Lithgow (James St) Underbridge | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Lithgow (James St) Underbridge

Item details

Name of item: Lithgow (James St) Underbridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Location: Lat: -33.48187934 Long: 150.15190891
Primary address: Railway location, Main West Line 156.334km James St, Lithgow, NSW 2790
Local govt. area: Lithgow
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst


The curtilage is limited to the footprint of the bridge and abutments. North: Edge of sandstone arch bridge; South: Edge of sandstone arch bridge; East: Rear of abutment to land embankment; West: Rear of abutment to land embankment.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Railway location, Main West Line 156.334km James StLithgowLithgow  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The James St Underbridge is significant as the second oldest stone arch railway bridge in New South Wales still in use. The bridge was designed by John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief for the railways between 1856 and 1890, and is one of the only Whitton designed bridges remaining in use on the Main West Line. John Whitton has been described as the 'Father of New South Wales Railways', responsible for the establishment of the basic framework of the NSW rail network. The bridge forms part of the larger historic Lithgow railway corridor, and exemplifies the style and technique used in construction of stone arch bridges, a form of construction which is relatively rare within the NSW rail network.
Date significance updated: 09 Oct 09
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief for Railways
Builder/Maker: Contractor, P. Higgins
Construction years: 1869-1869
Physical description: Three span, double track, sandstone arch railway bridge with 20ft clear central span between solid stone piers and abutments, with a low stone parapet. The arches are half circles in elevation with sandstone imposts at the junction of the arches and piers.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The bridge is in moderate condition with the following defects: several cracks and erosion in the stone arches, and parapets out-of-line with missing mortar. Vegetation growing on south facing wall.
Date condition updated:19 Oct 09
Modifications and dates: Anchors in spandrel walls added. Concrete retaining wall adjacent.
Current use: Carries the double track Main West Line over James Street.
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: The Main West Railway Line runs from Granville to Bourke and was completed in 1885. By 1900 certain sections of John Whitton's single track railway network were operating at or near saturation, these included the famous Zig Zag near Lithgow, the Main West from Emu Plains right through to Bathurst, the Main South from Picton as far as Harden and the Main North between Maitland and Muswellbrook. Also, the metropolitan railways were congested by the combination of suburban and freight traffic. The Line was duplicated through Lithgow to Bowenfels in 1891 and then onto Wallerawang in 1922.

John Whitton chose to use stone arch construction when denied sufficient funds to use imported wrought iron girders. It is the second oldest railway arch bridge in New South Wales built for two tracks.

The James Street railway bridge was built in 1869 as part of the Lithgow to Bathurst railway extension, which was completed in 1875. Economic constraints forced Whitton to build the others on this line for single track. They were progressively bypassed by double track brick arch bridges but the bridge at James Street continues its original function.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The James St Underbridge has historical significance as the second oldest stone arch railway bridge in New South Wales still in use, and as one of the only original Whitton Era bridges still in use along the Main West Line.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The James St Underbridge has associative significance as it was designed by John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief for Railways between 1856 and 1890. When John Whitton was denied funds to continue with bridge construction using the expensive, imported wrought iron girder bridges, he chose to use stone arch viaducts for his major bridge works. The James Street bridge is a typical example.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The James St Underbridge has aesthetic significance as it exemplifies the style and technique used in construction of stone arch bridges, in a form highly representative of railway construction.
SHR Criteria f)
The stone construction of James St Underbridge is a comparatively rare technique within the NSW rail network.
SHR Criteria g)
The James St Underbridge is representative of railway viaduct construction.
Integrity/Intactness: The James St Underbridge is of high integrity, retaining its original fabric in a good condition.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

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

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

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

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

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977

Order under Section 57 (2) to Grant Site Specific Exemptions from Approval
Lithgow (James Street) Underbridge

SHR No. 1831

I, the Minister for Heritage, 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 that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule C on the land described in Schedule B on the item described in Schedule A.

Sydney, this 8th day of April 2013.

The Hon. ROBYN PARKER, M.P., Minister for Heritage


The item known as Lithgow (James Street) Underbridge, situated on the land described in Schedule B.


All those pieces or parcels of land known shown on the plan catalogued HC 2559 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.


Standard Exemptions

Reason/ comments
These cover a full range of activities that do not require Heritage Council approval, including Standard Exemption 7 which allows consideration of additional unspecified types of minor works for exemption.


1. Works required for stabilising, conserving and repairing sandstone fabric, providing only stone structurally unsound and deteriorated beyond repair is replaced with stone of similar composition and colour.
2. Installation of new safety handrail, providing rail is designed to be reversible and does not require fixing to sandstone blocks, and is distinguishable as a new element which reflects the proportions, character and scale of the existing structure.
3. All work to heritage fabric shall be undertaken by qualified tradesmen with practical experience in the conservation of similar items.

Reason/ comments
To provide for the continued operation and day-to-day maintenance of the site without the need to obtain Heritage Council approval where those activities do not impact on the heritage significance of the site.
Aug 30 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0183130 Aug 13 1072933
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA535State Rail Authority  No
RailCorp Section 170 Register Update2009 Hughes Trueman Pty Ltd  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Management PlanDerek Rogers. ARHS1995James Street Railway Bridge, Lithgow- Graphic
WrittenFraser, D2001Report on the S170 Register of Railway Underbridges for the Rail Infrastructure Corporation, internal report
WrittenFraser, D.1995Bridges Down Under
WrittenJohn Forsyth Historical Notes for the Main West Railway, 1960s

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

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061199

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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