Muswellbrook Railway Precinct | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Muswellbrook Railway Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Muswellbrook Railway Precinct
Other name/s: Muscelbrook
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Primary address: Market Street, Muswellbrook, NSW 2333
Parish: Brougham
County: Durham
Local govt. area: Muswellbrook


The listing boundary is defined by a line on the southern side of the site running parallel to the tracks directly behind the signal box, to a point at the western end of the platform where it turns north crossing the tracks and then east along the rear fence of the refreshment rooms. It follows this line until the railway yard where it continues east behind the goods shed until a point approximately 5 metres beyond the shed where it turns south to meet the southern boundary.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Market StreetMuswellbrookMuswellbrookBroughamDurhamPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

Muswellbrook railway precinct is of state significance as an excellent example of a mid-19th Century railway complex, completed for the opening of the Great Northern Railway. The 1869 station building is a good example of an early, roadside building with original form, detailing and verandah. The building has been extended and adapted to cope with increased passenger traffic and the need for greater passenger comfort, including the addition of the adjacent two-storey refreshment rooms. Built c1910, the refreshment rooms are an excellent example of a Federation period railway building. The contrast in massing and scale of the two adjacent structures indicates clearly the changing needs of railways and the rapid growth experienced in the early years of the twentieth century. The extant signal box constructed in 1923 is typical of prefabricated signal boxes built to a standard design during the interwar period and reveals improvements in technology, safety and working conditions at Muswellbrook.
Date significance updated: 28 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: John Whitton (attributed)
Builder/Maker: George Blunt
Construction years: 1869-1923
Physical description: MAJOR STRUCTURES - Managed by RailCorp
Station building, type 3, second class (1869)
Refreshment rooms (c1910, additions)
Carriage dock (at Sydney end of platform) (1869)
Platform (1869)

Signal box (1923)
Locomotive depot remains (1943)

The Muswellbrook railway station building is a type 3, second class, rendered brick building with a hipped roof of corrugated, galvanised iron (originally slate). The station building is elevated above street level and the entrance is via steps leading to a stone flagged verandah with a hipped roof of corrugated, galvanised iron supported by timber posts. The verandah roof to the street is original. The doors are timber with moulded panels and the windows are timber, double hung sash. The platform awning is an extension of the awning built at the time of construction of the adjacent refreshment room building. It is a cast iron, cantilevered awning of corrugated, galvanised iron.

The internal layout has changed since originally constructed consisting today of the Station Master’s room, ticket office with inbuilt desk, waiting room, ladies room and toilets.

The refreshment room building is a large, two storey brick structure with two hipped roofs clad in diamond pattern slate tiles with terra cotta ridge capping and rams head finials. The ground floor projects outward from under the first floor, so that a portion has its own roof. The roofs are finished with timber bargeboards and painted rough cast infill. The chimneys are also rough cast cement.

The architectural design of the building includes tuck-pointed brickwork, timber moulded panel doors, some with transom windows, timber double hung sash windows bordered with stone lintels and ornate, rendered sills, and pressed metal cornices.

The layout of the building consists of refreshment rooms and kitchens on the ground floor with accommodation for passengers on the upper floor with associated bathrooms and linen stores.

Internally, the building features pressed metal cornices and ceilings, hard wood floors, and a pine staircase and balustrade.

The dock platform dating from 1869 was used for parcel and mail vans.

Platform 1: Platform comprises 0-12m open steel post concrete deck. 12m-187m brick wall from city end. Recently raised to standard access with concrete deck throughout. Platform 2: Brick faced dock. Track remains but connection to main line removed. Old coal wagon remains in dock. Dock no longer in use but provides partial support to back of main platform at City End. Numerous heritage station signs affixed to external building, for example Ladies, Mens, Waiting Room, Muswellbrook, and ‘Muswellbrook 145.3m height above sea level’. Heritage benches with station name placed throughout the platform length (and station entrance).

The signal box is an elevated, two storey signal box constructed of a timber frame, pre-cast concrete and asbestos cement cladding. The lower floor construction comprises a drop-in, pre-cast concrete panel between concrete uprights and conventional timber framed construction on the upper floor. The signal box has a hipped roof with broad overhanging eaves, clad in fibro asbestos laid in a diamond pattern and terra cotta ridge capping. The windows are timber, double hung sash with between 6 and 9 panes. Access is via a steel access ladder and there is a toilet on the upper landing.

The remnants of the locomotive depot now only include the 60’, manual turntable. The five road, galvanised iron, roundhouse was demolished in 2006.


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:
Tunnel spoil skip on display at station entrance
Various heritage signage throughout
Numerous items in Parcel’s Area
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Station building - good;
Refreshment room (former) - poor;
Signal box - poor;
Roundhouse - relics only
Date condition updated:28 Sep 09
Modifications and dates: Station building: The original parcels office was demolished
Refreshment rooms: Fibro asbestos partitions were installed.
Signal box: Steel stairs replaced original concrete steps and timber handrail.
Roundhouse: demolished in 2006.
2010: Platform resurfaced (concrete)
Current use: Operational railway station; signal box, roundhouse and jib crane not in use.
Former use: Railway station, goods yard and loco depot


Historical notes: Muswellbrook railway precinct is located on the Main North line, which runs from Sydney and extends as far as Wallangarra on the Queensland border. The Main North Line (formerly known as the Great Northern Railway) runs through the Central Coast, Hunter and 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.

The single line from Singleton to Muswellbrook was opened on 19 May 1869. The construction contract for the Liddell to Muswellbrook section was awarded to George Blunt on 2 September 1864. The station opened as Musclebrook on 19 May 1869 by the Earl of Belmore, and was renamed Muswellbrook on 1 January 1890 (Forsyth 2009).

The 1869 station building is one of several notable early stations attributed to John Whitton during his long career with the NSW Railways. The building borrows heavily from Whitton's design experience in England and the influence of Georgian and Victorian architectural styles. Internally, the building comprised of a Station Master’s office, ticket office, waiting room, and ladies room and lavatories (Cottee, 2004).

Muswellbrook railway precinct was expanded in the early 20th century with the addition of the much larger two storey railway refreshment rooms immediately adjacent to the station building in c1910. Changes of level at the rear of the buildings have occurred after construction.

Major changes and alterations to the station precinct included the installation of a turntable in 1869, and its replacement by a larger turntable in 1890, the lengthening of the platform and provision of an ash pit in 1891, and the erection of a gatekeeper’s cottage the following year. In 1898 and 1911 the platform was extended again, and in 1909 the construction of a Station Master’s residence was authorised. In 1923 the refreshment room building was opened, and extended in 1927. In the following year a subway was provided as a replacement for the level crossing at the Sydney end, and in 1943 a locomotive depot was opened (Forsyth, 2009). In 1977, a coal mine at Ulan was opened and the railway was extended from Sandy Hollow to Ulan in 1982 to transport coal to the Port of Newcastle via Muswellbrook.

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 Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Mail trains and parcels service-
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 Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Railway Workshops-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Transporting coal and minerals-
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-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Muswellbrook railway station 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 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 various elements within the railway precinct represent various periods in the precinct’s development as well as the wider development of the NSW railways. The station building is a very early building in the history of the Main North Line, which has been adapted to meet the growing needs of the station precinct and yard at Muswellbrook. The later development of the precinct included the construction of the refreshment rooms building (c1910) and then by the signal box (1923) and the locomotive depot (1943).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Muswellbrook railway station was constructed according to the standard designs of Engineer-in-Chief of NSW Railways, John Whitton, and has significance for the involvement of Whitton not only in railway station design but also in the development of the Main North line.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Muswellbrook railway precinct has aesthetic significance through the diversity of type and architectural style between the original, Victorian station building, the Federation, two storey refreshment building and the prefabricated, elevated signal box.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Muswellbrook railway precinct has social significance to the local community having performed an important role in supporting the town as a significant, commercial, regional centre. The railway station contributes to the local community’s sense of place and provides a connection to the local community’s past.
SHR Criteria g)
The railway precinct has representative significance for its collection of railway structures, which demonstrate major regional, railway facilities from the latter 19th century to the present day.
Integrity/Intactness: The station buildings have a moderate level of integrity, having undergone various modifications.
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     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA182State Rail Authority  No
S170 Register Update Project2009 ARTC/ ORH  Yes
Heritage Platforms Conservation Management Strategy2015 Australian Museum Consulting  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCaldis Cook Group2006Statement of Heritage Impact: Muswellbrook Station
WrittenJ.M. Cottee2004Stations on the track: selected New South Wales country railway stations: an historical overview
WrittenJohn H Forsyth2009NSW Railway Stations - An Alphabetical Arrangement of Railway Station and Place Names
WrittenMcKillop, R2009NSW Railways (RailCorp) Thematic History
WrittenNSW Heritage Office and the Department of Urban Affairs1996Regional Histories of New South Wales
MapRailCorp RailCorp Historic Plans, various
WrittenRobert Lee2000Colonial Engineer: John Whitton 1819-1898 and the building of Australia's railways
WrittenTaaffe, R.T1994Heritage Survey: Muswellbrook Signal Box

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: 4806182

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.

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