Lawson Railway Station Group | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Lawson Railway Station Group

Item details

Name of item: Lawson Railway Station Group
Other name/s: Christmas Swamp; Blue Mountain
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.7189501186 Long: 150.4296912930
Primary address: Main Western railway, Lawson, NSW 2783
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin


STATION: North: RailCorp property boundary to Loftus Street and Depot; South: RailCorp property boundary to Great Western Highway; West: 10m from end of platform; East: western edge of San Jose Avenue overbridge (excluding bridge). DEPOT: North: RailCorp property boundary to Loftus Street, extending to 10m north of substation; South: Up Line; West: 10m west of substation; East: property boundary to Loftus St carpark.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main Western railwayLawsonBlue Mountains   Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government03 Nov 98

Statement of significance:

Lawson Railway Station Group is of state significance as an important railway location along the Main Western Line and is significant for its important historical role associated with locomotive servicing facilities and the change to electric traction power supply at this steepest part of the Blue Mountains. The place is unique and has research potential for its combination of buildings and structures that demonstrate a large railway complex of railway station, accommodation, service, depot and administration facilities.

The station building demonstrates the period of line duplication across the Blue Mountains and is a good example of a standard 1902 Federation style design station building with matching detached shed. The Lawson Station Master's residence is significant for its ability in demonstrating the custom of providing accommodation for railway staff, and is a representative example of the simple architectural forms employed in other railway residences in NSW.

The buildings of the Electrical Depot including the former District Engineer's office and the associated stores and sheds have historical and research significance to demonstrate the former administration and railway electrical supply facilities along this section of the Blue Mountains. The Lawson substation is the last major rail electric substation built for the Sydney metropolitan network and the largest such building on the Main Western line between Penrith and Lithgow. While the original function of the building has been superseded by modern technology, the substation represents one of the final phases in the development of the electrified railway system for the Sydney Metropolitan area.
Date significance updated: 09 Nov 10
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: NSW Government Railways
Builder/Maker: private contractor; Alfred Stephens (1903 station)
Construction years: 1879-1956
Physical description: STATION BUILDINGS
Station Building - type 11, initial island side building, brick (1902) incorporating signal box, fibrocement clad (1921)
Out of Shed - brick (1902)

Island platform - brick faced (1902)
Side platform - (remnant) timber paling face (c1879)
Pedestrian subway (1944)

Station Master's Residence - 10 Loftus Street, type 11, brick, tile roof (1896)
Electrical Depot Site:
- Former District Engineer's Office - brick (1956)
- Workshops - brick base, corrugated iron walls (1957)
Signals and Earthworks Depot (1956-7)
Substation - face brick (1956)

External: Constructed of face brick with corrugated metal gabled roof extending as an awning to both platforms, Lawson station building is a single storey early phase 'type 11' island platform building in standard Federation style design. It is an 8-bay long building featuring 7 bays to the original face brick section and 1 long bay to the signal box extension and has a linear arrangement along the platform with tuckpointed red brickwork and engaged piers between the bays. The extended bay at the southwest end has painted fibrocement wall panels on rendered brick base with 6-pane horizontal sliding windows and a timber door with decorative fanlight. Other features include rendered splay course to plinth, moulded cornice, two horizontal moulded rendered string courses at corbel height, timber framed double-hung windows with multi-paned coloured glass upper sashes, timber framed and panelled doors with multi-paned coloured glass fanlights, contrasting decorative trims and sills around windows and doors, standard iron brackets over decorative corbels supporting ample platform awnings, fretted timber work at the end of awnings and gable ends, timber cross finial to gable end, two tall face brick corbelled chimneys with rendered tops. A modern corrugated metal gable roof with flat awning has been extended off the southwest end of the station building to provide shelter over the subway entrance and extended platform shelter area for commuters. It is supported by steel beams and posts. Another gabled roof with corrugated clear sheeting and corrugated metal awnings on both sides extends above the men's toilets entry. All windows and doors are fitted with metal security grills and gates.

Internal: In 1994 the building underwent internal fabric alterations, however it maintains its original linear floor layout, which from Up end to Down end incorporates a former signal room, combined Station Master's office and booking office, general waiting room, ladies' waiting room and toilets, and men's toilets. Original features include timber panelled doors with multi-paned coloured glass fanlights in the ladies room and work station areas, moulded architraves to all external and internal doors and the ticket window. Light fittings, fans and floor covering including carpet finish in the offices and tiles in the toilets and the waiting room. Plasterboard ceilings are from the upgrade works. Doors have been clad with fire rated panels from inside. The former signal box within the station building is now used for storage purposes, however its interlocking 16 lever frame and the CTC panel are still extant.

OUT-OF SHED (1902)
External: A small square shaped detached face brick shed featuring moulding and rendered string course detailing similar to the main station building. It is located on the northeast (Up) side of the station building. The shed features a gabled corrugated metal roof with timber bargeboard and narrow eaves with exposed rafters, contrasting rendered moulded trim above the fanlight over a single door on northeast side elevation and two double - hung windows with multi-paned upper sash featuring multi-coloured glass panes similar to the station building on both of the side elevations. There are two rows of string course throughout all elevations. There is no opening on the south-western (Down) elevation of the building.

Internal: Currently used as a storeroom with a timber cupboard and shelving, the out-of shed consists of a concrete floor with painted brick walls, exposed timber roof structure with ceiling joists, rafters and relatively new corrugated metal roofing, and one single modern light fitting.

Lawson Railway Station has an island platform in a curved shape with slightly pointed ends. The platform is brick faced with concrete deck and asphalt finish. Garden beds are located along the length of the platform planted with low to medium height shrubs and plantings. One mature tree is present on the platform at the northeast end. The platform also features period and modern light fittings, timber bench seating, an early bubbler, modern signage and aluminium palisade fencing located around three sides of subway cavity for safety and at both ends of the platform.

The original side platform is no longer clearly visible as a former platform rather it presents a garden bed like appearance, with a raised flat surface with timber paling edgings and earth infill. The end of the down siding, which was only used occasionally until recently to store track machines when waiting to start or be collected after trackwork, has been partially removed and completely covered with aggregate as part of upgrading works along the road boundaries of the rail corridor. Only two posts of the end timber stopper remain.

Access to the island platform is via an asphalt ramped access way from the Great Western Highway and Loftus Street (and commuters' car park) which leads to the face brick vaulted subway and a central stairway to the station platform on the southwest side of the main station building. The entry to the pedestrian subway on the island platform has brick walls with stone capping and metal palisade fence between the iron posts supporting the new corrugated metal gabled roof with awnings on both sides. The underpass tunnel extension towards the Great Western Highway exit features a flat ceiling with curved edges unlike the Loftus Street tunnel and painted with graffiti all-around. Light fittings and security cameras are other features of the subway.

External: The site of the residence is located between the Electric Depot and the Signals and Earthworks Depot. It is a single-storey cottage of painted brick construction with a stone base, a tiled-hipped roof with square flat apex, three tall chimney stacks with corbelled tops, timber front and rear off set concrete verandahs supported on timber posts with pitched corrugated iron awning and a rear brick skillion wing extended with timber weatherboard addition. The residence does not conform to any standard design although has similarities to a standard J3 design. Segmental arched vertically proportioned windows feature rendered sills, some with skillion timber awnings. All openings have been boarded up.

Internal: The original floor layout remains containing three bedrooms, two open into a corridor and the other into the living room, and a separate sitting room off the corridor. A wing accessed via an enclosed verandah (and from one of the bedrooms by later opening) includes a kitchen with a later c1946 timber extension for a laundry and internal bathroom. Most of the original elements have either been replaced or removed including all fireplaces. Early features include timber framed double-hung windows with moulded timber architraves and skirting, ventilation panels in some rooms, timber panelled front door with fanlight and an early kitchen shelf above the boarded fireplace. The kitchen has been fitted with modern cupboards and the bathroom fittings are modern. Exposed rendered brick walls are present in the kitchen and timber floor ceiling boards are exposed in some of the rooms where the later fibro ceiling panels are damaged. The residence is currently unoccupied.

Located to the northwest of Lawson Station adjacent to the laneway and subway entrance, the Electrical Depot site is a combination of the former District Engineer's Office and a series of brick and corrugated iron workshops and stores that were built in the 1950's as part of the electrification of the railway to Lithgow. The buildings appear to be original and demonstrate an important component of the electrification project. The workshops and the stores are placed at the railway and street boundaries of the site while the L-shaped office block is located on the northern corner next to the entrance to the depot. The areas between the buildings are used for the storage of dangerous goods containers, ladder storage, truck waiting, steam cleaning and water treatment areas. The surface of the site is bitumen.

External: A large one to two-storey brick office building with hipped terracotta tiled roof, in an L-shaped form and accommodates administration and amenities and facilities for the engineers and field/admin staff. The building's fenestration includes a series of regularly placed tall timber sash windows and doors generally facing the courtyard.

Internal: Interiors were not inspected (2009). However, the original drawings indicate a linear floor layout with offices around the perimeters opening into a central corridor. The main entrance to the building separates the building into two distinct layout with offices and staff amenities on one side and the general exchange and depot/services rooms on the other.

External: There are seven workshops and stores on the depot site all of which are generally of similar construction with utilitarian appearance in various sizes and one or two storeys in height. They are constructed of brick bases with corrugated metal walls to about 1200mm high above with corrugated metal gabled roofs. All have timber framed multi-paned vertically proportioned windows and doors. They accommodate an electrical workshop, blacksmith and carpenter workshop, and stores for various goods.

Internal: Interiors were not inspected (2009).

Two adjoining sites at the western side of the Station Master's residence and contain only demountable corrugated metal sheds and containers with carport and garages in between. They appear to be replaced over the years with relatively new fabric.

External: Located at the most western portion of the depot site, the substation is a two-storey face brick building in rectangular form with gabled roof covered with corrugated metal tray roof sheets. The substation combines a large relatively square shaped control house and a rectangular rectifier house at the back. The building elevations are strongly modelled with large vertical engaged piers. The gable end to the control house is parapeted with piers projecting horizontally. The rectifier house has a ventilation tower at the centre of the gable apex below which is a large roller shutter. All windows are steel framed with horizontal panes. The building is screened from the road by banks of outside transformers.

Internal: Interiors were not accessed (2009). However, it is noted to have a steel truss exposed roof structure and concrete slab floors with painted wall finishes to the essentially large warehouse type spaces.

Lawson Railway Station houses a number of movable items including:
A Milners' 2'2 Patent floor safe in the ticket office below the ticket window desk
A bubbler on platform next to the subway entrance
Three bench seats (2 in the waiting room, 1 in the ladies room)
16 lever frame and CTC panel in the disused signal box
A work bench for booking window

The setting of the station within the rock escarpment is the typical natural setting of the Blue Mountains stations. The island platform and stations buildings are a prominent aspect of the landscape and a local landmark. Most garden beds are built up with treated pine edges containing low to medium sized shrubs. One mature tree exists at the northeast end of the platform. Brick dwarf walls to the subway tunnel entries on both sides of the trucks together with the low height plantings add to the overall setting of the site.

There are no known potential archaeological elements on the station site with the exception of a remnant side platform and siding on the Down side. The recent findings during the widening of the Great Western Highway indicate the potential existence of surviving remnants of the former Goods Yard along the Highway. The Electrical Depot Site containing the substation and other associated structures may also have archaeological potential.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Station Buildings and platform structures - Good
Island Platform- Good
Side Platform - No longer presents as a platform but in its garden bedlike form is in good condition
Subway - generally Good condition
SM's residence - Moderate externally, Very Poor internally
Electrical Depot Site - Generally Good externally
Signals and Earthworks Depot - Good externally
Substation - Good
Modifications and dates: 1970s: Mercury arc rectifiers in the substation replaced with solid state equipment
1994: Internal fabric of station building was altered.
2000: The collection of old electric metres were relocated to Strathfield Depot September.
2003: Substation damaged by fire.
N.d: Modern platform canopy has been added. Modern platform fence and station seats. Roof extended over the platform entry to the pedestrian underpass. Brick screen to lavatory at east end of main building. Fence to underpass entry from platform. Side platform has been significantly modified and Down siding removed (in part) and covered with aggregate recently.
N.d: The original roof of the Station Master's residence, with an ornate ridge, has been replaced at an unknown date; internally, virtually all original fabric has been removed.
Further information: Modern demountable buildings within the depot sites are excluded from the listing.

A (1907) Monier Arch overbridge lies outside the curtilage and is located northeast of the island platform. It consists of a concrete arch with abutments set in rock cutting. The bridge was widened in 2009. Excluded from listing.

Another 1907 Monier Arch bridge (used for pedestrian access) - 1km east of station near Somers Street and GWH overbridge has separate S170 listing.
Current use: Railway Station
Former use: Aboriginal land, Railway Station


Historical notes: There was a halt at Lawson from the beginning of the railway through the mountains in 1867, bearing the name Blue Mountain initially after Wilson's 'Blue Mountain Inn' 400 metres away. In 1879 when the station changed its name to Lawson, a brick platform and station building were added and this remained unchanged until 1902. Like most stations between Emu Plains and Lithgow, duplication of the line in 1902 brought a new island platform and station buildings in Federation style. The 1879 platform opposite remained for Down trains.

Builder, Alfred Stephens:
The significant contributions of the two Alf Stephens, father and son, enriched the local (Southern Highlands/Bowral) district. Both were enterprising in the building trade and prominent as aldermen and sportsmen. After he had completed Bowral Court House, during 1898 Alf senior visited his old home in England. Upon return he served as Bowral mayor for two terms from 1899 and was appointed magistrate in 1900. He was also a prominent member of the Methodist Church, took a keen interest in the work of the Friendly Societies, and was Noble Grand of the local Lodge of Oddfellows.

In 1903 he secured the contract to build four railway stations on the Western Line from Sydney - at Leura, Lawson, Hazelbrook and Woodford. The contract specified that the work had to be completed within six months, so with the family he rented a cottage at Lawson to be on the spot. His elder son, also Alfred, aged 16, had just finished school and assisted in the work (Morton, 2014).

Various modifications to the refuge siding and loop were made in 1907 and 1915. At the Lithgow end of the main structure, the roof was extended to provide a shelter for a signal interlocking frame, which was installed in 1915, though the signal levers were not enclosed with a signal box until 1921.

In 1944 the island platform was extended to the west end and it was at this time that subway access was provided to the platform from the Sydney-bound side. This accorded with the traditional NSW practice between 1900 and 1920 of providing only single-side subway access.

Lawson became an important station as locomotives took on water at that location. Lawson had a large water-tank (LN 026) and an unusual number of water columns since it was the principal watering-halt for Down trains. Recent widening of the Great Western Highway has revealed the remains of what appears to be an underground tank of unknown use.

The station was accompanied by a Station Masters residence which was built in c1880, and replaced by the existing Station Master's residence in c1896. When Chief Commissioner E.M.G. Eddy, was appointed in 1888, he undertook to increase substantially the number of official residences for staff of the Traffic Branch. Over 100 residences were built in his term and that at Lawson is one of them. Residences very roughly reflected the status of the proposed occupant. The example at Lawson (10 Loftus Street) is an example of the largest type that was used in the period 1890-1914. It contained three bedrooms. The asymmetrical plan of the structure predates Eddy's arrival and was first used in 1885.

Adjacent to the Sydney-bound side of the rail corridor is an electrical traction sub-station and electrical depot containing a mixture of buildings originally clad in corrugated Fibro. The substation was built in 1956 in preparation for the complete electrification of the Main Western line from Penrith to Lithgow in 1957. This was the major extension of the metropolitan electrified system after World War II and the first designed to handle the electric haulage of rail freight trains, predominantly coal trains, as well as long distance electric passenger train services.

The substation was the last of the large brick substations built for the rail electrified system and the largest on the Main Western line past Penrith. Modern solid state rectifier technology has now largely superseded the need for this type of substation building. It is associated and adjacent to the large Lawson electric line works maintenance depot that still operates with administration offices. The substation was designed by New South Wales Government Railways and built in 1956. It suffered some fire damage in 2003.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
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 (none)-
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 Railway Station-
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 19th century suburban developments-
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 Impact of railways on suburban development-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alfred Stephens, Bowral mason and builder-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Lawson Station Group is historically significant as part of the early station buildings built during the duplication of the Western rail line across the Blue Mountains combining a standard 1902 Federation style design station building and matching detached shed. It demonstrates the technological and engineering achievements in the early 1900s and is an important part of the townscape of the Lawson historic village and is highly visible from the main road.

The site has further historical significance due to its continued rail use since 1880, with the Station Master's cottage demonstrating the custom of providing accommodation for railway staff and the importance of the station as a key terminus for locomotive facilities with its large number of water columns and tanks. The Electrical Depot site demonstrates another major phase in the historical development of Lawson Station precinct featuring buildings built in the 1950's as part of the electrification of the railway to Lithgow. The substation is the last major rail electric substation built for the Sydney metropolitan network and the largest such building on the Main Western line between Penrith and Lithgow.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Lawson Station Group is of aesthetic significance as a representative example of an intact Federation free classical style railway station, which has retained its former lamp building (Out of Shed) which is designed in the same style as the main station building. It is one of a group of stations built to the same pattern across the Blue Mountains following the duplication of the railway line.

The Station Master's residence has an unusual architectural style as it does not conform to any standard design although has similarities to a standard 'J3' design. The buildings of the Electrical Depot including the former District Engineer's office and the associated stores and sheds collectively form a cohesive character within the landscape of the station precinct. The substation is a landmark in the precinct and rail corridor as well as the Great Western Highway.

The depot buildings have limited aesthetic or architectural value due to there utilitarian design.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The place has the potential to contribute to the local community's sense of place and can provide a connection to the local community's history.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Lawson Station Group has research potential for its combination of buildings and structures that would provide information on the elements of the equipment contemporary with the electrification of the Main Western line over the Blue Mountains. The Electrical Depot contains a number of technically important electrical engineering equipment such as the large rectifier. The area along the Great Western Highway has potential for surviving remnants of the former goods yard and the former Down side platform and siding.
SHR Criteria f)
The Electrical Depot site is rare in the railway network, which includes the substation, one of a small number of such building and one of the largest remaining on the system.
SHR Criteria g)
Lawson Station Group is a representative example of a standard design larger station building group demonstrating the construction techniques and characteristics of commonly used railway designs.

The Station Master's residence is a representative example of simple architectural forms of other similar railway residences.

The substation is a good example of rail substations built in Sydney after 1926 including Hurstville, Lewisham, Sutherland, Hornsby and Belmore.
Integrity/Intactness: The station building and associated shed are intact externally and maintain their overall integrity.
The Station Master's residence has lost most of its internal and some of its external fabric. Its integrity is therefore moderate. The buildings within the Electrical depot have a high level of integrity and intactness externally. While most equipment originally installed has been removed from the Substation the building is relatively intact despite the fire damage in 2003.
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:


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentCMP for Railway Station a nd Yard precinct, May 2013 Final Report.  
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 0117702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Lawson Railway Station group View detail
WrittenBMACHO Inc.2014"Lawson Station Master's Residence"
WrittenMorton, Philip2014'Highlands history: local builders' View detail

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

(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: 5012076
File number: H05/00225

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