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Sydney Terminal and Central Railway Stations Group

Item details

Name of item: Sydney Terminal and Central Railway Stations Group
Other name/s: Central Railway; Central Station; Underbridges
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.8849069994 Long: 151.2051879090
Primary address: Great Southern and Western Railway; Illawarra Rail, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT13 DP1062447
LOT116 DP1078271
LOT117 DP1078271
PART LOT118 DP1078271
LOT2 DP1078271
LOT3 DP227840
LOT1 DP267889
LOT2 DP267889
LOT2 DP5771
LOT3 DP5771
PART LOT1 DP868663
LOT11 DP868834
LOT2 DP877478
LOT30 DP877478


The listing boundary is formed by Cleveland St overbridge to the south, the property boundary along Prince Alfred Park, Chalmers and Elizabeth Streets, Hay St to the north and Pitt, Lee and Regent Streets to the west.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Great Southern and Western Railway; Illawarra RailSydneySydney  Primary Address
Railway SquareSydneySydney  Alternate Address
Chalmers StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address
Regent StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address
Eddy AvenueSydneySydney  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government16 Nov 98

Statement of significance:


- As the site of the first Sydney Terminal and the starting point of the main line, from which the NSW rail network grew;
- for its continuity of railway use since 1855;
- As the site of one of the first passenger stations in NSW;
- As a major terminal by world standards, comparable with late Victorian and Edwardian metropolitan stations in Europe, Great
Britain and North America;
- Containing the Mortuary Station, one of five pre 1870 stations surviving in the State;
- As the first major terminus to be constructed in Australia and the only example of a high level terminus in the country;
- As a unique terminal, in NSW, not only in extent but also for the high standard of design of the associated buildings in particular
the Mortuary Station, Railway Institute and the Parcels Post Office;
- Containing two of the three station buildings, in NSW designed by the Colonial or Government Architect in NSW;
- As one of the two longest continuously operating yard/workshop complexes in Australia, dating from the 1850s. Although
many of the original functions have been superseded, or operations transferred to other sites, evidence of the working 19th
century yard remains extant;
- As a major multi-level transport interchange between pedestrians, vehicular traffic and trains and later trams and subsequently
buses. Since its establishment in 1855 it has been one of the busiest transport interchanges in Australia;
- As the larges formally planned addition to the urban fabric of Sydney prior to World War 1, intended to form a gateway to the
- As the site of the Benevolent Asylum and Carters Barracks and Devonshire Street Burial Ground and Stations, evidence of
which is likely to be found in the archaeological record;
- As a major public work undertaken in numerous stages between 1855 and 1930 by two branches of the Department of Public
Works, the Railway and Tramway Construction Branch and the Colonial (later Government) Architects Branch;
- For the evidence provided of the changing technology of train travel from steam to electric trains, indicated not only by the
declining yard workforce but also by the changes in yard layout and signalling work practises;
- As point of entry to the city for visitors from country NSW and a major departure point for travellers within Australia;
- The railway yards, the Mortuary Station, Railway Institute Building, terminus and clock tower are familiar Sydney landmarks,
particularly to rail travellers.


- For their continual operation as a rail yard since the introduction of railways to NSW in 1855;
- As site of the first and second Sydney Terminals and the Mortuary Station;
- Whitten virtually abandoned Sydney work in order to construct the main line network in the country areas.


- Containing one of the first overbridges and cuttings constructed in Australia, part of the first phase of railway construction in
- As a vital link with Darling Harbour and for the export of wool and other agricultural products from country NSW;
- For the surviving fabric which provides evidence of change embankment and retaining wall and bridge construction


- As one of a pair of purpose built mortuary or receiving stations, the only known example in Australasia. Whilst the station at
Sydney remains in its original location, the Rookwood Station has been relocated;
- As a fine, rare example of 19th century Venetian Gothic;
- As the finest example of a covered single platform type station in Australia and the most elaborately detailed stations, of its
period. The detail includes a rare example of a tiled platform, elaborately carved stonework and joinery, furniture and
decorative wrought iron work;
- As one of few Gothic Revival buildings designed by the Colonial Architect James Barnet, a highly praised design, marking a
high point in his career and considered to be one of his finest designs;
- For its association with Victorian rituals surrounding death and mourning. The building was designed as an elaborate setting for
the example of the use of trains rather than horse drawn carriages to transport coffins to cemeteries;
- As one f few Gothic revival buildings of the period that were designed for a function other than for churches or schools. The
style was selected to provide an appropriate atmosphere for the mourners;
- As an early example of the introduction of Venetian Gothic motifs including the colonnade which screens the platform;
- As a fine example of stone masonry including an arcade with foliated capitals and carved intrados (soffit), metal and wood work.
- For the role played by the colonial Architect James Barnet in encouraging the art of stone masonry through his designs;
- For its association with the development of the Rookwood Necropolis, one of the largest garden cemeteries in the world;
- As a local landmark, visible from locations such as Prince Alfred Park, the Cleveland Street Bridge and the forecourt of Sydney


- One of few surviving working buildings on the site, whose industrial character, specialised layout and form demonstrate former
functions and operations;
- As the smaller, and remaining of two carriage sheds, built for the servicing of carriages;
- Part of the extension of the Sydney Terminal shortly after the turn of the century;
- The disuse of the carriage sheds provides evidence of the changing nature of rail travel and work practices, such labour
intensive processes no longer being undertaken within the Sydney Yards.


- Contain the only remains of a workshop building within the Sydney Terminal complex, which date from the 1870s, and also the
Railway Institute;
- Mark the eastern boundary of the once extensive Sydney yards.


- The first Railway Institute to be established in Australia;
- A fine example of the Queen Anne revival style, based on English precedent. The building exhibits characteristic features of
the style including Dutch Gables, the use of moulded brickwork and Marselle roof tiles;
- For its role in the continuing education of the railway employees, through evening classes;
- A setting for social activities for the railway employees;
- Containing significant plagues and memorials to railway employees;
- Containing a rare, and largely intact, example of a small scale, late Victorian Hall.


- The first major terminus, and the only high level terminal, to be constructed in Australia, the design of which was overseen by
experts from NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Comparative in scale and quality of design to the major European and American
- A major transport interchange, with numerous tram lines on different levels, the most complex in Australia;
- A major planned urban design aimed at improving Sydney, in contrast to the haphazard beginning and former unplanned
growth of the rail termini. The only major building of this period in Sydney where the urban setting was consciously designed to
complement, and provide views of the main structure;
- A symbol of the progress of the development of the city and the railway;
- A major public building designed by the Government Architect WL Vernon, and detailed by GM Blair, and completed by his
successor George McRae. The only railway station designed by Vernon, and his most adventurous free classical design;
- A major sandstone building, one of the few to be constructed, in Sydney, outside of the heart of the CBD. The use of
sandstone reflected the status of the building as a major public building;
- For its design as an elaborate progression of spaces, from the tram portico to the booking hall to the concourse and into the
(proposed) train shed, enhancing the sense of journey. This contrasted with the previous station which had grown into an
unplanned conglomeration of platforms;
- The largest station to have been constructed in NSW, previously the major country stations such as Albury were grander both
in scale and decorative detail than the Sydney Terminal;
- The Sydney Terminal would have been even grander had the train shed been constructed covering the platforms. The
changing of the design as a cost cutting measure reflects the economic conditions of the time. The construction of Stage Two
during the war years, however, reflects the importance of this transport link to the Australian economy;
- A rare example, in Sydney, of the use of multi level vehicular approaches, the separate approaches for tram, pedestrian and
vehicle, being identified at the outset as being a particular feature;
- The clocktower, completed as part of the second stage, is a well known Sydney landmark, nicknamed "the working mans
- Containing such planning innovations as separate subways for passengers and baggage handling and the main assembly
platform [concourse];
- Further investigation may reveal the main assembly platform to be one of the earliest uses of reinforce concrete floor slabs in
- Marking a period of prosperity for the railways and a subsequent decline in other forms of transport, in particular the more
unreliable coastal shipping, following construction of the north coast Railway 1910-1922;
- The manner in which different structural systems, such as the three pin and crescent truss roofs, were used throughout the
design to form a variety of spaces;
- The original floor plan indicates separate waiting facilities for different classes of passenger and for women. These distinctions
have largely disappeared, with the exception of the use of a system of classes on the transcontinental trains and the XPT and
- For the inclusion, in the design, of up-to-date technology including telephones and telegraphs.


- The only purpose built post office building, of this period in Sydney;
- An indication of the importance of rail in carrying parcels;
- An example of the work of the Government Architects Vernon and McRae and their principal design architect, GM Blair;
- A fine example of neo-classical detailing on one of the few brick and sandstone public buildings in inner Sydney;
- A landmark in Railway Square;
- An early example of a concrete and steel framed office building of fire proof construction.


- The yard contains one of the earliest sewers in Metropolitan Sydney, built by the newly formed Department of Public Works in
the mid 1850s;
- The site of the workshops which were the heart of the working yard in the mid to late 19th century;
- Containing evidence of the changing technology of train travel, commencing with steam locomotives in the mid 1850s;
- Showing the impact of the decentralisation of railway functions, which began in the 1880s, on the Sydney Yard.


- Association with JJC Bradfield and the construction of the City Electric Railway, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the late
- One of a number of inner Sydney stations designed by JJC Bradfield, of which two are above ground, Milsons Point and
Central Electric;
- Containing the most elaborate station entrance (Elizabeth Street), of the City Circle stations;
- For the continuation of the neo-classical architectural vocabulary and the use of sandstone for the station building and the
- For its continuous use as a commuter station for the Sydney suburban lines;
- For the use of 'state of the art' reinforced concrete construction.

(Conservation Manage Plan Sydney/Central Station Author: Department of Public Works & Services Year: 1996 Page: 128-135)
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.


Physical description: PRECINCT 1: WESTERN YARD

Central Railway Station has buildings concentrated on its northern boundaries that are fed by large rail yards behind. Together they form part of the fabric of the city of Sydney and form boundaries to its inner suburbs. The location of this station is on land that has been in continuous government use since the commencement of European settlement. Various forms of public transport have radiated from this site since 1855.

The open space of the rail yards adds to the experience of arrival to the city from the north and south by opening up vistas to the imposing Sydney Terminal with its landmark tower. This open space permits the imposing Terminus and its Tower to be visible when viewed from a distance much as it was intended when originally built. The terminus and its approaches define formal urban spaces in the city fabric.

Devonshire Street Tunnel demonstrates the influence of the city on the complex. This tunnel was created on a pre-existing street to facilitate cross town pedestrian traffic as well as for the benefit of rail passengers.


The Western Rail Yard Precinct is an area that is west of No.1 Main line extending to Regent Street boundary, Devonshire Street Subway and Cleveland Street Bridge. The track layout of this yard has remained virtually unchanged since 1906.

The rail sidings that take up the bulk of the land area were known as the Botany Road Yards. These siding lines are still in service but are seldom used.

The lines were used as storage yards for making up passenger trains and for goods being loaded and unloaded at the Parcel and Goods Sidings. This was a major activity at the Sydney Terminal that has become obsolete due to the introduction of technological changes such as fixed sets of rail cars, and the phasing out of locomotive pulled trains, the use of a branch line cuts through the precinct providing access to Darling Harbour Goods Yard. The underpass and overbridge date from 1855.

The Mortuary Station with its siding and platform are on the boundary of Regent Street and are visible from Railway Square because of the low scale of buildings in the Western Yard. Rail access to the Mortuary Station was from the main lines near the Cleveland Street Bridge, and has remained in service since the mid 1860s.

Nearer to the present main station building there is the West Carriage Shed that is the last remaining carriage shed at Central Station. While no longer in use, it remains largely intact. The six rail lines that enter the shed were connected to the yard through tunnels at the end of Platform No.1.

The Parcel Dock is physically connected with the main station complex and has four platforms. The use of rail transportation for parcel delivery has declined considerably. These platform sidings are still in use for temporary portable offices mounted on rail flat cars. The sidings closest to Platform No.1 are used for the loading of automobiles for the Indian Pacific.

The Yard was designed for locomotive hauled trains. As this technology has gone out of use except for the Indian Pacific and Special Trains the yard has little present functional use. With locomotive hauled trains the train was marshalled for running in one direction, it has the locomotive at the head of the train and a brake van near the rear. This meant that trains when ending their journey had to be remarshalled before commencing their journey out of Sydney Station. The introduction of trains with driving positions at both ends of the train no longer require this process. As the station originally handled locomotive hauled passenger trains for suburban, country and interstate service this activity was considerable. Most of the steam loco facilities and trackwork has been removed.

The decline in shunting and the removal of coal and water storage has seen a reduction in the level of activity in the yard.

Although it has progressed through various configurations, the landscape has maintained the same ground level since 1856 with its final layout being enlarged in 1906 by the removal of some houses and the realignment of Regent Street to its present format.


The Prince Alfred Sidings are on the eastern perimeter of the site, making up the boundary with Prince Alfred Park. The PA electric car sidings were built only after the flyovers.

The precinct and adjacent area has a number of functions, its present rail use is for storage of City Rail's Electric rail car sets. Prior to the construction of the electric lines the yard was a goods yard containing Produce and Goods Sheds as well as the first carriage shed. All have been removed from this precinct.

The Yard is a small part of the original Sydney yard, of which a number of buildings remain which date from 1870. Later additional buildings are associated with the 1926 Electric Suburban System. The construction of the electric system reduced the width of the Prince Alfred Sidings.

Trains within this yard need to be protected because of vandalism. The Electric Sub Station is part of the 1926 electrification works and is linked with the sub station at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It also contains air compressors for the operation of pneumatic points within the Yard and the City Circle Lines.

A retaining wall forms the boundary with Prince Alfred Park, the retaining wall has been incorporated into the rear wall of the blacksmiths workshops. A number of mature trees are growing on the boundary, the larges being a Moreton Bay Fig at least 80 years old.


Sydney Terminal is a high level, main line rail terminal. It is sited to dominate its surroundings and to mark the importance of the railways and its service to the state and the city. This elevated siting also permits the use of the topography to gain road access to more than one level enabling the development of an extensive subterranean luggage network and separation of differing modes of transport. The commanding position of the Terminus with large areas of open space sloping away from the building continues the public domain of Railway Square whilst maintaining a clear vista of the Terminus from the square. The Terminus, and in part the Parcels Post Office, create a formal edge to Railway Square.

The terminus comprises a colonnade and porte cochere, which originally provided an undercover area for passengers transferring to and from trams.

The Main Assembly platform is the centre of the terminus, around which all of the ancillary functions, such as refreshment rooms, waiting rooms and the booking hall were arranged. This "platform" was accessed from both the East and West deck.

Sydney Terminal now contains seven double platforms and one single platform, each with an awning, servicing a total of 15 tracks. Platforms 1-3 are for country and interstate services, while the remainder are for interurban services. The platforms run perpendicular to the main station concourse and all are dead end with the buffer stop.

Platforms1-10 have a centre run-round track, this was for locomotive hauled trains. It enabled the locomotive to uncouple from its train and either depart or re-couple on the other end to pull the train to the next destination. There was extreme pressure on the speed to ready a train for then ext destination due to the lack of platform space and a steady growth of rail patronage. These centre lines are now used for storage of electric rail car sets in off peak times. The platforms feature long timber framed canopies over some of the platforms (incorporating Howe trusses). Timber was used in lieu of steel because of the high cost at the time of importing steel.

The only locomotive hauled trains now using Sydney Terminal are the Indian Pacific and special trains which usually use Platform 1. Platform 1 has always been the main out of Sydney Station with the longest platform. Platforms 1 and 2-3 were lengthened to their present length in 1962 covering the skylights to the Devonshire Street Subway for diesel hauled trains like the Southern Aurora.

To the west of the southern end of Platform 1 is the Inwards Parcel Office. This was the loading dock for parcels and mail from the post office. The mail was loaded via a tunnel from the post office.

The Parcels Post Office is an unusual urban building, being designed to be viewed from three sides. Its symmetrical, boldly modelled elevations and its siting in the middle of an open space give it the presence of a public monument or sculpture. Due to the oblique road approaches to the Railway Square this building forms a strong element within the Sydney Terminal Precinct.


The Sydney Yard Precinct is located south of the Devonshire Street Tunnel extending to the Cleveland Street Bridge and between the Central Electric and the Western Yard Precincts. The track layout to Platforms 1-15 have remained virtually unchanged since they were originally laid out in 1906.

Major items from its period as a steam locomotive hauled train yard have been removed. These include the Eastern Carriage shed, Coal Stages, and Engine Docks at the head of each platform. Ash pits and water columns that were part of the yard have also been removed.

There is only one "yard controller" remaining within the Yard. Previously, at least 2 Signal Boxes would have been located in the Yard at any one time, but these have been removed due to the mechanical interlocking system being computerised and pneumatically operated.

The Yard buildings have been altered significantly since the Eastern Carriage Shed was demolished. This large shed divided the central yard from the central electric lines. The land where the shed once stood is vacant and the only remaining structures adding to this division of the yard are the Cleaners Amenities and the former Timetable Office with the garden.

The rail Yard connects to the passenger platforms of Sydney Terminal which are as originally designed and built, with the infrastructure for steam locomotives having been removed - these being water columns between each track near the buffers. However, the concrete plinths remain.


The Central Electric System runs near to the eastern boundary of the entire site.

Developed in 1926 as part of the electrification and expansions of the Sydney suburban lines, it also linked through the City Circle underground rail system and the North Shore over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Electric Station was part of the construction works overseen by Bradfield that included the excavation of the underground tunnels, the building of the Harbour Bridge, and electrification of the suburban rail network. It was run separately from the rest of the rail yard.

At the northern end of the precinct, six tracks leave the underground tunnels near Goulburn Street, and pass over Hay and Campbell Streets and Eddy Avenue where they enter the platform area. The four platforms allow four eight trains to use the station, four trains in each direction. Leaving the platforms to the south, the tracks enter the unique flyover system. The construction of the flyovers was to allow the transfer of trains from the designated platforms to the relevant line.

There are two major pedestrian entrances to Central Electric: one at Elizabeth Street and one at the top of Eddy Avenue ramp. Both are constructed of Maroubra sandstone with classical detailing.

(Conservation Management Plan Sydney/Central Station Author: Department of Public Works & Services Year: 1996 Page: 92-97)

Movable Items
Train controllers desk, (AA15), third floor Sydney terminus
Doors linking train controllers offices, (AD07), third floor Sydney terminus
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physcial Condition is good.
Date condition updated:08 Aug 08
Current use: Railway Station and terminus; transport interchange
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm,Cemetery (Devonshire Street); Railway Station and terminus


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney (sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City ).

Although the Sydney Railway Company first applied to the government for four blocks of land between Hay and Cleveland Streets in 1849, the Surveyor General favoured Grose Farm, now the grounds of the University of Sydney. It was further from the city and less costly to develop.

The Company finally exchanged land in the first, second and third blocks, between Hay and Devonshire Streets, for an increased area of twenty acres in the fourth block, the Government Paddocks, between Devonshire and Cleveland Streets. Hence the site of the first Sydney railway terminus was located here from 1855.

By the late 19th century, as Sydney's population increased, planning was underway to build a new train terminus in Sydney to meet the demand of the ever-exapnding suburban railway network. The old Devonshire Street Cemetery, at the southern edge of the city, was earmarked for this use. In 1901, the NSW government resumed the cemetery, along with a number of institutional buildings nearby, to make way for the new station and transport interchange. The site was cleared soon after. Historic buildings demolished for the new station included the Society of Friends' (Quakers) Meeting House, Belmore Police Barracks, Belmore Park tramsheds, the Sydney Female Refuge, the Convent of the Good Samaritan, Christ Church St. Laurence's Parsonage and the Benevolent Asylum. Central Station was completed in 1906, and apart from the main building, included formal approach ramps, the concource, platforms 1-15, underground tunnels, yards and sidings (Sydney City Council, 'Devonshire Street Resumption' in CustomsHouse Exhibitions, 2020).

When the third station was built in 1906, it moved one block north, closer to the city. It fronted Garden Road, which was realigned to form Eddy Avenue. If Belmore Park is included, all the land now occupied by the railway at Central and Redfern coincides with the Company's original selection of four blocks between Hay and Cleveland Streets.

In major metropolitan areas the rail terminus tended to be located within the inner core of the city. The site of the first and second station termini was inconveniently located for the city. Initially a horse-bus service operated from the station to the city, and both Engineer-in-Chief, John Whitton, and Chief Commissioner for Railways, BH Martindale, recognised the urgency of a city rail extension.

In 1877 John Young, a prominent Sydney builder and local politician proposed a scheme to provide a circular city extension to the railway. The route included stations at Oxford Street, William Street and Woolloomooloo in the east, Circular Quay, then Dawes Point and a line parallel to Darling Harbour in the west. John Whitton designed a grand city terminus at the corner of Hunter and Castlereagh Streets two years later. Neither of these schemes eventuated.

In 1897 Norman Selfe drew up a scheme for the gradual enlargement and extension of the railway to the northern end of the city and in the same year Railway Commissioner, EMG Eddy, proposed a terminal city station at the corner of Elizabeth Street and St James' Road. The route of the latter was virtually the same as that for 1879, however, the new site for the terminus included half of the northern end of Hyde Park. Although 16 acres of the burial ground in Devonshire Street was offered as compensation, public sentiment still opposed the loss of Hyde Park.

The Royal Commission in 1897 again considered the city railway extension because of dangerous congestion at Redfern and recommended using Hyde Park. Then, after an investigative trip overseas, Henry Deane, Engineer-in-Chief, prepared alternative proposals for a new railway terminal for the government in 1900.

The second scheme proposal called for the resumption of the Devonshire Street cemeteries, but this was cheaper and less contentious than the acquisition of Hyde Park. It was the second scheme which was eventually adopted.

During Governor Macquarie's term, the future site of the Sydney Terminal was beyond the limits of settlement, which were marked by the tollhouse located at the end of George Street and at the entrance to Railway Square.

The Benevolent Asylum fronted present Railway Square. It was demolished to make way for the building of the third railway terminal, Sydney Terminal.

Although Railway Square no longer signifies the entrance to the interior of the colony, at the junction of George and Pitt Streets, it has always channelled traffic from the southern parts of the city and out west to Parramatta. From the building of the first railway terminus at Devonshire Street in 1855, it was an important focus for the arrival of country persons to the city and later commuters into the city.

The importance of the relationship between the Sydney Terminus and Railway Square is reflected in the elevations of the main building. Here the dominating presence of the clock tower, completed in 1921, marked the arrival and departure times, the beginning and the end of a workman's day. Before the spread of the suburbs, a workman could make a return trip home to eat dinner in his lunch hour.

On a continuous axis with the first station building, Belmore Park originally fronted the first Hay and Corn Markets in Hay Street. When the third station was located one block further north, it linked up with the southern side of Belmore Park. The park then fortuitously provided a green foil to the commanding city front of the station.

The 1908 Royal Commission for the Improvement of the City of Sydney and its Suburbs offered two schemes which, in providing vehicular access, attempted to resolve the discrepancy in scale between Belmore Park and the station building. The scheme presented by John Sulman consisted of two circular roadways, one above the other, around Belmore Park. The Commissioners, however, favoured a less grandiose Scheme prepared by Normal Selfe.

"Its main feature is the raising of Belmore Park to the level of the station platform between raised roads in the eastern half of a widened Pitt-street on the one hand and the western half of a widened Elizabeth-street on the other, with a connecting viaduct along Eddy-avenue and a retaining-wall to support the raised park along its Hay-street alignment".

Although neither scheme was attempted, Selfe proposal is recalled in the Elizabeth Street ramp which was built in 1925 to allow the extension of an electric connection to the city. The park, needless to say, was never raised to the height of the assembly platform.

The Elizabeth Street facade of the Sydney Terminus has received less attention. Facing the working class terraces in Surry Hills, the eastern wing was finished in brick rather than stone when shortage of funds hurried completion of the first stage of the station in 1906. It was the obvious location for expansion when new platforms were added to the original complex to provide the electrical city and suburban connection in 1926. The grand station building is eclipsed from view at street level by the Elizabeth Street ramp and the later semi-circular classical entrance portico to the city connection is in refined contrast to the rusticated blocks and heavy treatment of the main building.

The original proposal for electrification was for the Hornsby-Milson's Point Line, a separate line which could be electrified without impact on the remainder of the rail system. However, due to the necessity of building the City Underground Railway and the proposal for a Sydney Harbour Bridge, not to mention the expansion of the Illawarra and Bankstown lines, the program was altered in order that the electrification could be linked with these proposed expansions.

From Well Street Redfern eight tracks would continue as the City Railway whilst four would carry the country trains to the Sydney Terminal. An above ground station which would include a link to allow the transfer of passengers and baggage to the Sydney Terminal. This new station was constructed on the east.

The planning for electrification involved the following works:
- a new above ground station
- extensions to the Cleveland Street Bridge
- flyovers
- extensions to the Devonshire Street subway
- extension to the Devonshire Street wall
- construction of new bridges over Eddy Avenue, Campbell Street and Hay Street, and the Elizabeth Street retaining wall.
- construction of the City Railway Tunnels

Modernisation programs were undertaken in 1955 and again in 1964. In the 1955 work a booking hall was created (in the former refreshment room, now the railway bar). Murals depicting railway scenes lined the walls and a terrazzo map of Australia was installed on the floor. In October 1980 a modernisation program at the Sydney Terminal commenced. The objective of the work was to improve the facilities for both passenger convenience and comfort. The start of this modernisation program coincided with the 125th Anniversary of the NSW Railways and it was at a time when many major service advances were being made to the State Rail System.


The first Sydney passenger station, located just south of Devonshire Street, was a temporary timber and corrugated iron building, constructed rapidly in late August to early September 1855, in time for the opening of the line to Parramatta for passenger trains. This building was demolished in the early 1870s and replaced by a more substantial brick station building.

The first, and the second station buildings, often referred to as Redfern Station were both in the form of a shed which covered the main line. A photograph of the exterior of the first station taken in 1871 shows vertical boarding, windows with a hood and a corrugated iron roof, with a roof vent. Internally the stud framing and timber truss roof members were exposed. The offices and public facilities were contained in the adjacent lean-to, which faced George Street. Only one platform and the main up-line served the passenger station. A similar platform and line layout was used for the Mortuary Station, constructed 15 years later, however, the level of detail and materials varied considerably.

The first station building was extended almost immediately, a shed being constructed at the southern end to cover an additional 100ft of platform.

The second station building was constructed on the site of the first station, the main hall spanning the up and down mainlines. Separate platforms and facilities were provided for arriving and departing passengers. The new station building appears to have taken three years to complete, the drawings are dated 1871, the official opening was in 1874.

The second station, like the first, was constructed to allow for a future extension of the line into the city, the lines initially extending just far enough past the building to accommodate a steam locomotive.

John Whitton, the Engineer-in-Chief designed a neo-classical station building to be constructed of brick, with the decorative detail formed using polychromatic and relief work.

Almost immediately the demand for platform space during peak times resulted in additional branch lines and platforms being constructed adjacent to the passenger station. These lines were brought in front of the station, obscuring it from view and isolating the verandah. By 1890 Whitton's station building had become engulfed within a sea of sheds and tram platform canopies.

The second Redfern station, demolished following the completion of the first stage of the main terminal building c.1906, was a gloomy building, the glass in the roof lantern not permitting a great deal of light to enter and the soot from the steam locomotives coating the surfaces with grime.

In addition to the construction of the main trunk line between Sydney and Parramatta in 1855, a branch line between Darling Harbour and the Sydney Yard, with a cutting and underpass to carry the line under George Street, was also constructed. This line was to allow for the transfer of goods to be exported by ship primarily wool bales.

In the first decades of settlement goods were loaded and unloaded in Sydney Cove, however, as the city expanded the wharves extended round into Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour). The presence of the rail link would have influenced the development of this harbour.

The Darling Harbour Line is one of the first cuttings and overbridges to be constructed as part of the NSW Rail network. In contrast to later structures sandstone is used to line the walls of the underpass and to form the over bridge. The Darling Harbour Line partially followed the line of an existing water course, the Blackwattle Creek.

Subsequent alterations to the layout of Railway Square have resulted in extensions to the overbridge.

The first Sydney railway workshop, constructed c.1855 was a substantial two storey sandstone building with arched openings to both floors and a slate roof. A boiler, for the production of steam, was located at the southern end of the building. By 1865, a timber extension had been constructed over a section of track to allow the locomotives to be worked on under cover. A blacksmiths forge was located in an adjacent single storey building.

In contrast with the first Redfern Station building [Sydney Terminal] the main workshop building was an elaborately detailed sandstone building, with a rock faced ashlar base, quoins and sills. The use of substantial and well detailed sandstone buildings on the site was to continue with the construction of the twin gabled goods shed, the Mortuary Station and finally the present Station Building and its approaches.

Originally the Sydney yard occupied the area between the passenger station and the two storey workshop building. Initially timber and corrugated iron sheds were built however, these were soon replaced with more substantial masonry building. Gable-ended locomotive and carriage workshops were built here. Although no architectural drawings of these buildings have been located it is assumed that metal roof trusses and cast iron internal columns were used, similar to the structural system favoured in England, and later employed at Eveleigh.

Of these sheds the most elaborate was the Second Goods Shed, built in the late 1860s. The building was as, if not more, elaborate than many English examples. It was unusual, even in the 19th century for this level of decorative detail to be employed on such a utilitarian structure as a goods shed, the standard of building obviously representing the level of importance of the yard.

Extensive facilities were required to keep the locomotives in good working order. The Sydney/Redfern yards were extended towards Elizabeth Street and the Exhibition Ground (Prince Alfred Park). Until the construction of the railway workshops at Eveleigh in the mid 1880s the majority of the maintenance work was undertaken at the Sydney/Redfern Yard.

In 1884 the yards included a gasworks (c.1882) and gas holder, a carriage works, the locomotive shop (by 1865). A turntable connected the now considerably extended main workshop building, one of the two blacksmiths shops and the repairing shed. All of these structures have been demolished.

Further towards the park, in the area now known as the Prince Alfred Sidings were located the carpenters shop, the second blacksmiths shop and an office.

These buildings are the only remnants of the Sydney Yard. Little physical evidence remains of the layout or the functioning of this once extensive railway yard as many of the structures were removed to allow for the construction of platforms 16-23 and subsequently the city electric station.

The Mortuary Station, or the Receiving House as it was known was originally constructed for funeral parties, the mourners accompanying the coffin on the journey to the necropolis at Rookwood. Most documentary sources date the building as being constructed in 1869 however, the outline of the station first appears on the 1865 MWS&DB plan. The rail lines had not yet been constructed.

The inner Sydney cemetery or New Burial Ground, also known as the Sandhills or Devonshire Street station was located in the Brickfields, a site now occupied by the main terminal building. By the 1840s this cemetery was overcrowded and a new location, within close proximity to a railway line, was required.

In the early 1860s a site at Haslem's Creek was selected for the new cemetery. To distinguish the cemetery from the surrounding residential area of Haslem's Creek the cemetery became known as the Rookwood Necropolis. A station was constructed within the Haslem's Creek Cemetery (the Rookwood Necropolis).

The Colonial Architect James Barnet designed both receiving houses (mortuary stations) in the mid 1860s. The station within the Necropolis has subsequently been relocated and modified to form the nave of All Saints, Church of England, Ainslie, ACT. Although both stations are Gothic Revival in style, the plan and detailing of each varies considerably.

Barnet's two station buildings were designed to celebrate the passage of the coffin to and from the train. In the Victorian Era mourning the dead was a prolonged ritual with elaborate rules concerning behaviour and dress. The train trip to Rookwood became part of this ritual.

The regular funerary train service to Haslem's' Creek cemetery (the Rookwood Necropolis) commenced in 1867, two years before Mortuary Central and the Rookwood Station had been completed. By 1908 there were four stations within the necropolis, named Mortuary Stations 1-4, the Sydney receiving house was known as Mortuary Central.

Mortuary Central was built by Stoddart & Medway from Prymont sandstone and completed in March 1869. The carvings were executed by Thomas Duckett and Henry Apperly. From the variation claim submitted by the builders it would appear that a slightly larger building, with more decoration was built than originally intended.

The form of the Mortuary Station, with the large porte-cochere clearly indicates that it is not a church. A colonnade of trefoil arches and foliated capitals forms a screen to the platform. The same arch form being employed for both ends of the platform and for the octagonal porte-cochere to the west. The station building is above street level, a flight of stairs lead to the platform level. Ramps to the north and south were used for carriages. Internally were the ticket office, two vestibules and retiring rooms.

Photographs taken in the early 1870s clearly show the decorative detail of the building. Two colours of stone were employed, a darker shade of the arches and the surrounds to the medallions, the lighter shade being reserved for the ashlar work. The two shades of stone were employed internally in the same manner.

The arcade covering the platform is very elaborate, with its curved queen post truss roof, with ripple iron above following the curve, blind arcading to the west that mirrors the eastern arcade, and geometric tiled floor. Even the platform benches follow the Gothic Revival theme of the design, resembling pews. This platform would have contrasted with the more utilitarian Redfern station building, designed by John Whitton and constructed in the early 1870s.

The stonework of the Mortuary Station was very delicately worked, with a number of different foliage motifs forming the capitals, the trefoil spandrel panel within the main arches and the medallions. A star and zia-zag motif was used on the soffit of the arch, ball flowers on the cornice brackets and a zig-zag on the cornice.

The original roof covering was slate, with a pattern of half round and diamond slates being employed at the ridge and above the eaves. The octagonal porte-cochere terminates in a bell-cote, whose detail is a miniature of the main trefoil arch and medallion motif. The bellcote was roofed with lead.

Decorative metalwork is also employed, as finals, as a cresting and as balustrades. A leaf motif was used for the balustrade to the porte-cochere, and repeated in the panels of the elaborate timber gates that lead to the platform.

A palisade fence that stepped down to follow the slope and matching gates separated the station from the street and a picket fence lined the ramps. The spire of Mortuary Station (the Bellcote) was a distinctive townscape element it could be seen from the Exhibition Grounds (Prince Alfred Park) and from Sydney University.

The arcade detail, of Mortuary Central with its pointed trefoil arches, medallions and foliated capitals is reminiscent of the hotel at St Pancras Station by Sir George Gilbert Scott, designed in 1865 and constructed 1868-73. There are few other station buildings, either in Australia or the United Kingdom with this level of decorative detail. The construction of special mortuary stations is rare, no other examples have been located.

By the late 1970s the station had deteriorated, slates were missing from the roof and the stonework, black from pollution was also covered form graffiti. A restoration program was undertaken in 1983.

The Railway Institute was constructed as a venue for the Railway employees, providing a setting for both educational activities and social functions. It is reputed to be the first Railway Institute in Australia and provided a range of services for railway employees such as evening classes and a library.

A competition was held for the design, which was won by the Architect Henry Robinson. It is a Queen Anne Revival style building, based on English prototypes such as the London Board Schools. The design was the first use of Marseille roof tiles for public buildings in Australia. Many public buildings were designed by competition c.1890, during the period of transition between the Colonial and Government Architects Offices. The practice was abandoned in the mid 1890s due to lack of partially of the judges.

When the Railway Institute was constructed in 1891, the building was located on the corner of Devonshire Street and Elizabeth Street, at the north eastern corner of the Sydney rail yard. The surrounding streets and the carriage way have subsequently been modified. A carriage-way lead to the porte-cochere, enabling people attending social functions to enter the building without getting wet.

In addition to the library there were two halls, a large hall, with a stage, and a smaller hall on the ground floor. The detail of this space is largely intact and there are few examples of small scale halls of this period remaining in Sydney.

A single storey addition to the building, designed by the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon was added in 1898 to the south east of the main building.

Classes, such as engineering drafting, and examinations for railway employees were held in the Institute. The building was also utilised during emergencies such as the 1919 Influenza epidemic when women volunteers manufactured face masks (for railway employees).

There are few examples of Institutes of this period that provided such a high level of facilities for the benefit of the employees. The names on the Honour Board reads as a who's who of railway personalities.

In 1895 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works advised that a Royal Commission should be constituted to "inquire into the question of bringing the railway from its present terminus at Redfern into the city". The findings of this Commission, favouring a site in St James Road, were released in 1897. The term Central Station was now in common use.

The public Works Annual report of 1896-7 noted that "the Railway Construction Branch was called upon to furnish voluminous plans and estimates of the cost of the various proposals brought before the commission. After a most exhaustive investigation, the Royal Commission reported, almost unanimously, in favour of the extension of the railway into the city by the route and according to the plan as described as the St James Road Scheme".

The initial designs for a near Sydney Terminal were prepared by Henry Deane, the Engineer-in-Chief of Railway Construction in consultation with the Railway Commissioners. Mr Deane is reputed to have prepared ten schemes for the Royal Commission. Although the St James location was preferred, a scheme that did not involve the disturbance of or use of land in Hyde Park was sought.

The extension of Belmore Park was initially proposed in the 1897 scheme as compensation for the use of the north western corner of Hyde Park as a Railway Station. Following a change of government the St James scheme was abandoned and Henry Deane prepared, c.1899, a further two schemes, one of which was for the Old Burial Ground Site.

The earlier schemes to extend the lines further into the city would have been prohibitively expensive and would have required large scale resumptions. The site of the Old Burial ground was, in comparison, relatively easily obtainable as no private land was involved. Due to the extent of the resumption there would, in addition to a terminus be room for the extension of the goods yard and the erection of a carriage shed and post office.

The existing lines were at a higher level than the Burial Ground so rather than lower the existing railway track the tramlines were to be raised to serve a high level station.

The Public Works Committee passed the design on 7 June 1900 however, a much modified building was actually constructed.

The total estimated cost of the works was to be 561,000 pounds with the General Works estimated at 138,000 pounds, the Station Building estimated at 233,000 pounds and the Resumptions estimated at 140,000 pounds. Almost immediately these estimate proved conservative, there was much public concern regarding the removal of bodies from the Old Burial ground and a new cemetery, the Botany Cemetery, had to be constructed, at public expense at La Perouse.

The following properties were resumed:

- Steam Tram Deport, corner of Pitt Street and Garden Road
- Convent of the Good Samaritan (part of the Carters Barracks)
- Sydney Female Refuge (part of the Carters Barracks)
- Police Superintendent's Residence, Pitt Street
- Christ Church Parsonage
- Benevolent Asylum
- Police Barracks
- Devonshire Street Cemetery and South Sydney Morgue
- Residential Property, Railway Place

Mr E O'Sullivan, the Minister for Works, in 1901 established the [Central] Station Advisory Board, comprising railway experts to "investigate the question of the design and arrangements of the station". The members included:

- The Engineer-in-Chief for Railway Construction, NSW, Henry Deane
- The Government Architect NSW, Walter Liberty Vernon*
- The Engineer-in-Chief for Existing Lines, NSW, Mr TR Firth
- The Engineer-in-Chief for Railways, Queensland, Mr HC Stanley
- The Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, Victoria, Mr CW Norman.

Walter Liberty Vernon (1846-1914) was both architect and soldier. Born in England, he ran successful practices in Hastings and London and had estimable connections in artistic and architectural circles. In 1883 he had a recurrence of bronchitic asthma and was advised to leave the damp of England. He and his wife sailed to New South Wales. Before leaving, he gained a commission to build new premesis for Merrrs David Jones and Co., in Sydney's George Street. In 1890 he was appointed Government Architect - the first to hold that title - in the newly reorganised branch of the Public Works Department. He saw his role as building 'monuments to art'. His major buildings, such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1904-6) are large in scale, finely wrought in sandstone, and maintaining the classical tradition. Among others are the Mitchell Wing of the State Library, Fisher Library at the University of Sydney and Central Railway Station. He also added to a number of buildings designed by his predecessors, including Customs House, the GPO and Chief Secretary's Building - with changes which did not meet with the approval of his immediate precedessor, James Barnet who, nine years after his resignation, denounced Vernon's additions in an essay and documentation of his own works. In England, Vernon had delighted his clients with buildings in the fashionable Queen Anne style. In NSW, a number of British trained architects whow were proponents of hte Arts and Crafts style joined his office and under their influence, Vernon changed his approach to suburban projects. Buildings such as the Darlinghurst First Station (Federation Free style, 1910) took on the sacale and character of their surroundings. Under Vernon's leadership, an impressive array of buildings was produced which were distinguished by interesting brickwork and careful climatic considerations, by shady verandahs, sheltered courtyards and provision for cross-flow ventilation. Examples are courthouses in Parkes (1904), Wellington (1912) and Bourke, Lands Offices in Dubbo (1897) and Orange (1904) and the Post Office in Wellington (1904)(Le Sueur, 2016, 7).

The committee also considered a suitable design for the new Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. The design for the Sydney Terminus was to be a collaboration between the architect and the railway engineers. The layout was largely determined by the planning requirements of the railway engineers, to which an appropriate architectural style was overlaid. However, the initial scheme did not contain the require accommodation and an enlargement of the building was approved by the Minister. The cost estimate was now 610,000 pounds. The Board were to fulfil the wishes of the Minister that "the building should be a monumental work of stateliness and beauty".

An early proposal for the new terminus, and the changes to the surrounding area were reported in the Sydney Main in 1901:

"One of the reforms to be incidentally effected will be the widening of Pitt Street near the railway to 100ft. The width will secured by taking in land on the right already resumed or in Government hands, and including the Benevolent Asylum grounds, the convent along the northern side of Pitt Street where it debouches upon George Street. The result will be a fine, broad thoroughfare, tree bordered to form the entrance to the city...

...Mr O'Sullivan is also conferring with Mr S Horden to see if an arrangement can be made for the purpose of widening Gipps Street, at present a narrow thoroughfare before any new buildings are erected. By planting these broad streets on each side with trees, Mr O'Sullivan contends that a magnificent entrance to the city will be established and the trees will set off the new station.

He considers that this opportunity for the improvement and ornamentation of Sydney should not be lost, especially as it will not entail a very heavy cost upon the tax payer, most of the land utilised already being the property of the crown.

There will be four double and four single platforms, or practically twelve single platforms in all... Between the end of the docks and the main buildings is the assembly platform, 70ft wide. On the platform level will be booking offices, waiting rooms, cloak and luggage offices, lavatories, convenient refreshment rooms, dining rooms, etc. The basement will be devoted to kitchens, stores, baggage rooms, offices for minor officials, and a dining room for the Railway Commissioners and their staffs, including the clerical, professional, traffic and audit branches.

The railway is to cross Devonshire Street, which as a street for heavy traffic will cease to exist. It will be lowered and modified, to suite pedestrian, cab and light traffic only, with a width of 50ft. The heavy traffic hitherto taken over Devonshire Street will be diverted along Belmore Road and a new street which is to be made on the east side of the station.

Cabs will enter the station from Devonshire Street. The exit for cabs will lead into Pitt Street by an inclined ramp and subway, thus avoiding any crossing on the level of the path of either pedestrians or tramcars. The main approach to the station will be opposite the intersection of George and Pitt Street, and foot passengers, and cabs and other vehicles will enter here. Departure for vehicles will be effected by means of a ramp, descending from the north west corner of the building to Belmore Road.

"A subway for pedestrians to enter the building is to be provided from a point in Pitt Street, nearly opposite the north western corner of the building. The tramway approaches have been so designed as to take them completely clear of all other classes of traffic and congestion, and interference and risk of injury will be altogether obviated.

It is intended that the railway traffic should run as now arranged over the Castlereagh and Pitt Street route, but, instead of approaching the station on the ground level, the two lines begin to rise from a point in Belmore Park on a grade of 1 in 20, where they will terminate with a wide colonnade of (sic) platform level."

This design, with pavilions and a Mansard roof was strongly influenced by French Renaissance chateaux. The scale of the building, arrangement of the approaches and viaducts, the ground level colonnade and the position of the clocktower are all similar to the subsequent scheme, which was actually constructed.

By June 1901 work had begun on forming the site of the New Station at Devonshire Street, the PWD Annual Report for 1900/01 noting that "a great deal of preliminary work has had to be done in the preparation of the site for the new station and the extension of the railway, owing to the necessity of removing the bodies from the old cemetery and providing a new cemetery to receive the remains, as well as the demolition of the buildings and disposal of the material. The work of clearing and levelling is now well in hand." "Private removals were commenced on the 29th of February 1901 and at the end of the year 1,145 bodies had been removed." Families could remove the remains to a cemetery of their choosing however, the majority of bodies removed were relocated, at government expense, to the new cemetery at La Perouse. The Belmore Park to Fort Macquarie Electric Tramway was also constructed in 1900-1.

The earlier brick and sandstone design, with a mansard roof was abandoned in favour of an all sandstone terminus building which largely incorporated the same passenger, tram and vehicle separation as the earlier scheme. During 1899 a Parliamentary Standing Committee had debated whether the major public buildings should constructed of brick with a sandstone trim or all sandstone. This committee determined that, for major public buildings, sandstone should be used.

Two designs, by members of the Government Architects Branch, were submitted for the facades in October 1901 to the Minister for Public Works and to the Railway Commissioners with the accompanying comment by the "Board of Experts" advising on the design of Central Station "we are of the opinion that either one or the other of the architectural designs which accompany this report may with confidence be adopted". Of the two faade options that of Gorrie McLeish Blair was reputedly selected.

The 1901/02 Annual Report describes the progress a year later, "work has progressed vigorously during the year. All the old buildings and human remains have been removed from the site and the foundation stone was laid at the corner of Pitt-street and the New Belmore road on the 30th April. The information of New-Street, 2 chains in width, the extension of Castlereagh-street and the widening of Hay and Elizabeth Streets is well forward. The levelling of the whole site is practically finished, and great improvements have been made to Belmore and Prince Alfred Parks by filling in with the spoil excavated for the foundations".

A more detailed account is given of the excavation "the excavation to the docks and main building containing some 80,000 cubic yards, has been taken out and the material removed to Belmore Park, where it forms the tramway embankments and raises the general level of the park. About 30,000 cubic yards of material from the Castlereagh-street cutting have been utilised in improving the level of Prince Alfred Park.

In early 1902 the design of the terminus building was changed yet again, at the request of the "Board of Experts" advising on the design of Central. "...the station building has been increased in height by one storey, and considerably in length of front, and an east wing added. A tower also of fine proportions has been included. The completed building consequently shows a much larger building than originally proposed, but it is thought in the future it will come into use. In the meantime, certain parts can be left out and added afterwards, but in spite of all such reduction the estimated cost of the new building and the main rood will amount to about 400,000 pounds as compared with 230,000 pounds".

Henry Deane, in a lecture given to the Sydney University Engineering Society in 1902 describes the layout of the Central Railway Station that was currently under construction. "On the northern front of the Station, the roadway has a total width, including the footpaths, of 165 ft, so that not only the wheel traffic to the station, the tramway traffic to and from the City and Western Suburbs and the sports traffic, but also the heavy traffic diverted from Devonshire Street may be commodiously accommodated. This street will be continued to George Street and made 100ft wide. Steps are being taken to widen Pitt Street and make it 100ft wide.

Hay Street and Elizabeth Street, where skirting the park, have been widened by the abolition of the pathway running alongside the park and the utilisation of the avenue in the park for the purpose. A new street, 100ft wide on the East side of the station ground connects Elizabeth Street at the junction of Foveaux and Castlereagh Street, Redfern.

An inclined approach, including a width of forth feet for cabs, twenty feet for pedestrians and a sufficient width for the tramway runs parallel to Pitt Street, between Hay Street and the Station. The return tramway made on the east side of the station. These inclined approaches will have flat earthware slopes towards the park which will be ornamentally planted.

At the southern end of the station, Devonshire Street, where it passes through traffic or skirts the railway property, will be closed to all but pedestrian traffic, the latter being accommodated by a subway.

With regards to the Tramways, the Castlereagh and Pitt Street lines will be brought up by inclines to the platform level of the station... The tramway running through Belmore Park has now been abolished and deviated via Elizabeth Street and the road in front of the station...

...From the north or City end, access to the station for pedestrians will be by a footpath twenty feet wide, starting from Hay Street and rising up with a one in sixteen grade to the colonnade in front of the main building. From the west access will be obtained by a passenger subway fifteen feet wide opposite the new street, between George and Pitt Streets, with a one in twelve grade to platform level.

A striking peculiarity and advantage in the arrangements of this station is that there are separate approaches for pedestrians, road traffic and tramways, so that there will be none of the clashing and danger incident on the present arrangement between George Street and the existing station."

The general design of the new station was also discussed. "A great amount of attention was been devoted to the treatment of the front and west sides, and there is an additional of a wing on the east side. The tower, which will be situated near the north west corner of the station will be a commanding feature, and will be provided with a clock which will be visible from most parts of the city.

It is expected that the whole will produce an imposing architectural effect. The space enclosed between the wings of the building, and which is covered by the main roof, includes the assembly platform, 72 ft wide, five docks with three roads each and intervening platforms. Outside the building, on the east side, some lines will be laid which can eventually be extended into the city should that work be authorised by Parliament.

It is intended that the accommodation for the public shall be specially commodious. It will be of a character that will not only be suitable and sufficient for many years to come, but it has been architecturally designed so as to be an object of admiration to visitors.

A special feature of the Central Station design is its assembly platform (or one might say assembly platforms) because for the passengers leaving by train there is wide covered space to the north of the building, which to a certain extent serves the same purpose as the larger one, situated between the two wings of the building. This latter is 348 ft long and 72 ft wide. Although it has an analogue in space in front of the station at Redfern (Devonshire St) where arrivals from Sydney congregate, it differs in important respects from that one.

Although a busy place, it will not be subject in the same way to the rush of arrivals and departures, and those using it will not only be better protected from the weather, from the hot and cold blasts and the damp that afflict the passengers at Redfern (Devonshire St), but they will have better opportunities for considering their whereabouts and looking up the traffic directions than they now enjoy. Before them, in one line will be the barriers with openings leading on to the different platforms, and indicators plainly marked which can be read from a distance will show them the times and destinations of each departing train.

The booking hall will, in accordance with modern practice be of a large size, namely 110 ft long by 54 ft broad by 36 ft high. It is intended that it shall be a work of art and probably some special display of the latest style in station adornment will be found.

Waiting rooms will be provided for both ladies and gentlemen and the best attention will be devoted towards giving those using them the latest and best designed lavatories and conveniences. A barber's shop will be provided, accessible form the assembly platforms and to meet a demand that is often felt by those arriving by train and wishing to get rid of the dust of travelling, and to change their clothes so as to fit them to meet their friends or visit places of entertainment, there will be baths and dressing rooms...

The refreshment buffet is nearly 60 ft long by a width of 41 ft, and will be got up in the latest style. Adjoining is the ladies' and gentlemen's' dining and tea rooms 86 ft by 53, with separate entrances from the assembly platform, the serveries for which are in direct communication with the kitchens in the basement where every adjunct of the latest type is provided.

The public telegraph and telephone offices...are situated in the west wing and are approached from the inside platform and also from the cab arrival platform on the outside. The baggage room... is convenient to the cab arrival platform. Two large lifts are provided in which the baggage is taken to the basement to be distributed through the subways and up the lifts to the various platforms. On the other side of the arched opening to the platform is the cloak room...fitted up specially for the ready reception and delivery of parcels. Lifts are provided for the reception and delivery of goods to large stores in the basement.

At the southern end of the west wing of the main building is situated the main parcels office Here special facilities will be provided for parcels inwards and outwards; there is a separate road 40 ft wide, for inward and outward traffic, with all the necessary raised platforms &c.

Under the cab approach and departure roads, and facing Pitt Street, there will be 24 shops with colonnade in front... There will also be nine similar shops in the basement of the main building facing the new street.

On the upper floors of the building the Railway Commissioners and their officers will be accommodated. For the convenience and comfort will be accommodated. For the convenience and comfort of the staff, who are thus situated some distance from the centre of the town, a special dining-room and reading-room have been provided on the street level with access by lift and staircase from the offices above".

In his lecture Henry Deane also discusses many of the technical aspects of the design including luggage handling, the lifts, the water towers, the train shed roof, which was subsequently deleted as a cost cutting measure, the platforms and signalling.

A novel method of luggage handling was designed for Central to "get rid of the objectionable luggage-trolley, which is always frightening nervous people". A overhead luggage carrying system had been developed in England however, in the case of Central station "the levels permit of its being carried on underground by means of subways and lifts at suitable points". The mail was also to be transferred by subway.

The train shed roof was to be designed to have a central span of 198 ft with two sides spans of 78 ft. Three pin trusses were to be employed, which where to be brought to the ground to provide intermediate support. The roof was to be continuous. This truss and roof configuration was to be based on that of the Union Station, St. Louis, visited by Deane in 1894. Such a roof would have rivalled those of the major metropolitan termini in Europe and America.

The platform area was to be double that of the earlier station and correspondingly double the number of passengers could be accommodated. The maximum number of passengers that the Devonshire Street station could accommodate with 20,000. The new station would be able to accommodate 40,000.

The location of the cab rank was also discussed, it having been decided not to incorporated a cab rank inside the building so that the new station could be "kept entirely free from the smell, which the standing of horses under the roof must certainly involve".

In 1902 the Railway and Tramway Construction Branch, headed by Mr Deane, reported that "plans and detail drawings have been prepared in the office for the whole of the retaining wall and shops in Pitt-Street, both north and south of the new road in front of the Station, also for the Devonshire-Street subway and for the whole of the basement floors, including drainage, telephone tunnels, &c." At this stage, the estimated cost of the works was 561,600 pounds, however, it was "probable that his estimate will be exceeded".

The necessary tramway deviations, 2 miles and 60 chains of track, were laid in 1901-2 using day labour. The track consisted of rails laid on sleepers. The curve and the poles were manufactured by local engineering firms including the Clyde Engineering Co. The Permanent Way (i.e. track) was imported either from England or America.

The construction of the first stage of the station began in June 1902 and was completed in August 1906. By 30 June 1903 the following works had been completed: "the total quantity earth removed is about 250,500 cubic yards. This has been used to level up the station site as required. Belmore Park has been raised to carry the tramways to the station... The Sports Grounds Moore Park (cycling ground) have been been formed and the best of the clay had been disposed of to Messrs. Goodlet & Smith at their brickworks...

...The whole of the foundations to the main buildings have been taken out and concreted. On 21st July, 1902, the first order for building stone was given to Mr Saunders, at Pyrmont Quarry. On the 6th of August Inspector Murray went to Pyrmont Quarry to arrange for starting work dressing stone. On the 7th August eleven masons started work, and on the 18th the first dressed stone was landed on the works from Pyrmont Quarry and was set in place on No. 3 Pier, arrival bridge, on the 19th August; and since that date 127,000 cubic feet have been built into place.

This stone has been used in the building of retaining wall, Pitt-street, between Hay-street and the Ambulance Depot, near Devonshire-street; the tramway arrival and departure bridges, the piers of which have been carried up to impost and girder-bed level. Shop fronts and arcades in Pitt-street...the whole of [the] arcade with shop fronts and front wall to the main building from Pitt-street to the extreme eastern end of the building, including the east wing have been carried up to the first floor level (Department of Public Works & Services, 1996, 25-28 & 39-72)

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. Other open space-
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 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-
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 Rail transport-
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 Administering the public railway system-
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 Development in response to railway lines-
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 Planning relationships between key structures and town plans-
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creation of railway towns-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th Century infrastructure-
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 Impacts of railways on urban form-
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 Shaping remote inland settlements-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Public Transport - suburban railway lines-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Railways to inland settlements-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Railways to inland settlements-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Providing foreign government embassies-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and administering rail networks-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect 1890-1911, private architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]

The primary historical importance of the Sydney Terminal and the associated yards is the continuation of use of this site, for railway purposes, since the construction of the first line, from Sydney to Parramatta, in 1855. Three successive Sydney Termini, the Mortuary Station and the Central Electric Station have been built on this site.

The construction of the Sydney Railway yards and terminal is associated with the introduction of railways to NSW in 1855 and the subsequent construction of a rail network throughout the state, and interstate, initially by a private company and subsequently by the government. The establishment of the railways in NSW and Victoria was undertaken during the same period albeit using differing technology and standards.

The development of the Sydney yards commenced in 1855 and was one of the first two yards in Australia, the other being in Melbourne. Extensive workshop facilities were established to enable the repair of locomotives. From the late 1880s the working functions of the Sydney Yards have gradually been transferred, initially to Eveleigh and, during the 20th century further afield. Following the erection of the main terminus, and later the Parcels Post Office, in the 20th century the focus of the goods handling activities has transferred from the eastern to the western side of the site. The majority of the working yard area disappeared with the construction of the City Electric lines however, a small pocket remains along the boundary with Prince Alfred Park.

The construction of the Darling Harbour Branch Line and the establishment of an extensive area for goods storage and transfer indicate the importance of the Sydney Terminal and yards in the distribution of produce from country NSW.

The construction of the Central Station or the Sydney Terminal on the site of the Old Burial ground was one of the larges planned interventions into the urban fabric of Sydney undertaken prior to World War 1 and is a rare example of a scheme that not only included a formal public building but also parkland and roadway. The deliberate creation of the formal approaches, the widening of the streets to form avenues and create vistas, the separation and multi-layering of tramlines, vehicular and pedestrian access and the creation of subways resulted in the creation of an urban environment of a scale and character not before seen in Sydney, a character that would have been in sharp contrast to the residential character of Redfern, Chippendale and Surry Hills.

The development of the main terminus resulted in an increase in the commercial activity around Railway Square and influenced the choice of the site for department stores.

Following the introduction of trams, Railway Square and later Central Station became a major tram interchange with links to the suburbs and Circular Quay. In 1900, 60% of the 100 million trips on Sydney's public transport system were by tram and only 15% by train. The link between Circular Quay and the Railway Station being a popular route, carrying in the order of 11 million passengers in 1911. During peak hour the George Street trams were 29 seconds apart.

The separation of the trams from other forms of traffic at the Sydney Terminal would have speeded up the flow of the trams. Little evidence of the existence of the complicated tram layout around Central Station remains.

With the expansion of the rail network across the state the coastal shipping network declined. Train travel was more reliable, the train timetable was not reliant on good weather conditions and the loading and unloading of freight was less hazardous. Little trace remains of a once extensive coastal shipping network. Rather than Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Terminal became the main point of entry or departure for travellers to and from country NSW and for the movement of goods.

The construction of a city rail loop was proposed around the turn of the century and provision left adjacent to the main terminal building. Construction did not to occur until the mid 1920s. The demand for trams would have been lessened following the introduction of the city loop and the construction of the Central Electric Station.


Central Station, constructed to serve the expanding population of Sydney, was the first major metropolitan rail terminus to be constructed in Australia and is the main NSW terminus. There have been three successive passenger termini on this site, each successive station designed to provide a much greater level of passenger accommodation than the former.

The debate concerning the location of the main terminal for Sydney occurred on and off during the last two decades of the 19th century. The technical difficulties associated with extending the line further north and the associated cost as well as changing governments resulted in the creation and abandonment of numerous station designs and almost as many locations.

The design and erection of a major terminal for Sydney, which allowed for future expansion indicated a climate of optimism regarding the future growth of Sydney metropolitan area.

The earlier station designs had allowed for the line to be continued northwards. The final scheme adopted involved the moving of the terminal to the northern side of Devonshire Street allowing the second Station to continue to function until the new terminal was operational. The third Terminal did not allow for the continuation of the lines, resulting in the construction of the adjacent Central Electric Station, when an extension into the city was agreed.

The design of the Sydney Terminal was modified for cost cutting purposes however, it still represented considerable expenditure by the State Government. The second stage of the main terminus was one of the largest of the limited building projects, undertaken by the government during World War 1. The two stages are almost imperceptible and the overall character of the initial design was continued in the second stage. The second stage was not completed, plinths were constructed for the cupolas flanking the central bay but the cupolas themselves were not constructed.


There are few other known examples of a purpose built mortuary stations anywhere in the world. The other stations which may have been solely Mortuary Stations exist in England, Sutherland and Sandgate. The pair of Mortuary Stations are the only examples in Australasia.

The Mortuary Stations is one of the oldest surviving stations in Australia, there a few remaining examples of stations which date from pre 1870. Four other examples remain in NSW and a series of five identical stations were built in Victoria c.1862-3.

The development of this station is not only associated with the expansion of the Sydney yards but also with the development of the Rookwood Necropolis at Haslem's Creek (Lidcombe), one of the largest and most intact Victorian garden cemeteries in the world.

The erection of a permanent Mortuary Stations, within 15 years of the commencement of the rail network in NSW is an indication of not only the rapid expansion of the railway but that it had rapidly become accepted as a mode of transport by the citizens of Sydney.


The Railway Institute was the first such institution of its type in Australia, providing a high level of facilities for the employees.


The Parcel Post Office was constructed in this location as the majority of parcels were carried by rail. Many of the Sydney Department Stores ran a mail order catalogue, sending goods to country NSW. The size of the building indicates the volume of parcels handled, or planned for.


Together with the remaining structures and works on the Sydney main line to the old Parramatta station. The Dive is one of the earliest surviving cuttings and overbridges in NSW. Built as a branch off the initial railway line from Sydney to Parramatta, to provide a link with Darling harbour and to enable goods to be transferred to and from ships, the Darling Harbour Branch Line formed part of an extensive trade network to provide for the export of Australian grown wool.

This rail link was influential in the development of Darling Harbour in the second half of the 19th century. The use of Sydney Cove for trade purposes declined, as access by land became more congested, and there was a corresponding increase in the use of Darling Harbour. This link, although disused, is retained for emergency purposes.

Conservation Manage Plan
Sydney/Central Station
Author: Department of Public Works & Services
Year: 1996
Page: 103-104 (The Sydney Terminal & Yard)
Page: 106-107 (Sydney Terminus)
Page: 109 (The Mortuary Station)
Page: 110 (The Railway Institute)
Page: 111 (The Parcel Post Office)
Page: 112 (The Darling Harbour Line)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]

The developments of the railways in Europe were closely followed in Australia and initially the locomotives, carriages, rolling stock and rails were imported from England. The technology was imported directly with little or no modification. The railway lines in NSW were designed and built by engineers who trained under the prominent British railway engineers.

Between 1855 and 1930 the majority of the construction work within the Central Station complex, the sewers, the railway lines, the Mortuary Station, the Main Terminus and approaches, the road re-alignments, the tramlines and the construction of the Parcels Post Office was undertaken by branches of the Public Works Department.

The Colonial or Government Architects Branch designed the Mortuary Station and the Main Terminus. The overall layout, approaches and the Eddy Avenue level, as well as the remainder of the stations in NSW constructed prior to 1920 were designed by the Railway Construction Branch. Railway construction was separated from remainder of the Department of Public Works during the construction of the second stage of the main terminus.

With the exception of the Central Electric Station, the station buildings were designed for steam trains. The tank engines required constant maintenance and supplies of fuel and water which were available at nearby Eveleigh.

Associated with the passenger station were working yards which provided evidence of the changing technology of train travel, from steam to electrification and diesel. The railway yards were necessary to allow for the shunting of trains as well as to store and maintain carriages and for the transfer of goods. Traces of the workings of the yards during the steam train era remain including water tanks and columns.

The changes in the predominant building materials, and the way in which they are employed, with sandstone and corrugated iron being used until c.1870 for even the most utilitarian buildings such as workshops, then polychromatic brickwork, then sandstone for the more important buildings, and brick with sandstone dressings fro the lesser buildings, indicates not only changes in technology, but also the changing fashions for the use of a particular material. After the 1899 inquiry into building materials for public buildings sandstone was used for all major public buildings. The use of sandstone therefore indicates the status of a particular building.

Particular building styles, details and material were associated with the railways and were used for the construction of the early stages of the Sydney Terminal complex. The remaining workshop buildings feature standard windows that are also found in the Eveleigh and Honeysuckle workshop buildings. Moulded and polychromatic bricks were used in the second station building and its additions, other examples of this style of station building, designed by John Whitton remain in country NSW locations such as Albury. In contrast the main terminus is of a scale and character that is unique in NSW.

The construction of the railways utilised large quantities of bricks not only for buildings but also for the creation of flyovers, bridges, embankments and retaining walls. There exists a tradition of recycling of building elements from railway buildings, particularly the cast iron elements such as canopy brackets (which could be utilised for verandah or platform canopies), columns and trusses, not only within the yard but also to other railway complexes. Exampleas of such recycling can be found within the station complex.


The first and second Devonshire stations both fronted Railway Square however, the expansion of the platforms in front of the second terminus building diminished any sense of formal approach.

The bellcote of the Mortuary Station and later the clocktower of the main terminal building could be seen from a great distance when first constructed. The main terminus forms a prominent Sydney landmark and was designed to act as gateway to the city. The formal approaches and surrounding avenues enhance this characteristic. The clocktower remains visible from Railway Square, Pitt Street and part of Surry Hills.

The workings of the railway yard have always been visible from the Cleveland Street Bridge and Prince Alfred Park, however, plantings in the park in the 20th century have lessened the visibility of the yard. There is considerably less manual activity within the yard than in the 19th century, however, the frequency of trains has increased considerably.


The design of the Sydney Terminal was overseen by an Advisory Board of experts, whose members included the chief railway engineers from Victoria, NSW and Queensland and the NSW Government Architect. This Advisory Board were also involved in the design of the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. In scale and character the design of Sydney Station and the Sydney Terminal, is of a similar quality as the major European and American Rails Termini.

In contrast with the second Station where the lines passed through the new building, Station was a true terminal, the main building and concourse preventing any further extension of the line. The majority of railway stations in Australia are located at a point along a railway line rather than forming the end point of the line.

Sydney Station, as constructed, contains many innovations not previously seen or rare in NSW, the viaducts for the trams, the three pin truss roof to the portico, the assembly platform [concourse], the Devonshire Street subway, the mail and luggage subways and the subterranean gentlemen's toilet, beneath the assembly platform.

The first stage of the main terminal building is reputed to be the first large scale use of reinforced concrete slab construction in NSW.

The design of the Sydney Terminal were easily accessible from the main concourse, or assembly platform where a destination board detailed the arrivals and departures. In major termini such boards have largely been replaced by computerised arrival and departure displays. The display board from the Sydney Terminal is now held in the Powerhouse Museum.

The concourse, or assembly platform, was designed as a place of assembly and was one of the larges covered public spaces in the city. Other large spaces accessible by the public were the Centennial Hall in the Town Hall, the Exhibition building in Prince Alfred Park and the Queen Victoria market building.

The design was a collaboration between the railway engineers, in particular Henry Deane and the Government Architect, WL Vernon. Both men were trained in Europe and subsequently travelled there to inspect the latest projects. Vernon studied a variety of building types whilst Deane concentrated on railway and tramway installations. Deane was particularly impressed by the American Stations, and modelled the proposed three pin truss train shed roof on Union Station, St Louis.

The influence on overseas precedents can be seen in the form and layout of the building, the architectural style and in the use of the three pin truss. There are few precedents for the multi-level segregation of trams, pedestrian and vehicular traffic.


The Sydney Terminus was designed to form a landmark. When completed in 1920 the clocktower would have been visible from many parts of the city as it was the tallest tower in the city. By creating the park and the wide avenues adjacent to the station the views to the clocktower were accentuated.

A formal approach to the station, either through Belmore Park or up the ramps to the portico or via the cab ramp formed an elaborate sequence of spatial experiences unequalled in Sydney. This progression was continued within the station building, through the booking hall, assembly platform [concourse] and onto the platforms.

The approaches to the terminus were to form the gateway to the city, tree lined avenues were created and Pitt Street widened. George Street not Pitt Street however, has developed to form the main thoroughfare north to south through the city.

The multiple levels of the main station building were designed to separate the types of traffic, vehicular, tram and pedestrian in the aim of preventing accidents. Over the time the ordered separation has become less apparent, with the removal of tramway and bus services.

The Devonshire Street subway was the first major subway in NSW, probably in Australia, introducing an urban form more common in the major European and American cities of the time.

The station was one of the largest buildings in the city, rivalling the town hall and the main government department in Bridge Street.


The Mortuary Stations are considered to be one of the finest designs by the Colonial Architect James Barnet and were, at the time of their construction the most elaborate stations in Australia. A series of identical Gothic Revival stations (with residence attached) were constructed in Victoria in the early 1860s however, the design, and decorative detail is nowhere near as elaborate as the Mortuary Station.

The Mortuary Station is considered to be an exceptional example of the Gothic revival style, one of the finest in Australia and is comparable with English examples of the period. James Barnet designed four major Gothic Revival buildings: the GPO in Martin Place, the Andersen Stuart Building at Sydney University and the two Mortuary Stations. He based his design, not only on Venetian Gothic prototypes, popularised through the writings of Ruskin but also on the work of the prominent architect Sir George Gilbert Scott such as the (unbuilt) Foreign Office.

The Gothic theme carries through the decorative motifs used throughout the design and the carved furniture, which resembled pews. In contrast with the majority of stations the platform was tiled not asphalt. The level of detail is far higher than any other railway station of the period on the NSW system.

The sandstone elements were finely carved, including the medallions, the foliated capitals and the intrados (soffits). The Colonial Architect, James Barnet, through his designs played an important role in encouraging the craft of stone masonry in NSW.

Coincidentally, the station building used the same platform layout as the first temporary terminal at Devonshire Street building, i.e. a single platform. Its level of decorative detail was much higher and more permanent material were employed in its construction. The Mortuary Station is the finest example of this type of station in Australia.


The Mortuary Station was a local landmark, clearly visible from Prince Alfred Park, the Cleveland Street Bridge, from the grounds of Sydney University and seen by passengers arriving and departing from the Sydney Terminal. This context has been largely submerged by 20th century developments.


During the early 1890s a number of public buildings were undertaken by competition. These designs reflected the up-to-date trends in architectural design. The use of the Queen Anne Revival follows English trends, the style having been popularised by the London Board schools. The choice of materials, in particular the moulded bricks and the red tiled roof are prominent features of the Queen Ann style.

This building features Marseille roof tiles for the first time in a building in Australia.

The large hall still retains much of its decorative detail and is a rare surviving example of a small hall of the late Victorian period. Other intact examples, the Town Hall and St Georges Hall are much larges spaces.

The building is one of few known examples of the work of the architect Henry Robinson.


The Railway Institute is prominent when viewed from the Railway yards and from Chalmers Street.


The building is one of three major buildings on the site designed by the Colonial or Government Architects Branch. The neo-classical detailing of both the Parcel Post Office and the Sydney Terminal was designed by GM Blair. The building was designed in stages, as was the main Terminal building probably for funding reasons.

The roofscape of the building is unusually prominent when viewed from a distance. There are few other office buildings in Sydney where the roofscape is so visible.

The Parcel Post is an early example of an office building, with an internal frame design which provides for the maximum free floor area. It was designed before the introduction of fully framed buildings. The facade is load bearing masonry.


The Parcel Post Office adds to the distinctive character of Railway Square.


The Darling Harbour Line is one of the few remaining structures which relate to the first phase of construction of the terminal and yard, when sandstone was the predominant material in the early phase of development. It provides an indication of the extent of civil engineering works required to construct the first terminal and yards.

Conservation Manage Plan
Sydney/Central Station
Author: Department of Public Works & Services
Year: 1996

Aesthetic and Technical Significance:
Page: 104-105 (The Sydney Terminal & Yard)
Page: 107-108 (Sydney Terminus)
Page: 109-110 (The Mortuary Station)
Page: 110 (The Railway Institute)
Page: 111 (The Parcel Post Office)
Page: 112 (The Darling Harbour Line)

Landmark Significance:
Page: 106 (The Sydney Terminal & Yard)
Page: 108-109 (Sydney Terminus)
Page: 110 (The Mortuary Station)
Page: 111 (The Railway Institute)
Page: 111 (The Parcel Post Office)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]

The Sydney Terminus has always been a major passenger interchange. In contrast with the first two termini where the subsequent development was haphazard, the interchange between the various forms of transport at Central Station was carefully designed to lessen the chance of accidents.

Each station building also improved on the last in terms of passenger comfort, the first Redfern or Sydney Station being a hastily erected shed, the second station being designed to separate the arriving and departing passengers. The third passenger station was constructed complete with numerous platforms, a covered assembly area and separate waiting and dining facilities for ladies and gentlemen.

A large workforce was once required to maintain and refuel the steam locomotives. Following the establishment of the workshop complex at Eveleigh the workshop facilities in the Sydney yards declined. There are no longer workshop facilities at the Sydney Terminal, not even for electric and diesel trains.

Many of the operations of the yards, such as signalling were once operated manually. With the introduction of hydraulic and later electronic signalling the number of staff required to operate the yards has declined. This trend is not peculiar to the Sydney yards.

The development of the suburban train system allowed workers to commute rather than having to reside near to their place of work. Vast numbers of commuters use 'Central Station' as an interchange on a regular basis.

The development of the rail network allowed fast and comfortable travel available to all. The journey to Bathurst by stagecoach took 18 hours. The train would have been considerably faster and provided a higher level of facilities. The Sydney Terminal was the point of departure for many travellers.


The new terminus was designed with a capacity to double the passenger number, to an expected maximum of 40,000 per day. With the increase in the use of the private car in the late 20th century the reliance on public transport has lessened however, Sydney Terminal Station is still used a large number of commuters on a daily basis.

The Sydney Terminus was designed with an elaborate and impressive booking hall, which was not only experienced by passengers buying tickets but also glimpsed by passengers passing through onto the assembly platform [concourse]. The experience of buying a ticket in such an elaborate and formal space would have heightened the sense of romance associated with travel.

Associated with the assembly platform [concourse] were a series of amenities which reflect the attitudes and customs of the period, separate dining, tea and waiting facilities were provided for ladies and gentlemen. A barber and change facilities, including baths, were provided to allow passengers to clean up after their journey.

A reading room and dining room were provided for the railway commissioners and their staff, to mitigate against the fact that the terminal building has been located away from the centre of town.


The erection of the receiving stations at Sydney and within the Rockwood Necropolis was to enable the dignified transfer of the coffins from carriages onto the funeral train. The station was designed to provide an elaborate setting for the mid to late Victorian rituals associated with both death and mourning. The Gothic Revival style, generally more commonly associated with ecclesiastical or collegiate buildings, was employed to provide a suitable atmospheric setting favoured for funeral designs during the period.


One of the aims of the institute was to provide for the continuing education of the railway employees. Evening Classes and examinations were undertaken within the building.

The Honour Boards record the names of important people in railway history.

The building has continued to operate as a facility for Railway employees for over a century and the halls within the Institute have been utilised for a wide range of social functions and during emergencies.


The Parcel Post Office was designed for an all male work force, there were no toilet facilites for women included in the original scheme. The original scheme also included detectives galleries, to allow for the surveillance of the floor.

Conservation Manage Plan
Sydney/Central Station
Author: Department of Public Works & Services
Year: 1996
Page: 105-106 (The Sydney Terminal & Yard)
Page: 108 (Sydney Terminus)
Page: 110 (The Mortuary Station)
Page: 110-111 (The Railway Institute)
Page: 111 (The Parcel Post Office)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]

In addition to the extant remains of the early stages of development of the site such as the Darling Harbour Branch Line and the imprint of the demolished heavy goods shed, evidence remains in the archaeological record of the former uses of the site. The site of the main terminus was formerly occupied by the Benevolent Asylum, Carters Barracks and the Devonshire Street cemetery. Re-location of the graves and demolition of the structures was recorded in the documentary evidence. As the site levels were raised to create the new station it is unlikely that all foundations were removed. Other contemporary building projects were constructed leaving the former foundations in-situ.


The Parcel Post Office is a reprehensive example of state of the art fire proof construction and its application to multistorey construction techniques.


The rail line under George Street was one of the first underpasses to be constructed as part of the NSW rail network. George Street was initially carried across the track by a bridge. In contrast to the Cleveland Street Bridge, the George Street overbridge remains largely intact.

Conservation Manage Plan
Sydney/Central Station
Author: Department of Public Works & Services
Year: 1996
Page: 106 (The Sydney Terminal & Yard)
Page: 111 (The Parcel Post Office)
Page: 112 (The Darling Harbour Line)
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 workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977


I, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act, 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of the said Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule C by the owner, mortgagee or lessee of the land described in Schedule B on the item described in Schedule A.

Andrew Refshauge
Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning

Sydney 2000


The site known as the Sydney Terminal Group, situated on the land described in Schedule B.


All those pieces or parcels of land bounded by Cleveland Street overbridge to the south, the property boundary along Prince Alfred Park, Chalmers and Elizabeth Streets, Hay Street to the north and Pitt, Lee and Regent Streets to the west. In particular the areas concerned are as shown on the plan catalogued HC 1890, in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.


a. shop fit-outs and signage for Tenancies 9 to 19, as shown on the plan of the Henry Deane Plaza site, held by the Heritage Office marked HC 1890;

b. internal fit-out works to the Parcels Post Office building for tenancies 1,2,4,5,6,7 and 8, as shown on the plan of the Henry Deane Plaza site, held by the Heritage Office marked HC 1890, provided that such works do not alter the structural framework and retain existing remnant elements including rendered wall details, skirtings and dado lines.
Jul 14 2000
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2) OF THE HERITAGE ACT 1977

Standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977.

I, Donald Harwin, the Special Minister of State 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, effective 1 December 2020:

1. revoke the order made on 11 July 2008 and published on pages 91177 to 9182 of Government Gazette Number 110 of 5 September 2008 and varied by notice published in the Government Gazette on 5 March 2015; and

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

Donald Harwin
Special Minister of State
Signed this 9th Day of November 2020.

To view the standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977 click on the link below.
Nov 13 2020

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0125502 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Central Station View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Central Station View detail
WrittenCouncil for the City of Sydney2020'Devonshire Street Resumption' View detail
WrittenDepartment of Public Works & Services Heritage Group1996Conservation Management Plan - Sydney/Central Station
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - part 2
WrittenMcNab, Heather2018'Central 'next Barangaroo: Sydney Business Chamber in push to build over railway and transform southern CBD precinct'
WrittenPhippen, Bill2018'Railway Bridge over Eddy Avenue in Sydney - was this the first reinforced concrete bridge to carry trains in NSW?'

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: Heritage NSW
Database number: 5012230
File number: EF14/19868; 09/3179

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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