Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) Railway Underbridge, Subway & Ticket Office | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) Railway Underbridge, Subway & Ticket Office

Item details

Name of item: Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) Railway Underbridge, Subway & Ticket Office
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Primary address: Burren Street, Macdonaldtown, NSW
Local govt. area: Sydney


The boundary includes the four underbridges at Burren Street as described below:North: north edge of northern underbridgeSouth: south edge of southern underbridge East: Upside of brick abutment pier including subway and ticket office West: Downside of Brick abutment pier
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Burren StreetMacdonaldtownSydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The four underbridges that make up the Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) underbridge have local significance as a representative group of underbridges, added to a site to accommodate the expanding railway system from the mid 1880s until the 1920s. One of the four, erected in 1884, is an early example of the use of locally produced plate-web girders and represents the beginnings of sophisticated local fabrication techniques and a shift away from importing prefabricated materials. The 1891 bridge, added as part of the duplication of the line through Macdonaldtown, used the first set of riveted-steel half-through girders in the system. The four underbridges together represent the development of the standard design for iron and steel underbridges within the NSW railway system.

Within the bridge abutments are intact elements of the 1892 station - including a subway, ticket office and WC. These elements are historically significant as they represent the 1892 station arrangement following its relocation at this time to accommodate quadruplification of the line.
Date significance updated: 09 Feb 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: Existing Lines Branch
Builder/Maker: Cooke & Webb Ironworks Redfern
Construction years: 1884-1926
Physical description: UNDERBRIDGE (1884-1926)
The Burren Street Underbridge consists of four individual iron and riveted-steel plate-web girder underbridges, arranged north to south. From the north, the first underbridge carries a single line, the second carries a double line, the third carries a double line and the fourth (south) carries a single line. Each of the underbridges is a riveted steel plate web girder type bridge.

Of the four underbridges, the third from the north being a triple girder underbridge is the oldest (1884), with second from the north being the next (1891) and the two outside underbridges (north and south) being the youngest (1926), which reflects the quadruplication and later sextuplication of the line.

The span of all the bridges is 19m and they are supported by brick abutments on either side of Burren Street. The Up side abutment includes the entrance of the Macdonaldtown Station and forms the external wall of the pedestrian subway.

The station is accessed via the original 1892 vaulted brick pedestrian subway from Burren Street. The Burren Street entrance is an arched entry way, with the top of the arch being rendered and painted. The exterior wall of the station facing Burren Street, which also acts as the abutment for the underbridges which cross Burren Street, is exposed face brick. Some local commercial advertising is painted on the brickwork.

The ticket and station office are within a weatherboard-clad room inside the entrance to the brick subway from Burren Street. There is a single ticket window and office door, but no windows to the Burren Street side.

Located within the southern abutment of the bridges. At ground level, the ablution block is accessed through a door and tunnel on the eastern end of the abutment. Internally, the block has no internal ceilings, and relies on the clerestory and gable-end windows for natural light.
Brick work with timber window structures and galvanised metal and fibrous sheet roof cladding.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good condition, functionally sound and still in regular use.
WC - poor condition
Modifications and dates: 1884-1892: Duplicated
1926: Additional underbridges constructed for electrification.
Current use: Railway Underbridge
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: The Burren Street underbridge was erected in 1884, replacing an earlier laminated timber bridge. The timber Burren Street underbridge was built as part of the first line from Sydney to Parramatta in 1855. Local hardwood timber was used on the bridges along the line, as it was readily available. However by the early 1880s, these were being replaced with iron and later steel bridges as traffic and loads increased on the line.

The 1884 bridge was manufactured locally by Cooke & Webb of the Cleveland ironworks at Redfern and was the largest bridge manufactured in NSW to that time, measuring 61 feet long (19m), 6 feet deep and weighing 15 tons. The bridge represented a change to local design and manufacture of railway infrastructure away from the fully imported lattice girders and plate-web girders that had dominated the system till then. The bridge design at the time was a sophisticated structure for the colonial manufacturers.

When EMG Eddy became Chief Commissioner of Railways in 1888 he set down a policy of replacing timber bridges with iron or steel superstructures.

In 1891 the line through Macdonaldtown heading west was duplicated (this was known as 'the quadruplication' because it increased the tracks from two to four) and a second underbridge was erected to carry the tracks across Burren Street. The 1891 bridges, built for the quadruplication, used the first set of riveted-steel through girders in the system. As part of the quadruplication, the position of Macdonaldtown station was also changed, with the station being relocated to the south of its original position to its current location. A new platform was constructed on the southern side of the line, utilising the original pedestrian subway and Burren Street entrance for access to it.

Two underbridges, carrying a single line, were added to the north and south of the existing bridges in c1926 as part of the electrification and expansion of the Sydney system. The construction of the 1926 underbridge resulted in the demolition of the roof of the station entry building, as the underbridge ran directly over the top of the entrance.

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 or architecture-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) Railway underbridges have local historical significance as a collection of underbridges installed over a period of forty years to deal with the expansion of the Sydney suburban system in 1884, 1891 and 1926. The 1884 underbridge is an early example of a locally made plate-web triple girder bridge, which signified a change to local production from assembly of imported materials. The 1891 bridges, built for the quadruplication, used the first set of riveted-steel through girders in the railway system. The 1884 underbridge represents a move away from the use of timber for railway bridges and its replacement with iron and steel, and along with the adjacent bridges demonstrates the evolution of design illustrated in four underbridges of a similar type.

The subway, ticket office and WC are historically significant as remaining elements of the 1892 station, dating from before the station was relocated to make way for quadruplification of the main south line.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) underbridge (1884) has some association with the former Cooke & Webb Ironworks where the 1884 underbridge was produced.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The 1884 Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) underbridge has technical significance as an early example of a locally produced iron plate-web girder underbridge. Later examples of web plate girder underbridges added to the original Burren Street underbridge, illustrate the continued use of this design style in NSW Railways between 1891 and 1926.
SHR Criteria g)
The Macdonaldtown (Burren Street) underbridge is representative of plate-web girder bridges as used throughout the NSW system.
Integrity/Intactness: The four Burren Street underbridges are intact and remain in use. The ticket office and subway are 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 register  18 Mar 10   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 Godden Mackay Logan  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDon Fraser1995Bridges Down Under: The history of underbridges in NSW

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4803201

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.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.