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Culture and heritage
History of the NSW railways
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Sydney Trains is responsible for managing one of Australia's largest collection of heritage-listed buildings, structures and cultural landscapes. We continue to work with heritage professionals and skilled heritage trades people across NSW to conserve and restore our heritage assets for future generations.
TOWN HALL RAILWAY STATION: 'Air Raid Shelter' sign
As part of the refurbishment of Town Hall Station, a World War II sign was discovered during repainting works. The project team carefully peeled away layers of paint to reveal the historic sign located on the staircase from concourse level.
The sign would have been used to direct people to the lower platforms and railway tunnels 4 and 5, which had been constructed when the station opened in 1932, however were not used for railway operations until the 1970s. There is some photographic and historic evidence that describes Sydney's underground stations being used as air raid shelters, however there is little physical evidence.
The discovery of the sign indicated that the tunnels at Town Hall were ready for use as air raid shelters for protection against enemy attack during WWII. The Town Hall air raid shelter sign is the only one known to have survived 75 years in an operational station context.
The Minister of Environment and Heritage, the Hon. Mark Speakman MP, opened the 21st annual National Trust Heritage Awards on 13 May 2015. The awards celebrate and promote excellence in heritage projects across NSW.
At the 2015 awards, Sydney Trains' conservation of the Town Hall Air Raid Shelter was recognised with a highly commended award under the 'Conservation Objects and Interiors' category.
MOSS VALE RAILWAY STATION: Painting - April 2015
The main wing of the 1867 station building is one of the earliest NSW railway buildings and is also one of the oldest buildings in Moss Vale. Of particular note, the station was substantially designed to accommodate Vice-regal use including a Governor’s Waiting Room.
Sydney Trains undertook paint test analysis and historic research to choose an authentic exterior scheme for the station. Investigations revealed that:
The recent colour scheme painted within the last five years was a strong red ‘terracotta’ scheme. This is now replaced with pale stones, pinkish tans and creams. The new scheme reinstates colours thought to be in place in 1915. By 1915 the line was duplication and the construction of all the key historic buildings had occurred.
THIRROUL RAILWAY STATION: Platform 2/3 Building Restoration - May 2015
The weatherboard building on Platform 2/3 of Thirroul Station dates to the initial 1887 construction of the Illawarra line. This building was then extended in 1915 when the line was duplicated, with further building modification in 1938 as part of the conversion to an island platform.
Recent inspections observed extensive termite damage to the timberwork. After detailed fabric analysis, conservation works started in 2014 and included:
Repainting in appropriate early colour scheme resulted from detailed paint investigation. Works also presented an opportunity to reinstate a known earlier configuration of the building. This included the removal of a later external door, removal of a later internal partition wall and reconstruction of double door entry to the waiting room.
The Minister of Environment and Heritage, the Hon. Mark Speakman MP, opened the 22nd annual National Trust Heritage Awards on 6 May 2016.
Sydney Trains restoration of the Thirroul platform building won the Conservative Build Heritage category.
CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION: NSW Coat of Arms Shield Reconstruction - May 2015
The corner of Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street was designed to be a key station entry to Central since its construction in 1906, only a few years after Federation. To help passengers navigate into Central, the metalwork in the stone arches of Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street contained ‘Station Entrance’ signage. Both arches also contained the NSW Coat of Arms metal shields, representing the strong link between the railways and the NSW state identity.
The 'Lion in the South' is taken from the three golden lions on the arms of England, and symbolizes both the sovereignty of NSW and the offspring of an old country. The lion sits on the red cross of St George. The state badge represents the origins of the founders of the Colony of NSW as well as the independence of succeeding generations.
Sometime in the early 1960s the ‘Station Entrance’ signs and shields was removed from the Pitt Street arch. Still present in the Eddy Avenue arch, specialist metalworker craftsmen were able to reconstruct a second shield.
WORKSHOPS AND STATIONS: World War I Honour Roll Restoration - May 2015
During the first World War, 8,477 employees from the NSW Railways and Tramways Department enlisted for service. Tragically 1,210 of these men lost their lives in service. At home, the NSW Railways commemorated the loss of its employees and their mates in the form of honour rolls at workshops and stations across the state.
Many of these carved, polished and hand-painted boards are now on display in the Railway Remembrance Wall of Central Station.
As part of the ANZAC Centenary, Sydney Trains is updating its register of war memorials and honour rolls, with over 40 currently listed on our heritage register.
One of the most significant honour rolls is a rare marble honour roll at Eveleigh Maintenance Centre dating from c.1917 which was restored in May 2015 by a specialist stone conservator. The honour roll was lightly cleaned and then meticulously each of the carved names was repainted, including regilding of the letters in the title of the board.
MAITLAND RAILWAY STATION: Signs and Indicator Boards - June 2015
After a year in protective storage, Maitland’s historic indicator boards have been carefully repainted in their original colours and are now on permanent display in the waiting room behind a perspex case for protection.
Other conservation works at Maitland includes the station’s five platform name boards which have been refurbishment. The individual cast iron letters were stripped of years of paint and repainted, and new timber backing boards were made to the exact measurements of the old, which had previously been in a rotten condition.
MOUNT VICTORIA RAILWAY STATION: Refurbishment of the Railway Refreshment Room (RRR) - July 2015
From the 1870s Railway Refreshment Rooms (RRR) were provided at station intervals in anticipation of customer’s hunger. The RRRs at Mount Victoria opened in 1873 in the two story stone building on Platform 2, one of the earliest provided in NSW. Additional RRR were provided on Platform 1 in 1921.
During its hey-day it was said the dining rooms were full everyday – eventually closing in 1960.
Since then the Platform 2 RRR has been repurposed as the local historic society museum, while the Platform 1 RRR has been largely used as storage and for informal staff meetings.
In 2014 NSW TrainLink and Sydney Trains began planning for the adaptive re-use of the Platform 1 RRR space for a regional learning centre.
Historic paint test analysis was undertaken to select the new paint scheme. Interpretation panels were installed to preserve and communicate historic values of a former green paint scheme and the RRR counter joinery. Other works included the installation of sympathetic interior pendant lighting and the reconstruction of traditional exterior room signs.
The Regional Learning Centre was opened on 28 July 2015.
KIAMA RAILWAY STATION: Turntable restored - October 2015
The Kiama Turntable is listed on the State Heritage Register and had been decommissioned due to regular locomotive operations ceasing in the area. However, with renewed interest in 2015 for using the line for the operation of heritage steam trains for tourism purposes, Sydney Trains Maintenance directorate set to restoring and putting the turntable back in use.
The 60 foot (18.5m) turntable comprises a centrally-pivoted bridge set within a circular pit. The bridge has wheels on either end which run on a circular single rail mounted on timber sleepers running around the inside of the pit.
With heritage approval, work commenced to upgrade the decking, cleaning of bottom flanges, lubrication of wheels and the central pivot. This involved fabricating and bolting strengthening plates onto the external side on both plate-web girders over structurally unsound areas of metal, as well as a final coat of paint on all new components to prevent long-term corrosion.
The turntable was put back in use in time for the ‘Kiama Picnic Train’ on Sunday 18 October, 2015.
QUIRINDI RAILWAY STATION: Restored - January 2016
The state heritage listed Quirindi Railway Station was restored from October 2015 to January 2016. In particular damp in the historic building was an issue that needed to be addressed. Taking a cautious approach, in lieu of providing a new injected damp proof system, measures were taken to clear out the sub floor space, introduce fans in these spaces and install additional vents.
Sydney Trains restoration of the Quirindi Railway Station was highly commended in the Conservative Build Heritage category.
MILSONS POINT RAILWAY STATION: Restored - April 2016
Milsons Point station constructed between 1929 and 1932, as part of the northern approaches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was integral to Dr John J.C. Bradfields new city electric underground scheme (first in Australia) and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Each of the city underground stations had a consistent interior design finish and was allocated a specific station colour identity to assist passengers. As with other stations, the main wall tile colour was cream but a 'tan' branded tile was used to distinguish Milsons Point from the others.
Recently completed works at the station used a combination of conservation approaches to reinstate the station's historic original fabric and design, which included:
CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION: Sandstone and Lighting Conservation - October 2016
As part of the stone conservation program at Central Station, works on ‘Wall W’ at the Western Forecourt entrance from Railway Square along Pitt Street commenced in March 2016. Work included:
Heritage architects, engineers and specialist trades, including stonemasons, made up the team. Sandstone was supplied by Public Works NSW with main stone masonry works conducted by Stone Mason & Artist P/L. Heritage repair and conservation works were detailed and supervised by OCP Heritage Architects.
Given the heritage significance of the Western Forecourt, improved lighting was also provided in this area. Using an existing historic lamp to create a mould, Clingcast Metals P/L fabricated iron replicas. The lamps were then date stamped and installed in seven places where historic lighting was missing.
Central Station is the heart of our network and deserves the best conservation care. When first built in 1906, the ramped Western Forecourt with its central garden was prominent from Railway Square and accommodated horse drawn cabs. The open space of the forecourt and the use of sandstone for the perimeter wall are integral to the setting and significance of the main terminus building.
Guidelines are available on the conservation of railway buildings, sites and objects including:
Access the conservation guides here on the Transport Heritage NSW website.