curved. The station is entered via a modern footbridge (2007) from the car park on the southern side of the station. The platform and platform building have their long axes east-west. The station is located in a bushland setting at the bottom of a valley.

Exterior: There is a single painted brick island platform building, curved to follow the curve of the platform, with a gabled corrugated steel roof and skillion corrugated steel awning roofs on both sides. The building has two painted brick chimneys with pairs of unglazed terracotta chimney pots. There are rectangular timber vents to the gable ends of the building. The building features original timber framed double hung windows with 9-paned top sashes with coloured glass panes. The bottom sashes are 2-paned, one of the panes being coloured glass. Awnings on both sides of the platform building are cantilevered on steel brackets mounted on decorative sandstone brackets. There are timber valances to both ends of each awning.

Interior: The interior of the waiting area is original, with a ripple iron ceiling with metal ceiling rose, moulded plaster chair rail, and a chimney breast (fireplace removed). The Station Master's office also has original internal fitout, with a ripple iron ceiling with metal ceiling rose and a moulded plaster chair rail, and chimney breast (no fireplace). Internal doors are original timber 4-panel doors.

A modern footbridge with stairs and lifts which provides platform access from the southern side of the line only.

Jack arch bridge with brick balustrade. Anti-throw steel screen installed.

A curved island platform with brick edges, with evidence of extension of the platform and of the previous signal application. Asphalt surface.

Two single timber rollover indicator boards with metal covers (no foot pedals).

Helensburgh Railway Station is located in a bushland setting at the bottom of a valley, within a railway cutting.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Platform building (1915): good
Platform (1915): good
Footbridge, stairs, lifts (2007): very good
Park Street overbridge (1915): good
Canopies (2016): very good
Date condition updated:25 Jun 09
Modifications and dates: 2007: Concrete bridge with lifts links to the platform from car park.
2009: A pair of rain water tanks on a timber base, enclosed with a powdercoated aluminium fencing, have recently been installed against the northern end of the platform building. The waiting area has modern metal security doors within original door openings with original multipaned fanlights with square coloured glass panes. One original doorway has been bricked up (now behind a modern ticket machine).
2010: Antithrow screen installed on overbridge
2016: New canopies constructed on platforms, stairs and footbridge.
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: Helensburgh was first known as 'Camp Creek'. It began as a tent town of railway workers who were constructing the Illawarra railway line. Explanations for the choice of the name "Helensburgh" include that the town was named after Helensburgh in Scotland, birthplace of the Cumberland Coal Mine's manager, Charles Harper; or that the town was named after Harper's daughter, Helen.

Helensburgh Railway Station opened in 1889 and a new site opened on 30 May 1915 when the line was duplicated and new tunnels were constructed between Waterfall and Otford. The first Helensburgh Station was built in 1889 on the first single line section of the Illawarra Railway, opening from Waterfall to Scarborough in 1888. This section of the line thereby provided a continuous line as far as Bombo by connecting up with the previously isolated section of line.

Early train operations from Clifton (Scarborough) to Waterfall required 8 tunnels penetrating ridges with high embankments between. Two of these tunnels, the Otford tunnel and the Metropolitan tunnel, were notorious for hot and suffocating conditions experienced by the crew of steam trains climbing to Waterfall from Thirroul. There were cases of enginemen burnt by the heat. Due to these conditions, the single line section became an operational bottleneck. To negotiate the steep terrain, train loads were reduced by up to 50% of capacity.

In order to provide a duplicated railway as far as Wollongong it was necessary to plan an entirely new section of the line that started at South Waterfall and ended at Lilyvale. Work commenced in 1914 to eliminate the original single line route south of Waterfall with its steep grades and poorly ventilated tunnels. Deviations requiring massive earthworks were built for a less severely graded double track, and this project was known as the "Helensburgh Deviation". Completion of the project was accomplished in 1920 when the worst of the tunnels (the Otford tunnel) was bypassed.

This project resulted in the construction of the present Helensburgh Railway Station, on a different site from the original Helensburgh Railway Station, which opened in 1915. The original Helensburgh and Metropolitan Tunnels, as well as remnants of the former Helensburgh Station platform remain southwest of the present station. The land is now no longer in RailCorp ownership and has been vested to the NSW Department of Lands.

Helensburgh Railway Station has an island platform with a standard brick single storey building being one of the longest of its type. To the east is a brick and steel overbridge that originally connected the platform by way of a steel and pre-cast concrete footbridge and stairs. The original internal layout has been modified.

The line was electrified in 1980. In 2007, at the western end of the platform, a reinforced concrete footbridge was built over the ’down’ line with stairs and lifts connecting between the platform and the car park on the southern side of the station.

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. Evolution of design in railway engineering and architecture-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The rebuilding of Helensburgh Railway Station in 1915 is historically associated with the construction of the "Helensburgh Deviation" a massive NSW Railway construction project undertaken 1914-1920 to eliminate the original single Illawarra line route south of Waterfall with its steep grades and poorly ventilated tunnels. Helensburgh Railway Station is also of local historical significance for its role as a transport hub for Helensburgh since 1915.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Helensburgh Railway Station is of aesthetic significance for the unique curve of its platform and platform building, its bushland setting, and the fine quality of its Federation period platform building.
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 past.
SHR Criteria f)
The curve of the platform and platform building at Helensburgh is rare, and the landscape setting of the station unusual, however Helensburgh Railway Station is otherwise not rare (one of 12 stations on the Illawarra line with this type of brick platform building).
SHR Criteria g)
Helensburgh Railway Station is a fine representative railway station with a early standard brick platform building, of which there are 12 examples on the Illawarra line (other examples at Banksia, Bulli, Carlton, Coledale, Erskineville, Kiama, Mortdale, Rockdale, Scarborough, Sydenham and Wollongong). The platform building at Scarborough is virtually identical to the platform building at Helensburgh, though that at Helensburgh is unique in being curved.
Integrity/Intactness: Helensburgh Railway Station is remarkably intact. The platform building is remarkably intact externally (one doorway bricked up, security screens added), and internally (booking office waiting room and Station Master's office/booking office generally intact).
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 Study1999SRA137State Rail Authority  No
Heritage and Conservation Register State Rail Authority of NSW199311Paul Davies for SRA  No
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Paul Davies Pty Ltd  Yes
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Paul Davies Pty Ltd  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written   Brief locality history for Helensburgh
WrittenC.C. Singleton1984Railway History in Illawarra N.S.W
WrittenCCG Architects2015Statement of Heritage Impact for New Canopy Entries Helensburgh Railway Station
WrittenDavid Sheedy2009Historical Research for RailCorp S170 Register Update
WrittenJ. Oakes2003Sydney’s Forgotten Illawarra 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: 4801137

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