Nambucca Heads Railway Station | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Nambucca Heads Railway Station

Item details

Name of item: Nambucca Heads Railway Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Foxs Road, Nambucca Heads, NSW 2448
Local govt. area: Nambucca


RailCorp property boundaries as shown on vesting plan, R29728. 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
Foxs RoadNambucca HeadsNambucca  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Nambucca Heads railway station is significant at a local level as a tangible link to the development of the North Coast line, which was historically significant in linking the logging, agricultural and pastoral industries of the north coast to an efficient transport network. The station building is a good example of a large interwar railway 'domestic' style station with stripped functionalist detailing. This architectural style was unique to the NSW railways and was a departure from previous railway architectural designs, illustrating an attempt by the railways to both modernise and economise.
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.


Physical description: MAJOR STRUCTURES - Managed by RailCorp
Station building, type 13 (c1943)
Platform - brick

The station building is a large, linear, painted brick structure with a hipped roof clad in Marseille-pattern terra cotta tiles. The architectural aesthetic is of an interwar, domestic style with Stripped Functionalist form and detailing. The building is curved in plan and features contrasting brickwork with stretcher bond and header courses; steel framed windows; horizontal banding, and includes a cantilevered awning covering the platform. The original plan also included glass bricks, which have since been removed. Entry to the station is via a ramp through a porch with a curved corners and timber fascia.

The internal layout features toilets; a parcels office; signal box; meal room; booking office; waiting rooms; station master’s office, and a store room.

PLATFORM (c1945?)
Straight side platform. Steel rail post and concrete panel cast in situ.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Platform: Good
Date condition updated:12 Oct 09
Modifications and dates: The entire building has been recently painted, and a window converted to a door at the northern end of the building, but otherwise modern photographs indicate few changes have occurred to the exterior of the building.

Further changes and additions to the station precinct included the installation of a de-ashing plant in 1945, the provision of housing accommodation for Traffic Branch staff in 1949, and the removal of the water tank in 1984 (Forsyth, 2009).
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: Nambucca Heads railway precinct is located on the North Coast line, the major trunk line from NSW to Queensland.

Railways in the far north coast region had been proposed as early as the 1870s. The main aim was to divert rural products in the region to a safe shipping port on the coast, using rail transport. The early farming settlements of the North Coast region of NSW began in the late 1830s with the expanding pastoral industry forming the basis for several towns such as Casino and Kempsey along the north coast. It was not until 1894 that the 62 mile section of railway line was opened between Lismore and Murwillumbah, leading to the extension of the line southward to Maitland in 1903.

Railway construction in the area continued over the next eleven years and by 1905 an isolated railway system was in service joining Grafton on the north bank of the Clarence River to Casino, through Lismore and on to Murwillumbah. In 1930 the line was connected to the Queensland railway system at South Brisbane (Cottee, 2004).

The region of the northern rivers, which includes Nambucca, was first explored by John Oxley in 1820. The cutting of Australian red cedar had started in the area by 1842. It is believed that the first house was built in 1867, when about 50 people had settled in the valley to cut cedar or raise corn. The site of Nambucca Heads was surveyed in 1874 and the first hotel and school were both established in 1884. It was proclaimed a village in 1885. The North Coast railway was extended from Taree to south Grafton in 1915, but the station at Nambucca Heads was not opened until 1923.

The single line from Macksville to Urunga opened on 3 December 1923. The Macksville to Coffs Harbour section was constructed by the Public Works Department, with work commencing on 8 March 1912. The contract was taken over by Messrs Norton Griffith on 24 April 1915. The contract was cancelled on 15 May 1917 and work was reverted to the Public Works Department.

The station was opened on 3 December 1923, and was renamed Nambucca in October 1925, before reverting back to the original name on 21 June 1964. On 18 November 1989 the station was closed, and re-opened as a Countrylink stop (Forsyth, 2009).

Plans dating to the opening of the station show the station precinct as consisting of a single side platform and station building, a type toilet block, 5-tonne gantry crane, two water columns, an ash pit, pump house, and a 20,000 gallon water tank. Plans from 1933 also indicate the existence of a fettler’s cottage and tool shed, along with a station master’s residence, which internally comprised of two bedrooms, a bathroom, lounge and dining rooms, and a kitchen. In 1939 a timber out-of room was added to the platform, adjacent to the station building.

In 1945 the station was provided with a new brick station building, the original having been destroyed by fire. The new building internally comprised of a ladies room and lavatory, general waiting room, a combined station master’s and booking office, a booking bay with glass brick feature, a parcels office, signal box, and an out-of room. The building also featured a cantilevered awning, Marseilles roof tiles, and water tanks on either side of the building. A new concrete platform was also provided to replace the original.

From around the 1930s, the NSW railways began to experiment with adapting conventional domestic architectural models to suit the linear arrangement of station buildings. These designs attempted to use new forms and materials and are typified by the use of dichromatic brickwork, low pitched hipped tiled roofs and stepped massing. The appearance of hipped roofs on station buildings was a significant departure from the Victorian/Federation/Edwardian period styles that had preceded it, where the gabled roof was dominant. It is not surprising that these early experiments were largely relegated to far-flung regional stations such as Griffith and Mullumbimby and smaller suburban stations, such as Dulwich Hill. (Humphreys, A. and Ellsmore, D; 2001: 39)

Out of this period of architectural innovation emerged a new style that appears to have been developed solely by the railways - 20th Century Stripped Functionalist. This was a successful marriage between standardised units and a modern architectural movement. Between 1935 and 1951 it was the preferred style for new station architecture and allowed considerable design freedom to the design engineers. Standardised units were cleverly disguised behind a variety of Functionalist elements: parapeted gables, curved steel awnings, panels of glass bricks, curved bays of bullnosed bricks and decorative bondwork. There is considerable variation amongst the finished products and the style was flexible enough for it to be applied successfully to buildings of all sizes (Humphreys, A. and Ellsmore, D; 2001: 39).

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 Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Transporting timber and forest products-
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 Nambucca Heads railway precinct is significant for its historical values as a tangible link to the development of the North Coast line which was significant in linking the logging, agricultural and pastoral industries of the north coast to markets in both Sydney and Brisbane leading to significant economic and social impacts for individual townships as well as for NSW generally. The development of the NSW railways is illustrated at Nambucca Heads through the style of the station building, which saw a departure from previous railway architectural designs and illustrates an attempt by the railways to both modernise and economise.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The station building has significance as an interwar 'domestic' style railway building with stripped functionalist detailing
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Nambucca Heads railway precinct has social significance having performed an important civic role in the local community supporting local logging, agricultural and pastoral commerce and thereby being the site of significant activity and employment. The railway station contributes to the local community’s sense of place and remaining in general use provides a connection to the local community’s past.
SHR Criteria g)
Nambucca Heads station building is one of 14 station buildings (the other examples include: West Maitland, Gymea, Woolooware, Caringbah, Miranda, Sutherland, Cringila, Coniston, St Mary’s, Pendle Hill, Toongabbie, Nowra and Clyde Stations) that are characterised as examples of 20th Century Stripped Functionalist station architecture in NSW, representing an important phase of railway construction. It represents an architectural style that is unique to the railways and reflects the railway's attempts to embrace new architectural forms and philosophies of the period.
Integrity/Intactness: The station building has a high level of 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  18 Mar 10   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
S170 Heritage & Conservation Register Update2009 ORH  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAndrea Humphreys and Donald Ellsmore2002Inter-War Station Buildings
WrittenCottee, J.M.2004Stations on the track: selected New South Wales country railway stations: an historical overview
WrittenDepartment of Railways, NSW, Way and Works Branch1943Nambucca New Station Buildings - Steel Windows
WrittenForsyth, J.H.2009NSW Railway Stations - An Alphabetical Arrangement of Railway Station and Place Names
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: 4805725

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