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  Sydney Architecture Images- Glebe

Light Rail (former goods line)

  See also page on Rozelle Tram Depot


George McRae


Runs from Darling Harbour to Lilyfield, under Glebe.






stone, brick


Government railway
The METRO LIGHT RAIL (tram) is Sydney's newest transport system which runs from Central Station to the Sydney Casino and the Sydney Fish Markets (Wentworth Park stop) and continues on through Glebe to Lilyfield, the two main stations are Glebe for the central area of Bridge Road and Jubilee Park for Glebe Point.

History of Rail Transport in Glebe

Whilst history was made in 2000 with the extension of the light rail system to Lilyfield, the suburbs of Glebe and Lilyfield were once served by an extensive government-owned tramway infrastructure.

The Darling Harbour Line
Sydney's original goods station was opened in 1855. It was located just east of the passenger terminal near Redfern and handled all goods traffic in and out of Sydney (except for local firewood which was unloaded at Newtown). The goods station at Darling Harbour (DH) opened soon afterwards and was once one of the largest depots in the world, occupying almost 65 acres. When the branch line to DH was built, it only ran to the toll bridge at Pyrmont. The line passed through the oldest railway tunnel in NSW (running below Railway Square and the current UTS/'Marcus Clark' building). Services on the line to DH were limited by the shallow depth of the harbour (restricting the size of ships), shortage of wharves and the expensive toll on the privately owned Prymont Bridge which provided access to the CBD.

Pyrmont Bridge was purchased by the government in 1884 and the toll was removed. The DH yard was then further expanded towards Union Street. Increased demand on Redfern resulted in DH being expanded in 1875 from six people handling 35,19 tons to volumes exceeding 152,543 tons in 1879. In 1890, extensions across Union Street were erected to service the newly build coal wharves.

By 1915 it was obvious that movement of goods trains in and out of DH via the suburban lines was interfering with the passenger timetables. Numerous freight-only lines around Sydney were constructed in 1919 (including a double track from Canterbury below Lewisham viaduct through Leichhardt, Rozelle, Glebe and Pyrmont to Darling Harbour).

A tram departs the Rozelle Depot (adjacent to Harold Park) bound for Sydney University and the city.

It is over the section of this historic rail line (between Bridge Road, Glebe and Catherine Street, Lilyfield) that The Society's members and friends travelled in an inaugural trip using a Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) in July 2000, stopping at Glebe, Jubilee Park, Rozelle Bay and Lilyfield. Darling Harbour continued in use until 1984 when operations ceased to make way for the current tourist and trade exhibition development.

The Bellevue Street Rail Bridge
In 1919 the NSW Government Railway built the first reinforced concrete railway bridge on its system over the northern end of Bellevue Street, Glebe. The experimental single span was restricted to 21ft in length and supported the goods line which was being built at the time from Rozelle to DH. Whilst The Society's inaugural trip did not travel over this small but historic bridge, full public service crosses it continuously.

The Western Goods Line
The viaducts were built across Wentworth Park and Jubilee Park in 1919 and have heritage significance today. In its heyday this line had up to forty train movements a day. It closed in January 1996, by which time it saw only weekly use to the Edwin Davey Flour Mill (adjacent to Metro Light Rail's (MLR) present terminus at Wentworth Park Station).

Modern trams (aka Light Rail Vehicles) now
use the viaduct over Bi-Centennial Park.

The Glebe Point Tunnel
This double track tunnel is 500m long and runs from Pyrmont Bridge Road to Jubilee Park, passing below Glebe Point Road. The western portal is adjacent to the former Rozelle Tram Depot. Both portals now frame MLR's Glebe and Jubilee Park Stations

The Glebe Point Line
The tramway service along Glebe Point Road to the Point was opened in 1892 using steam tram motors and trailer cars.

It was the first western suburbs line to be converted to electric operation in 1900 and it used power from the Ultimo Powerhouse. A six-minute service was provided on weekdays, increasing to four minutes during peak hours and on Saturday evenings. Trams ran every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings, and at six-minute intervals for the rest of the day. The city terminus of the Glebe Point service was Millers Point, located to the west of Circular Quay. Services continued until 23 November 1958, when buses replaced the then "unfashionable trams" as a method of public transport. Old tram lines still exist under the surface of Glebe Point Road.

An R1 class tram at Stop 30 in Glebe Point Road opposite Palmerstone Avenue (January 1958).

  The Lilyfield Line
Between April 1909 and November 1958, electric trams provided services from the city to the original terminus at nearby Piper Street, Lilyfield. The track was progressively duplicated and extended to a crossover facility on the deck of the Bridge in 1925. The road level station and entrance constructed for the Metro Light Rail system stands adjacent to where once 'light rail' vehicles of a previous era performed safe working procedures.

Special thanks to 

Heritage Register

SHFA Heritage Register
Item Name: Darling Harbour Rail Corridor
Location: West side of Darling Harbour to Pyrmont , Darling Harbour & Pyrmont
Primary Address:  West side of Darling Harbour to Pyrmont
Darling Harbour & Pyrmont
Area/Group/Complex: Group ID:
Item Type: Built Group:   Transport - Rail Category:   Railway
Current Use: Light Rail
Former Use: Goods Rail
Assessed Significance: 6 Endorsed Significance:
Statement of
The Darling Harbour goods line was part of the first railway opened in New South Wales in 1855, the current corridor corresponds with that purchased from the Harris family in 1853 for this purpose. It therefore has a high degree of significance as a place. The Ultimo Road Bridge is believed to be constructed in the 1850s, and is therefore one of the only remaining features of the original railway which joined Darling Harbour and Granville (Parramatta Junction) in 1855. The siting of the railway along what was the edge of Darling Harbour strongly influenced the development of Pyrmont and Ultimo. Because of it, woolstores, engineering works and other industries were built here after the 1870s, giving this part of Ultimo its industrial, rather than residential, flavour. The site also contains two railway bridges. The Railway Square road overbidge (outside the curtillage of this listing) built in 1855 is historically significant as the oldest railway bridge to be constructed and still in use in New South Wales. It is a strong connection to the first railway construction and the original Redfern (Sydney) Station. The Ultimo railway underbridge is a mid 19th century construction with classic revival inspired cast iron columns and mid 19th century sandstock brick abutments. Both items are assessed individually as historically rare, scientifically rare, archaeogolically rare and socially rare.
Historical Notes
or Provenance:
It is difficult to judge whether the Ultimo Rail Corridor site would have had any aboriginal occupation. European development of the site occurred by the mid-19th century, when maps and plans indicate buildings on the George Street frontage. The 1853 plan indicates a stream or creek running from George Street across the site some 20 metres north of the street frontage. Such watercourses were often the source of food and water for the Aboriginal people of Sydney. A similar geographic scenario existed for the study area. The former swampy areas directly to the north of George Street (now Central railway yards, Carlton Brewery) drained via creeks such as that indicated in the 1853 plan into Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour itself was known before the 1830s as Cockle Bay due to the extensive Aboriginal shell middens on its shores. It is therefore more than likely that the vicinity of the subject site was at least intermittently visited or occupied by Aboriginal people in the course of gathering food or making camps. European occupation of the study area occurs by the 1790s when much of the land in the Pyrmont/ Ultimo peninsula was granted to members of the military. By 1804 John Harris had consolidated much of these holdings into the Ultimo Estate, Governor King had granted this part of the Ultimo Estate to Harris in December 1803. In 1830-31 a strip of land along the north side of George Street was sold as town allotments, with buildings indicated to the east of the subject site by 1836. This strip had been built out by 1843, shown on the map of that year. John Harris died in 1838, leaving the Ultimo Estate divided between his brothers, and eventually their families. The complexities of the wills and land transfers meant that the property remained jointly owned by the family until late in the 1850s, although small parcels were often leased. Unlike other areas on the outskirts of the city, including adjoining Pyrmont, Ultimo remained largely undeveloped up to the mid-19th century. The Sydney Railway Company, formed in 1849, approached the Harris family with the prospect of purchasing a strip of seven acres of land for the construction of one mile of railway line joining the Sydney railway terminus near what is now Central Station, with proposed wharfage facilities at Darling Harbour. The proposal was accepted by the Harris family who saw the economic advantages of industrial and port development on the western side of the Harbour. The land was sold in 1853, however, like most international private railway companies, the Sydney Railway Company fell into financial difficulties and was taken over by the NSW Government in 1854. The railway, ultimately connecting Darling Harbour and Parramatta, was opened in 1855. The railway reserve of 1853 follows the current corridor and extended almost to Pyrmont Bridge. A series of cuttings and embankments carried the railway from the Redfern terminus (near Central). At George Street (Broadway) a sandstone bridge, still in existence, carried the street over the railway cutting. The cutting for the railway here obliterated evidence of any structures that fronted George Street. At Ultimo Road, the northern boundary of the area under study, a bridge carried the railway over the road. Little development occurred in the period of almost 20 years following the opening of the railway. The line divided the peninsula, largely alienating the Darling Harbour shoreline strip of land from Harris Street, a factor which was to influence the development of Ultimo and is still strongly evident today. Pyrmont Bridge opened in 1857, and it was intended that there should be a rail and bridge interchange or terminus, so that goods could be brought across the Bridge from Sydney (and indeed the Darling Harbour wharves) and thence transported by rail, and vice-versa. By 1870 the NSW rail network had connected to Goulburn and was crossing the Blue Mountains. Disputes between the Harris family and the Pyrmont Bridge Company, along with a decreased demand for woolstores and export from Darling Harbour stymied the proposed development. The railway was rarely used apart from the landing and transport of coal and ballast at Darling Harbour for the railways. The Harris family demanded compensation for the stagnated development and in the 1860s the NSW Government awarded the them reclaimed land to the east of the railway in the vicinity of what is now Haymarket, between Ultimo Road and Hay Street. The Government’s reclamation of the southern end of Darling Harbour led to the construction, in 1874, of the Iron Wharf. This was the first substantial wharfage on the western side of the Harbour and was conveniently located close to the railway to enable its use. By 1882 Sydney was linked by rail to Albury, Hay and Dubbo, and after the completion of the Hawkesbury River Bridge in 1889 with the Queensland border. By that time all the major primary production regions of New South Wales had been connected with Sydney, and therefore with the Darling Harbour goods line. Industrial developments from the 1870s onward saw Darling Harbour emerge as an important intercolonial and international transport and manufacturing centre. Thomas Mort established his NSW Fresh Frozen Food and Ice Company on what is now the site of the Chinese Gardens in 1875, experimenting with refrigeration of meat. Mort also had slaughter yards located over the Blue Mountains at Bowenfels, from where frozen meat was transported by rail to Sydney. In 1879 the first refrigerated shipment of meat left Darling Harbour for England. In 1889 the first refrigerated rail cars were bringing produce from all over NSW to Darling Harbour for Sydney’s consumption as well as international export. The Atlas Engineering Works at Pyrmont was building railway engines and passenger and goods rolling stock from 1878 on land adjacent to the Darling Harbour line. On the city side of the Harbour, engineers Peter Nicol Russell & Co. had been making rolling stock since 1869 in a purpose built factory only demolished in 1985. Livestock was also brought to Darling Harbour by rail for export. An 1888 map of the site indicates animal pens located within and adjacent to the study area south of Thomas Street, still indicated in the 1897 map of the site. The 1888 map also shows a number of buildings concentrated on either side of the railway line at the Broadway end of the site. The three buildings on the western side are gone by 1897 which could suggest they were timber, more or less temporary structures. In the 1880s Goldsborough & Co built a woolstore near the railway on the corner of Fig & Pyrmont Streets, accessible not only to the rail but also Harris Street. Other woolstores followed in the ensuing decades, all conveniently located close by the railway. Around this time the railway pushed further into Pyrmont. The Ultimo Power House was built in 1898-99 on the railway line by which it was supplied with coal, as was the Pyrmont Power Station some ten years later. Following the Government resumptions after 1901 and subsequent wharfage developments at Jones Bay and Darling Island, the railway expanded and fostered the industrial boom first predicted in the 1850s. By the 1910s Darling Harbour south of Pyrmont Bridge was becoming too shallow for large vessels and was largely reclaimed in the late 1920s using fill from Sydney’s underground railway excavation. The Iron Wharf was demolished and operations concentrated further to the north. By this time the subject site had become simply the location of rail lines with no need for buildings associated with the loading or unloading of goods. Thus it was to remain for the rest of the active life of the goods line. By the 1960s many of the woolstores and other port functions were moving out of Sydney. Road transport was often a less expensive medium than rail for transshipment of goods. The functions of the railway decreased significantly. Finally in the 1980s the Darling Harbour Redevelopment spelt out the final chapter of the Darling Harbour goods yards, which were demolished and redeveloped in 1985-88. Trains have not generally used the Ultimo railway line since the 1980s with the exception of occasional use to bring steam engines to the siding at the PowerHouse Museum. In the 1990s the line north of Hay Street was utilised for the light railway through Pyrmont, accessed from Hay Street, and thus continuing the traditional use of this corridor.
National Themes: 3. Economy
State Themes: Industry
Study Themes:  
Year Started: 1853 Year Completed:   1911 Circa:    No
Physical Description: Rail Link as part of Railway Square to Powerhouse line. This line is one of the oldest active extant railway tracks. It is being restored to take the 3801 train. Part of this system is the Railway Bridge over Ultimo Road.
Physical Condition: The rail link is free from development, it is used for the light rail through Pyrmont from north of Hay Street. Archaeologically the site holds potential for evidence of the remains of 1897 buildings and the remains of a brick lined water tank.
Modification Dates: The reserve was purchased from the Harris family in 1853, and the railway line first laid in 1855. By 1888 there were a number of buildings associated with the railway on either side of the tracks, mostly concentrated at the Broadway end of the corridor. After 1901 the railway expanded to accommodate the industrial boom in the Darling Harbour area. By the 1920s the buildings had been demolished and the area was simply the location of goods lines. The functions of the railway in the area decreased significantly in the 1960s, and in the 1980s the goods yards were demolished and redeveloped. Part of the line is used by the light rail network, and occasionally the Powerhouse Museum uses the track to bring steam trains to its siding.
Recommended Management: With any archaeological remains it is preferable to leave them undisturbed. In the case of the Ultimo corridor, the site is covered in a layer of approximately 350-450mm of ballast which potentially protects any potential archaeological remains.
Further Comments: No substantial excavations are proposed for the site with excavation limited to some service trenches and tree plantings. Since the rail lines have always run through the centre of the site, no buildings were sited here after 1853. It is therefore expected that any service trenching located in the centre of the site will have no impact on potential archaeological deposits. Alternatively, existing service trenches could also be utilised for new services. In any case, if the existing covering of 350-450mm of ballast is maintained, services or tree plantings could be confined within this layer without impacting on potential archaeological remains. Any disturbance of potential archaeological remains will require the application for and granting of an excavation permit from the Heritage Council of NSW under the Heritage Act, 1977. Structural changes to items on the State Heritage Register require submission under Sec. 60 of the Heritage Act, 1977. The Heritage Office may require the preparation of a Conservation Management Plan for the site, prepared by a conservation architect which details what can and can’t be done to an item. This may take up to a month to prepare, and then must be endorsed by the NSW Heritage Council before any work commences. It is recommended therefore that any stairs or ramps to Ultimo Road be sited so as not to impact on the Bridge and its immediate southern abutment. If there is no alternative to siting the access to Ultimo Road so that it does not impact on the southern abutment, the post-1850s fabric might be considered to be removed in part after consultation with the Heritage Office.
Historical Significance: The Darling Harbour goods line was part of the first railway opened in New South Wales in 1855, the current corridor corresponding with that purchased from the Harris family in 1853 for this purpose. It therefore has a high degree of significance as a place. The Ultimo Road Bridge is believed to be that constructed in the 1850s, and is therefore one of the only remaining features of the original railway which joined Darling Harbour and Granville (Parramatta Junction) in 1855. Future development should respect the definition of the space, allowing for its interpretation as a former railway corridor.
Historical Association:
Aesthetic/Technical Significance: Aesthetically the space is free of development within an urban context dominated by multi-storied buildings. In itself, it is no different to any other disused railway line littered with ballast, old sleepers and railway lines. The site is not considered to be aesthetically significant in its current state.
Social Significance: The siting of the railway along what was the edge of Darling Harbour strongly influenced the development of Pyrmont and Ultimo. Because of it, woolstores, engineering works and other industries were built here after the 1870s, giving this part of Ultimo its industrial, rather than residential, flavour.
Research Significance: Apart from potential archaeological remains of buildings in existence by 1897, and other sub-surface remains, the site has little research or technical potential.
Rare Assessment: The two railway bridges on the line are both classified as rare.
Consent as Owner: Before doing any building work to an item on this Register or lodging a development application, the proponent should obtain the consent of the relevant owner of the site, usually the SHFA. Early consultation is recommended.
Development Approval: Development work to any item on this Register, including internal works, repainting and signage, requires development approval under the EP&A Act. Contact the relevant consent authority or if the work is in The Rocks, the SHFA's town planner.
Archaelogy: Aboriginal and European cultural archaeological sites are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and the Heritage Act 1977 respectively. Excavation permits may be required. Contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Heritage Office
SHFA Policies: The SHFA has developed a number of policies which guide work to heritage places. These include Signage, Outdoor Seating & Telecommunications. New policies are to be prepared including Lighting; Building Services & Disabled Access. Contact the SHFA.
Conservation Plans: Before considering major changes to, or adjacent to, a heritage item on this Register a Conservation Management Plan should be prepared. Many of the items already have Plans (see References). Copies can be obtained from the SHFA.
The Rocks: N/A
References: Author: Title: Year:
Wayne Johnson Archaeological Assessment, Ultimo Rail Corridor, Ultimo 1999
Studies: Author: Title: Number: Year:
  Sydney Cove Authority (SCA) SCA Register 1979-1998 1998
Special thanks to SHFA Heritage Register