Cooma Railway Station and yard group | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Cooma Railway Station and yard group

Item details

Name of item: Cooma Railway Station and yard group
Other name/s: Cooma Railway Engine Shed
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -36.2361246557 Long: 149.1355570940
Primary address: Bradley Street, Cooma, NSW 2630
Local govt. area: Cooma-Monaro
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Merrimans
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Bradley StreetCoomaCooma-Monaro  Primary Address
Goulburn-Bombala railwayCoomaCooma-Monaro  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government22 Oct 98

Statement of significance:

Cooma Railway Station Group is of state significance for its role in the development of Cooma, the Monaro and the Snowy Scheme and for its provision of services for freight and passengers for over a century. The increasing and decreasing importance of rail as a mode of transport can be interpreted through the evolution of the site. It was built under the support of Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton whose name is synonymous with the expansion of railways throughout New South Wales. The station building, which is one of a group of similar buildings constructed for the Southern Railway, displays his design skills and the inclusion of some refined architectural elements results in this building being more impressive than others of its size. The siting of the precinct on a hill on the outskirts of Cooma results in it being one of the town's landmarks. The arrival of the railway in Cooma changed the lives of the district's inhabitants and the railway was the venue for many important social events and occasions of arrivals and departures particularly for the two world wars. Those working on the Snowy Scheme depended on the railway and during construction the railways were one the largest employers in the region.

Cooma's group of railway buildings and infrastructure illustrate designs and materials from a number of eras and make an important contribution to understanding railway practices and life, and the railway's philosophy of relocation and reuse. There are a number of rare items at the site but the two most significant are the signalling equipment, the most complete of its kind in Australia, and the straight type engine shed, being only one of four extant and considered to be the most intact example.
Date significance updated: 11 Apr 13
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)
Construction years: 1889-1950
Physical description: MAJOR STRUCTURES
Station Building - type 4, brick standard roadside station (1889) and Platform
Signal Box - weatherboard skillion roof (1912)
Out-of-Shed (c.1940)
Goods Shed & Yard - timber and corrugated iron including Platform, Loading Banks, Weighbridge, Weighbridge Office and Fettlers Shed.

Locomotive Precinct - including the engine shed (1889), engine store, turntable (1902), coal stage (timber slabs), water column (cast iron with hose attachment), water tank (2000), original water tank site, and ash pits (4 pits, bricks and concrete).
District Locomotive Engineer's (DLE's) Office (1950)
Barracks & Laundry (c.1940)
Railway Institute Hall & Tennis Courts (c.1958)

Diesel Depot - two small timber sheds, corrugated iron roofs, diesel pipework
Foot Warmer Platform
Signals and signal gantries (c.1950`s)
Fuel Unloading Points- pipework and stands
Signs - Entrance sign, nameboards, platform signs, warning signs, heritage signs
Slab - Retaining and Crossover
Platform benches - 3 timber and cast iron railway benches

The station building is a standard roadside design, symmetrically planned with awning supported on cast iron posts and decorative brackets. The brick building comprises of seven main rooms, toilet skillion, entrance vestibule with verandahs and platform with awning. The roof is gabled and clad with painted corrugated iron and features a central transverse gable. The gables display fretwork and finials and rendered walls have masonry detailing. The building, erected in 1888, has undergone a series of modifications but still displays its Railway Gothic architectural style with many original elements and decorative features in situ. Major modifications were undertaken during the 1920s and the 1960s, the latter owing to increased activity during construction of the Snowy Scheme. The original side pavilions have been replaced by later extensions. At one end new toilets were provided on a larger scale than previously along with additional rooms for luggage and waiting.

The building is located on a brick and concrete platform.

The signal box was erected on the platform in 1912 and is a small scalloped weatherboard building with a corrugated iron pitched gable roof. An extension was built in 1955 on the western side to house relays and batteries for track circuits and the electric staff.

OUT-OF-SHED (c.1940)
The small building, which is presently used as a store, is known as the out-of-shed. It was relocated to the platform prior to 1949 and is thought to have been originally a waiting room at a small unattended station. The section at the rear was constructed to house batteries and electrical equipment at the time the signals were electrified. The building has a brick footing, timber skirting, scalloped weatherboard walls, and timber sliding door.

The goods shed is made up of four separate sections constructed over 100 years. The earliest part is the central section, dating to 1889. It has brick pier footings, vertical tongue and groove dado and corrugated iron walls, a corrugated iron roof, and a platform and loading stage with timber sleepers running north south. Newer sections of the shed include a 3 room and toilet addition with brick piers, weatherboard walls, and corrugated iron roof cladding, as well as Colorbond clad extension with a platform and loading stage. A suspended concrete platform loading dock has also been added, with Colorbond cladding and a corrugated iron roof. Other important components of the goods yard are the metal weighbridge, weatherboard weighbridge office, wool and cattle loading ramps dating to 1889, consisting of concrete banks with railway line edges and gravel floors, and a corrugated iron fettlers' shed.

The main element of the locomotive precinct is the straight type engine shed but also included is the store, turntable, coal stage, water column, water tank, ash pits and other infrastructure necessary to service and maintain rolling stock. The engine shed has 1889 English bond brickwork footings. The walls are made of vertical corrugated galvanised iron, with some panels on the east facade made of clear corrugated perspex. The roof is clad in corrugated iron. The doors and windows date to 1997 and 1998 respectively.

The engine store has concrete footings, scalloped weatherboard walls, timber doors and window frames, and a corrugated iron roof.

The turntable is 60 ft in length with timber and steel platform set on a concrete pit directly connected to the engine shed and yard.

The DLE's office is a single storey face brick building, constructed in an L shape, with a corrugated galvanised iron gable roof, and timber doors, window frames, and fascias. It was built in 1950 to provide an office for the DLE and amenities for those working in the engine shed, such as a meal room, locker room, washrooms and so on. The building has now been converted to a residence with little alteration to the floor plan.

The building initially comprised six bedrooms to sleep 12 men, with bathroom facilities, a kitchen and dining room. There is also a separate laundry. Some years later, between 1952-1955, an extension of four more bedrooms was attached. The interior of the building is relatively intact however four of the original bedrooms have been combined to form a meeting room. The barracks building has brick footings and walls, corrugated asbestos roof cladding, with timber post verandahs to the east and west, and a brick chimney.

The railway institute hall is a small, single storey building of two rooms, comprising a hall and annex, erected c.1958. The tennis court was built around the same time. The institute hall has exposed brick piers, asbestos cement sheet cladding, and a corrugated iron roof. The tennis courts comprise of two gravel courts with wire netting fence, a slab retaining wall, and timber benches.

Photos from the 1920s show that there were no exotic plantings in the old railway yard. Since then gardening at railway stations has become a tradition with such features as rose species in forecourts, approaches lined with trees and plants in tubs on platforms. This trend is demonstrated at Cooma. The majority of the yard is covered with native grasses, which are kept slashed and quite a few areas are infested with noxious weeds. Rubbish and extraneous items have built up around the engine shed, goods shed in the ash pits and the DLE's office garden.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally in good condition.
Date condition updated:11 Nov 09
Current use: Tourist Centre
Former use: Railway Stationand Yard


Historical notes: Cooma Railway Precinct is located along the Bombala Line which was completed to Cooma in 1889. Construction contract for the Michelago to Cooma section was awarded to Walker & Swan on 18 August 1885.

Cooma station was opened on May 31, 1889 and by then a substantial complex had been built to provide a large town and developing district the benefits which rail could bring to the area. The complex then comprised a five room station building with separate toilet block and lamp room, located at each, a platform, a station master's residence, locomotive shed with turntable, coal stage, ash pits, water columns and water tank, a goods yard with shed, platform, office and gantry crane, a wool loading bank and stockyards, a water supply, a rest house and an interlocking machine.

Improvements were made every few years to the railway yard. In 1912 a signal box was erected on the Cooma platform, replacing the original interlocking system, and the line was extended to Nimmitabel.

Cooma station was busy during the war years as the local departure point for troops. A number of modifications and improvements were carried out in the early 20th century. A major fire destroyed the locomotive shed in 1923 and it was rebuilt in 1925. A refreshment room opened in the station building in 1922 and six years later a larger refreshment room was created incorporating the southern storage area. In 1940 a new rest house or barracks was constructed to house 12 men and the original rest house demolished in 1944. The station was busy again during World War II when army recruits from all over the district gathered to travel to the army base at Goulburn.

The era of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, from the 1950s to 1970s, prompted further changes such as additional facilities and upgrading from steam to diesel locomotives. The Scheme was the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia, and provided a major source of employment for post-war migrants. Overall 100,000 people worked on the Scheme between 1949 and 1974, two-thirds of them being migrants from more than 30 countries. The Goulburn to Cooma railway line became the lifeline for the Scheme, with passenger trains transporting the workers and their families to and from Cooma.

The Railway Institute Building constructed in 1958 is indicative of the expansion of Cooma during this period: "The Railway Institute was the railway's focal point for the majority of employee training, apprenticeships and scholarships for the large number of trade and non-trade personnel required to maintain and run the continually expanding railway system. The Institute created branches in major country towns and they were not only the local focal point for training and education, but became the meeting place for the community to participate in various sporting and social activities in the town with many dances and dinners being held regularly in their halls" (NSW Railway Institute, 2009).

A rapid decline of activity at the station, due partly to the completion of the Scheme, resulted in a decrease in freight and passengers, and NSW Railways could not justify repairs required to the track and the old timber trestle bridge over the Numeralla River. The last passenger train left Cooma in November 1988 and the last freight train in 1989. Consequently the station closed and has now become the most intact railway precinct in NSW demonstrating a century of railway development. The station building has been restored and is the base for the Cooma-Monaro Railway.

The SM's residence and GK's cottage are extant but are privately owned.

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 (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Extension of the railway line from Goulburn to Cooma, and finally to Bombala, had a major effect on the development of the Monaro. It enabled Cooma to become the commercial centre of the region and the district's agricultural economy to flourish. The capacity of the station was an important factor in selection of the town as the headquarters for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority (SMHEA). Owing to its operation over 100 years and expansion of facilities to suit the needs of the community the precinct demonstrates growth phases over a century. There are many extant items which date from 1889, the year of opening, as well as representative examples from all eras of its 100 years operation.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Cooma railway was built during the time that John Whitton was Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways 1856 to 1890. It was through Whitton’s influence and persistence that nearly 3,500 kms of track were laid throughout the state and cheap alternatives, such as narrow gauge rail tracks, did not eventuate. The station building is a good representative example of Whitton’s architectural skills. The site has aesthetic significance as a railway precinct that retains several original items that demonstrate railway design in the 1880s. The 1887 station building is a fine example of a Victorian first class roadside station building with fabric and fine detailing typical of the period
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
John Whitton was trained as an architect as well as an engineer and the station buildings erected during his tenure of Engineer-in-Chief, such as Cooma, exhibit interesting Victorian architectural detailing which illustrate his design skills. The station building at Cooma demonstrates interesting architectural features peculiar to Victorian railway buildings as well as the evolution of requirements over ten decades. Along with the other buildings, facilities and equipment the complex presents a pleasing example of a railway station landscape. The siting of the precinct results in it being a landmark in town.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
For most of the 100 years that trains operated between Queanbeyan and Cooma agricultural producers depended on the railway to get their produce to market, people were able to travel easily, goods arriving in Cooma were cheaper and more diverse and it enabled the town and district to develop. The railway was essential for Cooma to become the SMHEA headquarters which completely changed the social fabric of the town. Memorable arrivals and departures at the station have been significant events in local people’s lives. The railway was a major employer in Cooma and many people spent all their working lives there. The Institute Building is significant as the social hub of the Cooma railway precinct during its expansion in the 1950s.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Cooma railway station is considered to be the most complete rail precinct in NSW demonstrating 100 years of rail development from steam engines to diesel locomotives and with possibly the most complete pre 1960 type railway signalling equipment in Australia. Many items and areas demonstrate the railway’s philosophies of relocation and reuse, railway customs and practices and the railway lifestyle. The development and fluctuations of a rural railway station are illustrated at Cooma.
SHR Criteria f)
The Cooma railway precinct is considered to be the only site in NSW which so completely illustrates the development of rail from steam to diesel. At the station 90% of the items which were historically present are in place. The completeness and functionality of the signalling equipment, which is the only arrangement of its type in Australia, and the straight type locomotive shed, one of only four extant in NSW, are particularly rare features.
SHR Criteria g)
The precinct is a good representation of a rural railway station which developed over a 100 year period. Items at the site represent railway customs, functions, architectural designs, work practices and requirements for passengers and freight as well as the railway’s attitude to its employees. The station building is a good example of one of John Whitton’s larger station buildings with many original features intact. The barracks, although altered, is representative of standard railway accommodation built for crew workers during the mid 20th Century.
Integrity/Intactness: The station group including the station buildings, platforms and related structures have a high level of integrity. The Cooma Railway Station precinct retains its ability to demonstrate 100 years of rail which sets it apart from other railway sites in NSW. All necessary elements for operating the railway are in place and of the past 61 major fixed items which were previously at the railway yard, 55 are still found.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0111602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction homepage Cooma Monaro Railway View detail

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5011974

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