Werris Creek Railway Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Werris Creek Railway Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Werris Creek Railway Precinct
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Single Street, Werris Creek, NSW 2341
Parish: Grenfell
County: Buckland
Local govt. area: Liverpool Plains

Boundary:

The listing boundary is the railway boundary on all sides, commencing on the south 20 metres outside the down home signal, and on the two lines to the north, 20 metres outside both up home signals.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Single StreetWerris CreekLiverpool PlainsGrenfellBucklandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Werris Creek Railway Precinct is of state significance as a major location at the junction of the Main North line and the North West branch line and as a railway locality that predated the development of the surrounding town. The scale and grandeur of some of the buildings, most notably the main station building and the refreshment room reflects the importance given to this location by railway authorities in the late 19th century, and the precinct makes an important contribution to the townscape of Werris Creek. The arrangement of buildings on the junction platform is also unusual and significant.

The place has aesthetic significance for its collection of highly intact Victorian and Federation railway buildings. The precinct is significant for its high quality of design and detailing with one of the largest and best examples of nineteenth century railway architecture in NSW. It has intact evidence of the passenger station, railway refreshment rooms and other items including staff cottages and nearby sheds and a locomotive depot.

Werris Creek remains an important railway precinct which is home to the Australian Railway Monument and to the ‘Rail Journeys’ museum located in the former refreshment room. The place has social value as indicated by the continuing active support of the museum by volunteers and for its historical and continuing relationship for the people of Werris Creek including many whose employment and social activities were closely linked with the railway.

The footbridge was identified as an item of exceptional heritage significance in the 2016 ‘Railway Footbridges Heritage Conservation Strategy’. Its main feature is the joining of the old rails head to head so the rail feet form flanges (I-beams). The footbridge spans as a 'cranked' portal frame from the railway earth embankments with no stairs or ramps. It is part of an important State significant railway station precinct.
Date significance updated: 21 Oct 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.

Description

Designer/Maker: John Whitton (attributed)
Construction years: 1880-1925
Physical description: MAJOR STRUCTURES - Managed by RailCorp
Station Building - type 5, first class (1880, 1923)
Railway Refreshment Rooms (1885, 1912) houses the Rail Journeys Museum
Luggage Room (1902)
Signal Box (1925)
Platform face (1880)
Footbridge (1893)
Australian Railway Monument (2005)

MAJOR STRUCTURES - Managed by ARTC
Station Master’s Residence (1913)
Workshop, and Staff Hut


STATION BUILDING, LUGGAGE ROOM AND RRR (1880 - 1923)
The station and RRR buildings present as grand two-storey Victorian Free Classical buildings. The original facades of the 1885 buildings remain largely intact. The facade expresses the load bearing-wall construction of painted stone and a rich red face brickwork. Brickwork is Flemish bond with white tuck pointing. All stone quoins and timber detailing are painted in a golden yellow. Most windows on both buildings are double hung with single panes of glass. Original doors remain and are generally four - panelled timber doors with fanlights, and stone architraves. A parapet conceals the roof of the original RRR building and features a decorative entablature, two urns and a projecting cornice with classical consoles. A timber verandah with simple timber detailing and timber balustrade is also located on the southern entry to the RRR building.

A deep verandah roofed in corrugated sheet runs along the rail platforms and along the east and west elevation of the station building. The verandah was extended in 1892 along the east of the RRR building. The verandah features decorative timber rafters supported on slender round cast iron columns with cast iron brackets.

The first floor storey extension of the kitchen in the 1911 building and the 1960 southern extension to the station building use a similar red brick. The roof is a simple half gabled (gabled hip) roof with exposed rafter. The first floor storey extensions of the station building in 1923 and 1939 are of a Georgian revival style and use a different light brown brick. The roof is concealed by a simple geometric parapet.

A later fibro sheet bridge connects the two buildings. Interior fabric of both buildings have been largely altered. An original timber staircase, cast iron columns, and timber ceiling remain intact in the RRR building.

SIGNAL BOX (1925)
The signal box is a simple timber structure with rusticated weatherboards and a simple gable roof. The northern facade features a single timber panelled door. The other three facades feature three-paned timber sliding windows with a three-paned fanlight. Internally the signal box retains signal equipment and the manual switch for the railway tracks.

PLATFORM (1880)
Junction platforms. Platform 1 is a concave shape, with brick face and straight coping. Platform 2 is a straight platform made of brick, coping has been raised twice.

STATION MASTER’S RESIDENCE (1913)
The SM’s residence was most likely built for the night Station Master in 1913. The building is a simple Federation gable-roofed weatherboard cottage that features simple detailing and a front verandah on the north side. The residence has double hung multi-pane windows, timber window awnings and decorative timber valances at the ends of the verandah. It also has modern pipe columns in the place of the original timber verandah posts. A later fibro sheet extension has been added to the western façade. Much of the original interior detail remains intact, such as timber doors, architraves, cornices and fireplaces.

FOOTBRIDGE (1893)
A simple girder structure made from old rails. Its main feature is the joining of the old rails head to head so the rail feet form flanges (I-beams).
SITE FEATURES:
- Various original station signage
- Various original timber doors, architraves, cornices and fireplaces
- Maroon cast iron bubbler
- Original interlocking machine in signal box
MOVABLE ITEMS
NSW Railway heritage listed sites contain significant collections of stored movable railway heritage, including furniture, signs, operational objects, ex-booking office and ticketing objects, paper records, clocks, memorabilia, indicator boards and artwork. Individually, these objects are important components of the history of each site. Together, they form a large and diverse collection of movable objects across the NSW rail network. Sydney Trains maintains a database of movable heritage. For up-to-date information on all movable heritage items at this site, contact the Sydney Trains heritage team.

Key items at this station include but are not limited to:
- Large cast iron safe (Parcel’s Office)
- 4 x Werris Creek name benches around platforms
- Several ‘Cruck frame’ platform seats (2 x green, 1 x cream, 1x maroon & cream)

Note many store rooms in the station and RRR building are currently filled with movable items under the custody of the local museum group; of which a large collection of moveable heritage items are also stored and displayed in the museum.

Following items form part of the SHR listing for the site:
Wall clock, large, 0.5/2.4/0.3, (AC02) refreshment room.

LANDSCAPE
The area to the north of the RRR today comprises the Australian Railway Monument, a bitumen-paved car park and an Australian native plant garden on the eastern (main platform) side. The plant types in the garden include a predominance of grevilleas. This new garden has been developed over the past decade with volunteer labour.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Most buildings are in good condition.
Date condition updated:30 Nov 09
Modifications and dates: 1892- eastern platform awning of RRR extended
1911- additional floor built over the RRR
1923- second floor built over Station Building
1939- extension to Station Building extended across entire building
1960- men's toilets added to station building and female toilets upgraded
2005- Railway Journeys Museum, maintenance works and repainting of the railway station, refreshment room and signal building undertaken.
2012: Removal of hazardous materials (asbestos and lead paint/dust) from various locations within the Main Station Building and Railway Refreshment Room. Minor upgrade of the first floor of the Railway Refreshment Room building to provide additional museum space, and repairs. This includes: Combining of some internal partition walls on the RRR first floor to allow for museum display space. Upgrade the existing gents bathroom on the first floor of the RRR into a family accessible bathroom and baby change room. Convert the existing ladies bathroom on the first floor of the RRR into a storeroom. Open out the existing cleaner’s cupboard to combine with existing hallway to reinstate natural light into first floor hallway.
Current use: Museum, rail monument, train services
Former use: Train services (passenger and freight) and district administrative offices

History

Historical notes: Werris Creek Railway Precinct is located on the Main North line, running from Sydney and extending north to the Queensland border, at the town of Wallangarra.

When the line between Newcastle and East Maitland was opened on 20 March 1857, the Governor Sir William Denison, renamed the previously planned ‘Hunter River Railway’ as the ‘Great Northern Railway’ (GNR) between Newcastle to Wallangarra. A number of railway stations along this section of the Main North Line still bear the initials GNR on their façade. The Main North was once the main line to Queensland, with a break-of-gauge at the border. Now, however, the North Coast Line provides a standard gauge line to Brisbane, and the Main North is closed just beyond Armidale (nswrail.net).

In 1877, the decision was made to build a branch line off the Great Northern Railway line to serve the north west of NSW. Werris Creek was selected as the best location for the junction. There was no settlement at all at Werris Creek in 1877, so the major junction on the Great Northern Railway was sited, cost effectively, in splendid isolation in the middle of a paddock owned as a free selection by pastoralist George Single (Ellsmore, 2002; Love, 1996).

In October 1878, a 37-mile section of the Great Northern Railway opened between Quirindi and West Tamworth. In 1879, the branch line opened, linking Werris Creek to Gunnedah, Narrabri and Moree and making Werris Creek an important railway junction. The existing platform, built at the junction between the main line and branch line, was completed in 1879. Two contracts were let for construction of the single-storey passenger station and the two-storey refreshment room, with the refreshment room completed in 1884 and the station building in 1885 (replacing an earlier timber structure) (Ellsmore, 2002; Love, 1996).

In 1892, the eastern platform awning of the privately operated refreshment rooms (RRR) was extended north to the northern end of the RRR. In 1896, a small locomotive depot was established on the western side of the station. In 1917, a new, larger depot was established at a site nearly one kilometre to the south. The old site was then used as a steam driven power-generating plant to light the new depot and station building. In 1893, a footbridge was constructed over the northern line and a run of advertising hoardings was constructed at the rear of the eastern platform. In 1911, an additional floor was built over the RRR kitchens to provide new accommodation for guests and a timber balcony was built over the entrance of the south side of the RRR. This arrangement survives to this day (Ellsmore, 2002; Love, 1996).

In the late 19th century, Tamworth was the headquarters for railway operations in the north of the state, but by the early 1920s Werris Creek had begun to usurp Tamworth as the region’s main railway centre. In 1917, the locomotive depot was expanded and in 1923 a second floor was added to the station building to accommodate the relocation of the District Superintendent to Werris Creek (the District Superintendent had moved from Tamworth to Murrurundi in 1896). The station building was further extended in 1939 to complete the two-storey structure that can be seen today (Ellsmore, 2002; Love, 1996).

The railway station complex evolved to meet railway and passenger needs. The RRR was an important operation in the early years and it needed to be largely self-contained to cater for its business activities at all hours due to the railway timetable. Facilities that were provided for staff (servants) included a fenced yard, which contained a kitchen garden, producing fruit, flowers and vegetables for the RRR. By increments it became an ornamental garden (Ellsmore, 2002; Love, 1996).

For approximately 70 years Werris Creek was the largest railway centre in the north of NSW. At its peak in the mid-20th century it incorporated extensive facilities. These included (but were not limited to):

- a large two-storey station building with refreshment rooms, overnight accommodation, office accommodation, and a Telephone Train Control centre;
- a marshalling/shunting yard;
- locomotive depot (including a roundhouse, coal stage and workshops);
- barracks accommodation;
- a water supply reservoir;
- carriage shed;
- wheat handling facilities; and
- various residences and miscellaneous buildings (Love, 1996).

By the mid-1970s, large shunting yards like Werris Creek were becoming obsolete. By the 1980s many structures such as carriage sheds, goods sheds, stockyards, loading banks and fuel terminals had been or were being removed from many yards in NSW, including from Werris Creek. As the RRR function declined the gardens also fell into disuse and the area was subsequently reclaimed in part for a car park for railway staff and station users (Love, 1996).

Today Werris Creek continues as a small operational rail centre and is home to both the ‘Rail Journeys’ Museum and the Australian Railway Monument (opened on October the 1st, 2005). Both are a tribute to the railway industry and employees for their contribution to Australia’s development. Werris Creek is now regarded as the ‘first’ railway town in NSW, not the oldest but the first to exist solely due to the railways.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Signalling and safe working-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Mail trains and parcels service-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Utilising timber for railway purposes-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Railway Workshops-
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-
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 Making railway journeys-
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 accommodating railway employees-
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 accommodating passengers-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creation of railway towns-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Making gas /generating electricity-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Rail heritage volunteers-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Educating people in regional locations-
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. Railway administration-
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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Railway celebrations and commemorations-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Werris Creek railway precinct is 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 generally. 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 more generally. Werris Creek Railway Precinct is significant as a major junction on the northern NSW railway system. From 1877 trains travelling north could follow the Great Northern Railway line to the Queensland border via Werris Creek or they could branch off to Gunnedah (and eventually Moree) at Werris Creek. The junction became highly significant as a place where passengers and goods were transhipped, where trains and crews changed and where passengers stopped for refreshments. The small town, which developed out of nothing to be a significant railway service centre, where many families were sustained by the income derived from railway related employment. The scale and grandeur of some of the buildings reflects the importance given to this location by railway authorities in the late 19th century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Werris Creek Railway Precinct is significant for its association with John Whitton, 'father' of the NSW Railways, and his colleagues and successors. The place is a fine example of late nineteenth century railway architecture. It therefore stands as a monument to Whitton’s elegant vision for a substantial railway building at Werris Creek.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Werris Creek Railway Precinct is significant as one of the largest and best examples of highly intact Victorian and Federation railway architecture in NSW. The precinct is significant for its high quality of design, detailing and its unique setting at the junction of two railway lines. It demonstrates refined taste and competent detailing, especially in the two-storey railway refreshment rooms. Recent works to the place have recovered aspects of significance such as the large refreshment room with its high ceilings and cast iron columns. The works have been researched in detail to enable the authentic values of the RRR to be conserved.

The place makes an important contribution to the townscape of Werris Creek. It includes extant evidence of the passenger station, railway refreshment rooms, gas and power plants and other items including staff cottages and nearby sheds and a locomotive depot.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Werris Creek developed as a 'railway town' and throughout much of its history most or all residents of the town were either directly employed by the railways or had close links to the railways. Many residents in the town are still involved in the rail industry, are retired railway employees, and/or are volunteers at the museum. Werris Creek is home to the Australian Railway Monument (a memorial for railway employees throughout Australia who were killed at work) and to the ‘Rail Journeys’ museum which is located in the former refreshment room.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The place has some potential to reveal information about rail travel generally and about the design and operation of refreshments rooms and major country stations particularly with the ability to interpret this to the public in association with the present museum.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The arrangement and scale of the station buildings on the junction platform is unusual. Few locations have buildings of this scale (other examples include Junee and Moss Vale).
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Werris Creek Railway Precinct is significant as it demonstrates the principal characteristics of nineteenth-century railway places. It has intact evidence of the passenger station and railway refreshment rooms. The SM’s residence has local significance as an example of the standard of housing provided to railway employees in the early part of the twentieth century.

The footbridge was identified as an item of exceptional heritage significance in the 2016 ‘Railway Footbridges Heritage Conservation Strategy’. Its main feature is the joining of the old rails head to head so the rail feet form flanges (I-beams). The footbridge spans as a 'cranked' portal frame from the railway earth embankments with no stairs or ramps. It is part of an important State significant railway station precinct.
Integrity/Intactness: The station buildings have a high level of integrity and retain a good level of intactness with some modifications in recent decades (including for example changes to the refreshment room for use as a museum). As a precinct, Werris Creek is an outstanding intact place.
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.

Listings

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 Study1999SRA177State Rail Authority  No
S170 Register Update Project2009 ARTC/ ORH  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes
Railway Footbridges Heritage Conservation Strategy 2016 NSW Government Architect’s Office Heritage Group  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Other  RailCorp Historic Plans, various
WrittenAustralian Heritage Commission Register of the National Estate, Werris Creek Railway Station, Inventory Sheet
WrittenDonald Ellsmore Pty Ltd2002The Australian Railway Monument Werris Creek: railway cottages: analysis of paint finishes and statement of heritage impact in relation to conservation works to the building fabric and external painting in heritage colour schemes
WrittenJ.M. Cottee2004Stations on the track: selected New South Wales country railway stations: an historical overview
WrittenLee, Robert2000Colonial Engineer
WrittenMcKillop, R2009NSW Railways (RailCorp) Thematic History
WrittenOffice Of Rail Heritage2012Werris Creek SOHI: Hazardous Materials Remediation and Upgrade Works
WrittenOtto Cserhalmi and Partners Pty Ltd2007Werris Creek Railway Precinct Conservation Management Strategy
WrittenR.D. Love1996Werris Creek heritage survey: A heritage survey of railway buildings and structures
WrittenSharp, Dr Stuart1999The Australian Railway Monument, Werris Creek, Rail Estate

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

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(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: 4806177


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