Tenterfield Railway Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Tenterfield Railway Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Tenterfield Railway Precinct
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Railway Avenue, Tenterfield, NSW 2372
Local govt. area: Tenterfield


RailCorp property boundaries as shown on vesting plan, R30700.It should be noted that the original area of the railway station has been reduced, and that there is an historical and visual relationship with the surrounding area not necessarily apparent from the current property boundaries. As such, any proposed development within the vicinity of the railway station should also consider the historic relationship between the station site and its surrounding area.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Railway AvenueTenterfieldTenterfield  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Tenterfield Railway Precinct is state significant as a tangible link to the development of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) line during the 19th century as well as the development of the NSW railways during the steam era. As a large and highly intact railway precinct, Tenterfield demonstrates the operational and technological aspects of large regional railway stations during the steam era as well as how such precincts developed over time as steam was phased out and the railways declined in importance. The establishment of the station itself was one of the biggest events in the history of Tenterfield and its surrounding areas, which had great social, economic and cultural impact and influenced the course of the area’s historical evolution. The railway precinct also has a connection to significant historical events in the history of Tenterfield such as the Tenterfield speech of Henry Parkes and his trip from Tenterfield to Sydney; WWI and the flu epidemic of 1919; and WWII.

The high integrity and the extent of the railway precinct in the varied surviving elements, recommends the site as having rarity and representative values. The 1890 railway barracks are of particular significance as one of the oldest and most intact in NSW. It is an excellent representative example of a substantial regional railway precinct, containing a range of buildings, structures and artefacts from the original construction in 1886 through to the year of closure in 1989.
Date significance updated: 04 Dec 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: William Murray
Construction years: 1886-1948
Physical description: MAJOR STRUCTURES
Station building, type 5, first class (1886)
Platform (c1886)
Barrack, brick (1890)
Barracks, weatherboard (c.1948)
Goods shed
Per Way shed
Sign-on shed

Turntable, 60ft, brickwork bedding, 1899
Loading Platform, pre-fabricated concrete
Jib crane, T433 (1886)
Forecourt plantings

Coal stage remnants (c1949)

The Tenterfield station building is a first class, long and narrow, single storey, brick structure with a painted, rendered exterior. It comprises a main central body flanked by small blocks, one on either side, separated from the main body of the building by a small courtyard. The architectural features and style bears references to Rustic Gothic in the use of steeply pitched prominent gables with decorative bargeboards, finials, pendants and label moulds, and Filigree in the use of cast iron filigree and ornamental columns to verandahs. The central body of the building has two projecting portions with sharply pitched gables rising above the roofline of the main body of the building. Three verandahs run in between the two projecting portions and to either side. The main roof is hipped and gabled with two small gablets (gable on hip) and is punctuated by numerous chimney shafts. The gables have prominent bargeboards, decorative timber fretwork, pendant and finial, and louvered timber ventilators. The front façade has decorative detailing in render in the form of raised mouldings/cornices and label courses. The rear façade is similar in features and detailing and has a series of doors and windows opening on to the platform. A deep verandah runs along the length of the central block on the platform side supported by cast iron columns. The layout comprises a waiting room in the centre with the main entrance, and a series of rooms on either side, all having access through the platform.

The smaller side blocks have a gable front and a lean-to shed/verandah on the side opening onto the courtyard. The southern block is the men’s toilet block and has a small gabled roof vent with louvers. The buildings retain their original configuration, having undergone very few modifications since their construction in 1886.

PLATFORM (c1886)
The straight side platform is brick faced and was extended in 1907. It has straight brick coping and a gravel surface. The platform includes two timber gates which are likely to be original, one at the southern end and the other at the northern; two ‘Tenterfield’ metal signs, and an ‘Avery’ weighing Scale.

The building is the former engine driver’s residence and was constructed out of brick. It has a gable roof with smaller cross gables facing the front and rear. There are verandahs with simple timber posts along both elevations. Features and detailing including a chimney; scalloped timber valence to the sides of the verandahs; oval opening to the gables; plinth course and sill course in render; panelled doors with flymesh doors; and double hung windows with flymesh windows. The roof structure comprises timber king post trusses with raised tie and supporting timber boarding with corrugated, galvanised iron roofing. Some portions have ceilings which appear to be later additions. The chimney has two distinct vertical portions indicating that the eastern portion was added later, perhaps in 1942 when changes were made (Tenterfield Shire Local Heritage Register). The original layout comprised four individual bedrooms in a back-to-back arrangement, each facing onto a verandah, with doors and windows opening onto it. A narrow combined toilet/ washroom/ bathroom extended across the width of the building with access from each of the verandahs. There was a larger meal room and a kitchen both with access from either verandahs. The building retains much of the original layout and features, displaying a high level of integrity.

The barracks consist of 3 single storey weatherboard huts. Each hut comprises timber weatherboard walls and timber floor with a window in the centre of the east façade and a door in the centre of the west façade. The roof construction is unusual in having two corrugated, galvanised iron roof coverings with a gap between the two. The top one is a common roof and floats like a canopy with timber rafters supported by brackets under the projecting eaves mounted on walls through bolts. Each of the huts is supported by timber floor beams resting on masonry plinths. This might suggest that the huts were probably prefabricated and used as modular units. The huts are separated by gaps with windows on either side. Other features include double hung windows, battened doors, matchboard ceiling and weatherboard interior walls.

The goods shed is 135' x 30' in dimensions and is constructed out of corrugated, galvanised iron cladding on timber framing with a gabled roof supported on timber brackets. The roof includes projecting eaves and exposed rafter ends. The barge boards have carved ends. There is a gable roofed, weatherboard office with a chimney, attached to the north side of the shed. The roof is supported by timber king post trusses. The windows are timber, double hung sash.

A timber deck surrounds the building on all sides. For easy access to rail wagons, the building and deck are raised, the former on brick piers and the latter on timber stumps. There are protective rails all along the walls.

The structure comprises a single-skin of corrugated, galvanised iron sheet cladding on steel frame and steel trusses supporting the gabled roof of corrugated, galvanised iron. The roof has overhanging eaves supported by steel brackets. The windows comprise unglazed openings. The shed is used to display trikes.

SIGN-ON SHED (c1940)
It is understood to have been built in 1940s as a small timber-framed office building on the western side of the engine shed, between the barrack and the shed itself. The building originally had three distinct portions- chargeman/DLE’s office, sign-on room, and WC/wash basin area. The lower portion of the exterior walls is weatherboard and the upper fibro cement board. Internally, the walls are asbestos cement sheeting. The building has a hipped roof clad in asbestos cement sheeting and an unusual corner brick fireplace/chimney. A full verandah runs along the front (eastern) façade and a pathway with steps led up through the terraced garden. The building retains good integrity. The building existed in a poor condition until 1999 when it was restored to its present state. It is currently used as the District Manager’s office.

The turntable is constructed out of cast iron and is 60 feet in diameter. It is manually operated and sits on circular brickwork bedding.

The loading platform is located towards the northern end of the railway precinct and comprises a raised area with ramps on both ends and a concrete retaining wall along the track. The concrete wall appears to be constructed of pre-fabricated panels.

JIB CRANE (1886)
The jib crane (T433 sits on a solid concrete pedestal/platform and is operational.

The coal stage was constructed out of timber bearers supported on steel beams on steel uprights made from rail tracks on the site of the original 1886 coal stage. Only scant remnants remain as relics of the original structure.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Railway station building: good
Platform and its elements: moderate
Trike display shed: good
Timber barracks: moderate
Residential Barracks: moderate
Sign-on Office: good
Coal stage: structurally sound
Turntable: good
Loading platform: good
Goods shed: generally good but decking is in poor condition
Date condition updated:16 Dec 08
Modifications and dates: 1886 Contract drawings signed by William Murray, building contractor for Railway
Station, Coal Stage, Goods Warehouse, Station Masters Residence, Water Tank, 50ft. turntable and Locomotive Shed
1890 Engine drivers barracks erected
1891 Additional Coal Stage constructed. There is also reference to extension of a coal stage in 1908 and reconstruction of a coal stage (most likely the original) in 1949 to reduce length.
1899 Original 50ft. turntable replaced with 60 ft. turntable. Built by William Sellers- Philadelphia in 1886, it replaced an earlier 50 feet diameter turntable, installed on a siding, which was a northern extension of the ‘Goods Siding’.
1908 Coal Stage extended Original engine shed reconstructed and extended
1918 Trackwork alterations and depressed sidings installed
1925 An additional 20,000 gallon water tank installed
1928 Hydraulic jacks installed for engine lifting
1929 An additional 20,000 gallon water tank installed
1942 Alterations for Defence requirements, to Barracks
1945 Electric lighting to the engine shed & depot; telephone and call bells installed at the cocoa shed
1946 Additional Locomotive accommodation installed
1947 Coaling tractors improved
1948 Additional Locomotive accommodation installed
1949 Coal Stage reconstructed to reduced length
1950 Hot water service installed at the Barracks
1951 Improvements to the Loco. accommodation
1959 Ash pit extended
c1960s Railway Institute demolished
1968 Demolition of the Engine Shed
1989 Trackwork removed, Tenterfield Depot
2000 Conservation Works completed on Station and Yard
(Forsyth, 2009)
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: Tenterfield railway precinct is located on the Main North line, running from Sydney and extending north to the Queensland border, at the town of Wallangarra. The Main North Line (also known as the Great Northern Railway) runs through the Central Coast, Hunter and the New England regions. The line was the original main line between Sydney and Brisbane, however this required a change of gauge at Wallangarra. The line is now closed north of Armidale, and the main route between Brisbane and Sydney is now the North Coast line.

In 1841 Sir Stuart Donaldson was running 18,000 sheep on a property that he named Tenterfield Station, after a family home in Scotland. Donaldson was the first premier of NSW and made biannual trips to Tenterfield to inspect his holdings there, which covered 100,000 acres (400 km2) of unfenced land. The township was gazetted in 1851 with allotments being sold in 1854. In 1858 gold was discovered at Drake (Fairfield) and shortly afterwards at Timbarra and Boonoo Boonoo. During 1859 an AJS Bank opened and an Anglican Church was built the following year. In the 1860s The Tenterfield Chronicle was published; the district court was established; the building of a hospital commenced and a public school was opened. In 1870 the population was less than 900, but the town had five hotels, a school of arts and three churches. The existing Tenterfield Post Office was constructed in 1881.

In February 1886 it was announced that the successful contractor for the erection of the station buildings at Tenterfield was William Murray. Murray also undertook to provide a goods shed, an engine shed, foundations for an engine tank, a pumping engine house, an engine store, a coal stage, a 50 ft turntable pit, and various sheep and cattle races. On the 1st of September 1886 the line to Tenterfield was opened for business. By 1891 the engine driver's barracks had been completed, the last of the array of railway buildings and structures on the site (GBA; 2007).

The site comprised a locomotive depot, demolished in 1968, consisting of an engine shed; barracks, sign-on office, coal stage, turntable, loading dock and goods shed, which are still extant on site; and water columns and tanks, sand sheds, ash pits and oil/equipment store which no longer exist. The original locomotive shed was constructed in 1886 and was replaced by a new one on the same site in 1908.

The railway facilities at Tenterfield changed little over the next century. The only structural addition to the passenger station before World War I was an extension of the platform in 1907. In 1960 the station master's residence and the passenger station were connected to reticulated sewer system, but this was the only major work carried out in the station area. However, the buildings were modified to suit modern tastes. Old buildings were stripped of their decorative excesses to make them seem a little more modern. Thus, by 1965 Tenterfield Passenger Station had lost its wrought iron finials, timber pendants and fretted gable end decorations (GBA; 2007).

By the 1960s, the Tenterfield locomotive depot was becoming redundant with steam being rapidly phased out and diesel technology not requiring an infrastructure of locomotive depots. There was certainly no need for extensive service facilities at Tenterfield and no need for such facilities as ash pits, coal stages, and water tanks. On 8 June 1968, with the end of steam operations on the Northern Line, the locomotive shed at Tenterfield was demolished (GBA; 2007).

The development of the North Coast line resulted in a slow decline for Tenterfield, as passengers preferred the more direct route to Brisbane. The decline was most profound in the late 1950s and by November 1988 the last mail/passenger train left Tenterfield. On 17 July 1989, the State Rail Authority of NSW (StateRail) announced the pending closure of Tenterfield Railway Station, a decision that was effected on 30 November 1990. In 1991 the Tenterfield Railway Preservation Society was formed, and in 1992 a Heritage Museum was opened at the site (GBA; 2007). In 2007, the Office of Rail Heritage, Rail Corporation NSW, assumed management of seven key rail heritage precincts, which included Tenterfield.

Tenterfield and Tenterfield railway station were associated with a number of historical events in Australia’s history:
- 1889 - Sir Henry Parkes delivered his famous Tenterfield speech calling for Federation before departing on a special train to Sydney. The speech at the School of Arts is regarded as a significant event in the lead-up to Federation;
- 1919 - a quarantine facility was set up in Tenterfield during the influenza pandemic;
- 1942 - During World War II, Tenterfield was earmarked as a key battleground if the Japanese should invade Australia. During 1942 thousands of soldiers were set up in emergency camps, unbeknown to the locals, to cope with such an event. Minor changes were made to the railway barracks for Defence requirements.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Transporting crops-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Transporting agricultural supplies and machinery-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Servicing the pastoral industry-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Transporting livestock and their products-
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 Transport of goods-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Servicing and accomodating railway employees-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Transporting troops and equipment-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Federation and railways-
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. Railway gardens-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Tenterfield railway precinct is state significant for its historical values as a tangible link to the development of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) line during the 19th century as well as the development of the NSW railways during the steam era. The GNR was an important achievement in transport and engineering within NSW. As the third main trunk rail route in NSW stretching from Sydney to the Queensland border, the line linked townships to one another as well as to Sydney leading to significant economic and social impacts for those individual townships as well as for NSW generally. The establishment of the station itself was one of the biggest events in the history of Tenterfield and its surrounding areas.

Tenterfield railway precinct is a large and highly intact railway precinct demonstrating the typical elements of a large, 19th century railway station and yard with a large and grand, first class station building; a brick, engine drivers’ barracks and 3 weatherboard huts; goods shed; a coal stage; a 60 ft turntable pit; station master’s residence; coal stage; footbridge, and associated facilities such as the jib crane. These items relate to the steam era of the railways and were once necessary and typical infrastructure found throughout NSW.

The Tenterfield railway precinct is linked with a number of significant historical events such as the Federation movement; the flu epidemic following the first world war; visiting dignitaries; wars, and the gradual demise of the railway service. The station was the site of Sir Henry Parkes’ departure for Sydney to advocate for Federation following his ‘Tenterfield speech’ at the Tenterfield School of Arts; the departure and arrival of soldiers during the First World War; it became an emergency quarantine station when the influenza pandemic broke out in 1919; and the station yard provided accommodation for staff of the defence forces during WWII in the form of a special siding in 1942. Finally, the station’s conversion to a museum is witness to the gradual decline in rail use leading to the closure of the Tenterfield line in late 1980s, following a similar pattern in other parts of the country.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Tenterfield railway station is associated with Sir Henry Parkes as an advocate of Federation. It was from Tenterfield railway station that he set out on a special train to Sydney after his historic speech at the Tenterfield School of Arts calling for a federation.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Tenterfield railway station has aesthetic significance as a first class station building (of which only 19 were built) demonstrating the architectural features and ornamentation of Rustic Gothic in the use of steeply pitched prominent gables with decorative bargeboards, finials, pendants and label moulds, and Filigree in the use of cast iron filigree and ornamental columns to verandahs. The front façade has decorative detailing in render in the form of raised mouldings/cornices and label courses. The rear façade is similar in features and detailing.

It is a prominent building within the streetscape of Tenterfield. The street facade of the station building is highly intact and visible from a long distance.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Tenterfield railway precinct is of social significance to the local community having performed an important role in supporting the town as a regional centre for agricultural commerce and thereby being the site of significant activity and employment. The railway precinct is now a museum run by the Tenterfield Railway Preservation Society who actively conserve and promote rail heritage at the site. The site is significant for its ability to contribute to the local community’s sense of place and provides a connection to the local community’s past.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
As a large railway precinct consisting of a variety of buildings and structures with good integrity, Tenterfield railway precinct has the potential to provide research opportunities regarding the technical and operational aspects of a regional railway precinct during the steam era.
SHR Criteria f)
Tenterfield station is rare as a good example of a regional rail centre near a state border, which has retained examples of various periods of building and technology. The 1890 railway barracks are of particular significance as one of the oldest and most intact in NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
The Tenterfield railway precinct is representative of a typical 19th century railway precinct, with a variety of buildings, structures and facilities associated with the steam era of railway technology as well as how this typical 19th century precinct developed both operationally and technologically over 100 years.
Integrity/Intactness: The precinct has a very good level of integrity with a near complete grouping of railway structures. The station buildings have a very good level of integrity and are in sound condition.
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    
Heritage studyTenterfield Railway Station group    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA213State Rail Authority  No
Heritage and Conservation Register State Rail Authority of NSW1993315Paul Davies for SRA  No
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 ORH  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCottee, J.M.2004Stations on the track: selected New South Wales country railway stations: an historical overview
WrittenDavid Scobie Architects Pty Ltd Pty Ltd2000Conservation Management Plan
WrittenForsyth, J.H2009NSW Railway Stations - An Alphabetical Arrangement of Railway Station and Place Names
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates Pty. Ltd2007Tenterfield Rail Heritage Precinct Conservation Management Strategy
WrittenMcKillop, R2009NSW Railways (RailCorp) Thematic History

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: 4801213

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