Petersham Railway Station group | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Petersham Railway Station group

Item details

Name of item: Petersham Railway Station group
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.8938587523 Long: 151.1551636580
Primary address: Terminus Street, Petersham, NSW 2049
Local govt. area: Marrickville
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan


North: Property boundary along Terminus Street and South Avenue South: Property boundary along Trafalgar Street, and along railway fence to exclude depot buildings East: 5 metres from the end of platform (including also the entire footbridge) West: 5 metres from the western end of the signal box (approx. 60 metres from the end of platform)
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Terminus StreetPetershamMarrickville  Primary Address
Trafalga StreetPetershamMarrickville  Alternate Address
Great Southern and Western RailwayPetershamMarrickville  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government05 Nov 98

Statement of significance:

Petersham Railway Station has State significance as the station with its group of largely intact, original structures dating from the 1880s establishment of the station through to the 1891 quadruplication and the 1927 sextuplication of the line, is able to demonstrate the growth and expansion of the railways in the late 19th and early 20th century. The building serves to mark the alignment of the first railway in NSW, that being the 1855 Sydney to Parramatta line;

The 1880s former station building is the largest and most elaborate 19th century station building constructed for the Sydney suburban rail system and is the only major 'First Class' station building known to have been built in Sydney in the 19th century and is therefore unique in the history of the NSW Government Railways. It is a fine example of a late Victorian Italianate station dating from 1885, and although compromised by later alterations and additions is substantially intact and capable of restoration. The building is unusual and of significance by being reached from the street by a grand stair in the classical manner and having a landscaped forecourt to a suburban street and forms a major part of an important historic railway precinct including the bridge and signal box and is a significant landmark in this part of Petersham, which retains much of its 19th century built street character. The station is one of a select number of similar buildings designed by the office of the Engineer for the Existing Lines Branch, George Cowdery, with the 1883 iron pedestrian bridge and steps also designed by Cowdery;
Date significance updated: 01 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: George Cowdery, John Whitton
Builder/Maker: NSW Railways
Construction years: 1857-1954
Physical description: BUILDINGS
Platform Building, Terminus Street (Type 5) (1885, 1954)
Platform Building, Platform 1/2 (Type 11) (1926)
Signal Box, (1927)

Platforms: Platform 1/2, (1926) - Platform to Terminus St Building, (1885)
Canopy, modern
Footbridge, (1883)
Pedestrian Subway and entrances, (1891)

Petersham Railway Station is entered from Trafalgar Street to the south and Terminus Street to the north. The station group has a former wayside platform and station building (currently offices) and island platform accessed via the footbridge. The former station building is generally accessed from Terminus Street. To the north of the station on Terminus Street is a residential area while to the south and across Trafalgar Street by industrial and commercial buildings.

External: The 'first class station building' is a symmetrical composition in an ornate Italianate style with a high parapeted central block, a central tower, and flanked by lower supporting buildings. The main block is fronted to the south by a platform awning supported by cast iron columns with decorative cast iron lace work. The width of this platform has been reduced since it was decommissioned. The Terminus Street elevation is accessed via sandstone steps onto a veranda, supported on cast iron columns with decorative lacework, which spans the extent of the central block. An access door under this veranda has been created off the lower landing of the stone steps to the west. The exterior walls are face brickwork with painted moulded cement decorative elements. To the eastern end of the original building is a rendered brick extension. Infill sections have been constructed between the previously separate wings to the east and west and 2 garage doors under the eastern wing (there was previously a garage door located further to the east which has subsequently been bricked up).

Recent restorations have included new tuck pointing and the reinstatement of most of the doors and windows to the south elevation, although several remain non operational. The works also saw the roof replaced in corrugated steel sheeting in place of the original slate. The oval vents to the roof were reinstated. These works have been undertaken in an appropriate and sensitive manner obviously with reference to the original architectural drawings.

Internal: There have been several changes to the existing building internally, mostly as a result of changing function. There are several new openings in the partition walls, and these have been treated so as to complement the original style of the building. The doors and windows to the north elevation are for the most part, original, with the reproduced doors and windows to the south elevation to match. All mouldings such as skirtings, architrave and cornices are in keeping with the age of the building.

From the garage and subfloor space it would appear that much of the timber floor structure has been replaced. These floors are carpeted above. Many of the later partition walls and fittings have been worked around the existing fabric and would for the most part be considered 'reversible'. There is Perspex secondary glazing to the openings on the south side in an attempt to keep out the noise of the passing trains.

External: A rectangular face brick building (all painted) with a gabled roof and integral shallower sloped cantilevered awnings. The face brick in stretcher bond has been painted. The building is seven bays in length, with the bays defined by engaged brick piers which coincide with the awning supports. Original chimneys have been removed. The cantilever awning is on standard double bowed steel brackets supported on decorative cement cornices on engaged brick piers and bolt fixings to the station building brick walls. The soffit is the underside of the corrugated steel roof fixed to intermediate exposed purlins. There is a decorative timber fascia at the junction with the brick wall. Vertical timber boards form a valance at each end. The edge of the awning is finished with a plain timber fascia. The awning roof, as for the main roof, is corrugated steel. The window openings have brick sills and arched brick heads with original timber sashes. Security grilles have been fitted to all doors and windows and modern services fixed to the building. The canopy to the eastern end is completely modern (c.1990s). The planter box to the western end is thought to be where the stairs once accessed the subway.

Internal: The interior is much altered from original plans dated 1925. The booking office and associated functions were relocated to be housed in this building when the subway was closed. Some original features remain including the mini corrugated metal ceilings and pressed metal ceiling roses, moulded bead detail to rendered and set walls, cornices and architraves. Windows are original sashes however the doors are replacements. The floor is covered in vinyl and may have original timber floorboards under. The existing waiting room, which is currently used as a store has the original bench seating. The toilets have been relocated from the original plans to the western end of the building and these rooms now have little merit.

External: A timber framed structure with fibre cement cladding on brick base. Access is on the eastern side, via precast concrete stairs, onto cantilevered concrete platform. The small external toilet is accessed off the concrete platform to the south. To the north-east and north-west corners there are timber framed multi paned sliding casement windows with security grilles to the exterior. The building features a Dutch gable roof with fibre cement slates and decorative finials with a timber louvred vent to the gablets.

Internal: Typical ceiling detail with raked section to perimeter and cover mouldings. The metal bracing across the ceiling is also typical in signal boxes of this period. The interior walls have fibre cement sheet and batten cladding. The original signalling equipment still remains.

Platform 1 (Up) and Platform 2 (Down) form an island platform with asphalt surface and original brick facing. The platform to the former station (to the north) has been made narrower and is not currently used.

There is a modern canopy at the edge of the stairs that leads down from the footbridge onto the platform and it provides shelter to the space between the stairs and the platform building. The canopy has a slight butterfly roof and is constructed of Colorbond steel sheets resting on steel I beams and columns.

The footbridge comprises of a deck connecting both Trafalgar and Terminus Streets and stairs that lead down to the platform and the streets. The entire structure rests on original brick piers, cast iron columns, arches and steel trestles. Refurbished in 1992 the footbridge has a concrete deck and stairs with painted steel handrails and balustrades. The riveted metal lattice work to the underneath of the deck of the footbridge is original.

The subway runs from north to south under the rail tracks and accommodates the two entries into the station. It has brick walls and a ceiling made of original concrete slabs reinforced with steel joists. However as the walls are almost entirely covered in graffiti it is difficult to ascertain original fabric. The subway originally had a booking office and stairs leading up to the platforms. However at some point both were bricked in and this has resulted in the subway having no connections with the platforms and serving as only a crossing under the tracks.

There are brick retaining walls along Terminus Street which comprise of English bond brickwork from the platform to former station building with an opening for stairs to footbridge. The wall continues up Terminus Street to the east for approximately 100 metres.

Safe in Station Manager's Office
Honours Board in Station Manager's Office
Photographs in Station Manager's Office & Terminus Street Building
NSWGR Sink in garage of Terminus Street Building

The station complex has low archaeological potential. The remaining walls of the men's toilet block under thefootbridge are from the former 1891 island platform building. However as the building and platform building have been demolished it is unlikely that the toilet block would reveal any new evidence not available at other station sites. In addition historical drawings show that the extant subway had a booking office and stairs leading up to the platforms. However the booking office and stairs have been bricked in and it is unlikely that it would reveal any new evidence not available at other station sites.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in a good condition.

Good condition.

The signal box requires maintenance attention.

Good Condition.

Good Condition.

The subway is in a moderate condition.

BRICK RETAINING WALLS (along Terminus Street)
The retaining wall is in a good condition.
Modifications and dates: See history
Current use: Offices, Railway Station
Former use: Railway Station


Historical notes: The Main Western line to Parramatta Junction (Granville) was originally completed in 1855. The line opened on 26 September 1855 and was double track from Sydney to Newtown and then single track to Parramatta Junction (but duplicated in 1856). The line was built as a direct connection to Parramatta Junction and, subsequently, for the purpose of connecting Sydney with the major rural railways that were constructed across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst and across the Southern Highlands to Goulburn via Liverpool. There were few stops along the line between Sydney and Parramatta Junction and it was not the original intention of the line to serve suburban development. Changes to the line were more often related to the line’s long distance purpose than to the communities along it.

Traffic to the west and south (and later north) of the state brought the need to amplify the line, first in 1891 when it was quadrupled and later in 1927 when it was sextupled (to Homebush) and electrified. With both of these major changes the earlier stations were usually entirely demolished and replaced with a new station. The 1927 work completed this process with the complete replacement of Strathfield and much of Newtown Stations. During this time suburban development also extended west along the line and these new stations were thus specifically designed as full-scale suburban passenger stations rather than rural ‘halts’. The Engineer for Existing Lines, George Cowdery (appointed 1863), was a particularly strong influence on the architecture of this line, building particularly elegant stations in the late 1880s ahead of the 1891 quadruplication, in addition to replacing the original stone arch viaduct at Lewisham with iron truss bridges. Sextuplication in 1927 brought less change to most local stations (which were on the southern side), the new tracks being express ones on the northern side.

Petersham Station was opened on 6 January 1857 as a halt. A goods yard was established in 1882 and soon afterwards plans were prepared to quadruplicate the main line from Sydney to Homebush. This resulted in a further reorganisation of the Petersham yard so that the main station building was sited 'up' on the platform and a new iron footbridge was built to cross the new railway and connect up with a new island platform where the earlier building was demolished and replaced by an elegantly designed curved roof structure.

The new station building and footbridge were all designed by George Cowdery who was also responsible for the design of several other large and elaborate station buildings, including Newcastle (1876), Werris Creek (1883) and Cootamundra (1887). The plan of the station was based on the standard developed by John Whitton but the design and detailing of the station buildings and footbridge were much more elaborate than most station designs used elsewhere. In 1891 the present subway was built and another island platform building constructed to serve the slow tracks.

Additional land was purchased in 1911 for a large goods yard and, with a new goods shed built in 1913, made Petersham a major suburban station serving passengers and freight.

In 1926, the addition of a further two tracks and electrification as part of a second stage of the suburban electric train line service resulted in a major change to the way the station operated. The 1885 station building was closed and eventually became the offices of the District Signal Engineer. The other platform buildings were demolished and replaced by a brick building. The goods yard was gradually phased out and closed shortly after the second world war.

In 1954 the north wing of the 1885 building was taken over by the Railways and Tramways Hospital Fund, and the present eastern wing was added.

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)-
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 and maintaining the public railway system-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Petersham Railway Station has State significance as the station with its group of largely intact, original structures dating from the 1880s establishment of the station through to the 1891 quadruplication and the 1927 sextuplication of the line, is able to demonstrate the growth and expansion of the railways in the late 19th and early 20th century. The extant 19th and 20th century platforms, buildings, footbridge, subway and signal box are collectively able to demonstrate important historical phases of suburban railway development.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Petersham Railway Station is significant for its association with Engineer-in-Chief George Cowdery under whose direction the extant 1880s former station building and footbridge were designed, the design and detailing of the station building and footbridge being more elaborate than most station design used elsewhere.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Petersham Railway Station has State aesthetic significance with its 1880s ‘first class station building’ which displays complicated roof forms, large symmetrical plan and awnings supported on cast iron columns. The building has a prominent presence to both Terminus Street and as viewed from the island platform and footbridge. The 1920s ‘initial island’ platform building is signficant with its design showing linear form, gable roof and integrated awnings. The 1880s footbridge with stairs leading down the platforms and streets has been altered considerably in terms of the recasting of the concentre stairs and deck and installation of new handrails and balustrades. However the footbridge has a number of 1880s elements namely brick piers, cast iron columns, arches, steel trestles and latticework to the deck and overall retains is aesthetic quality.

The signal box which dates from 1927 has technical significance as it contains all its signalling equipment demonstrating signalling technology of this era.
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]
Petersham Railway Station has low archaeological research potential. Any potential remaining evidence which pertains to the 1891 men’s toilet block under the footbridge and the booking office and stairs in the subway is not considered significant as it is not likely to provide information not available at other railway sites.
SHR Criteria f)
Petersham Railway Station has rarity in terms of its ‘first class station building’ and the footbridge, with the station building being the only ‘first class station building’in the Sydney area and the footbridge being the second oldest surviving footbridge in NSW and a unique example within the suburban network.
SHR Criteria g)
The building on platform 1/2 which has been altered internally but it retains a high level of integrity to its exterior and is representative of a common form of standard platform building design. With seven bays the building is one of the larger examples of its type and is therefore an excellent representation of this type. The signal box at Petersham Railway Station has characteristic features of this type of signal box namely its elevated brickwork base, timber framed, fibre cement clad operating level structure and Dutch gable roof and has a high level of integrity as its original signalling equipment has been retained and it still has original fibre cement slate roof tiles, making it an excellent example.
Integrity/Intactness: Despite the moderate integrity of the island platform buildings and the limited integrity of the subway, overall the Petersham Station Group is assessed as having a high level of integrity based on the condition and intactness of the Terminus Street former station building, the footbridge and the signal box.

The exterior of this building is largely intact and has been subject to extensive restoration in recent years. The offices which occupy the 1954 extension and a small section of the original 1885 building are not considered significant. While this extension to the west has little merit, it does not detract from the integrity of the main building. Likewise, infill sections are poorly executed but do not have a major impact on the integrity of the 1885 building. The interior contains many architectural features, both original and reproductions, which contribute to the significance and integrity of the building as a whole.

While the exterior is mainly intact, the interior has been modified to meet ever-changing operational requirements. This, coupled with the fact that there a more intact examples of this type of platform building elsewhere, has reduced the integrity of this particular building.

The signal box is mostly intact with all its signalling equipment, original fibre cement slate tiles and weatherboard walls.

This structure is largely intact and has been subject to extensive restoration in recent years. Modern services such as lighting and CCTV have been installed yet they do not detract from the integrity of the bridge.

There is not much evidence of the existing form or extent of the original subway, but it appears to be of low integrity.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

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 0122302 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental Plan  18 May 01 86 
National Trust of Australia register Former Railway Station Etc, Railway Street Group7630, 9434   
Register of the National EstatePetersham Railway Station (former)0172321 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Petersham Railway Station group View detail
WrittenDavid Sheedy P/L1995The Former Petersham Railway Station Conservation Plan

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: 5012133
File number: H00/00028

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