Architecture Images- Central Business District
Central Railway Station
Walter Liberty Vernon
1904-6 Terminal building George McRae 1921
|Federation Free Classical energetic Edwardian|
|stone, steel and glass|
|Nineteenth Century images- State Library of New South Wales|
|Click images for larger versions|
|Above image copyright Simon Fieldhouse|
Central (also known as Sydney Terminal) is the
largest railway station in Sydney, Australia. It services almost all of
the lines on the CityRail network, and is the major terminus for
interurban and interstate rail services.
Despite its name, Central Station has never been at a central location within Sydney. It has however long been central to the operations of New South Wales Railways. The remoteness of "Central" from the commercial centre of Sydney stimulated the construction of the Sydney underground railways at an earlier date than the equivalent in Melbourne, where the main stations were in the CBD.
There have been three stations on the current site. The original Sydney Station was opened on 26 September 1855 in an area known as "Cleveland Fields." This station (one wooden platform in a corrugated iron shed), which was known at the time as Redfern, had Devonshire Street as its northern boundary. When this station became inadequate for the traffic it carried, a new station was built in 1874 on the same site and also was known as Redfern. This was a brick building with two platforms. It grew to 14 platforms before it was replaced by the present-day station to the north of Devonshire Street. The new station was built on a site previously occupied by a cemetery, a convent, a female refuge, a police barracks, a parsonage, a Benevolent Society and a morgue. This new 15-platform station was opened on 4 August 1906 and is still in use.
The Western Mail train that arrived in Sydney at 5:50am on 5 August 1906 went straight into the new station. Devonshire Street, which separated the two stations, became a pedestrian underpass to allow people to cross the railway line and is now known by many as the Devonshire St Tunnel. Sydney station has expanded since 1906 in an easterly direction. A 75-metre Gothic revival clock tower was added at the north-western corner of the station on 3 March 1921.
In attempting to describe Sydney's Central Station as it stands currently, it is probably better to think of the station as two separate, but adjacent, railway stations. In the days of steam, the station was regarded as being divided into "steam" and "electric" parts.
The western ("steam") half of Central Station, which was formerly known as 'Sydney Terminal' and is often referred to as such by Sydneysiders (although it is no longer the official name), comprises 15 terminal platforms and was opened in 1906. This section is dominated by a large vaulted roof over the concourse and elaborate masonry composed primarily of sandstone, the most common rock in the Sydney region. This western section is popularly known as the country platforms, even though only four platforms are commonly used for long-distance trains. Most of the 15 platforms are used for CityRail's intercity services that terminate at Central, also known as Sydney Terminal.
To the west of Platform 1, there was previously a siding leading to two dock platforms for use of mail trains. This siding has been cut back to serve a car loading ramp for the Indian Pacific. The space where the mail sidings were is now a Youth Hostel. The hostel rooms are modelled on old train carriages.
The eastern ("suburban" or "electric") part of Central Station, formerly known as 'Central Electric', consists of 12 through platforms, four of which are underground. These platforms are used by suburban CityRail services, and by a limited number of through intercity services during peak hours. The eight above-ground platforms were opened in 1926 as part of a large electrification and modernisation program aimed at improving Sydney's suburban railway services.
The four underground platforms were built as part of the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Construction commenced in 1948 but the underground railway line was not finished until 1979. While the plans called for four platforms, two were found to be not needed and are currently used as archival storage by the New South Wales Railways.
Central station is also the location for the Central light rail station, the eastern terminus of the Metro Light Rail line in Sydney, which runs for 7.2km between the station and the terminus, Lilyfield light rail stop. It is the only station on the light rail line at present where transfer to CityRail services is possible.
The light rail stop is located in an outside concourse area of Central station, located near to the main waiting area and departure hall. It allows easy transfer from train services to Chinatown, the Darling Harbour precinct, Pyrmont and some of the inner western suburbs. A TramLink card was made available by Metro Transport and Cityrail to facilitate these transfers through the purchase of one ticket on both systems.
Central's light rail stop is a single platform on a unidirectional turning loop (much like South Ferry station in New York) which is used to avoid having to terminate the vehicles. The route taken by the light rail around Central was not new; it had been formerly used until the 1950s as a route on the former Sydney tramway system. The stop and Central station loop were constructed in 1997 as part of the construction of the Sydney Light Rail (now the Metro Light Rail. The covered area in which the light rail stop is located was previously used as a staff carpark and bus interchange. Ticket machines and line information boards are located on the platform area.
Previously there have been proposals to extend the light rail network into the CBD. It is expected that Central station would be the terminus for the CBD services also.
Many major bus services depart from adjacent Eddy Avenue, Chalmers Street or from Railway Square on George Street, accessible through the Devonshire Street Tunnel, which crosses directly under the rail station from the suburban lines. Long-distance road coaches also terminate in Sydney at Central Station on Eddy Avenue.
Devonshire Street Cemetery
Central Railway Station hides a deathly secret: it stands on the site of the old Devonshire Street Cemetery. Established in 1820, the cemetery was the principal burial ground for Sydney until the 1860s. Bodies were exhumed in 1901 to make way for the railway. This exhibition unearths the history of Devonshire Street Cemetery through photos, maps and documents.
The entrance to the Presbyterian Cemetery at the Devonshire Street Cemetery, 1901. (Sydney Mail, 16 February 1901)
Detail of a map showing the Devonshire Street Cemetery, 1842. (City of Sydney)
View across the Devonshire Street Cemetery, 1901. (Foster Collection, Royal Australian Historical Society)
Removing headstones from Devonshire Street Cemetery, 1901, to make way for Central Railway Station. (City of Sydney Archives)
|Following images with special thanks to Michael Greenhalgh.|
Tour of Central thanks to
Start your tour at
the CountryLink travel centre on platform 1.
This platform has also always been the ‘special services’ platform: the place where the Governor set off in his own car to the Governor’s Residence in Sutton Forest and where General Macarthur arrived in World War II.
Platform 1 is also a symbol of the hard work that is associated with running the railways. There is a goods lift about half way along this platform. This lift would take workers into another world where thousands of different kinds of parcels were handled every day – coffins, dogs and cats, furniture, postal packages all being sent around the state and the city.
You will notice number series printed in black and yellow on the piers of the awning. These numbers mark the distance you are from the buffers at the end of platform 1. At BO037 read the plaque dated 23 February 1970.
There are many NSW families who have a tradition of 'working on the railways'. Commissioner McCusker, whose name is on this plaque came from such a family. His father had risen to be Station Master and retired after 50 years’ service. Commissioner McCusker started as a junior porter at Byrock to rise to the top over 49 years of service. He was credited with making Sydney’s railways the first in the world with a fleet of double deck carriages.Central Station location No. 2: Walk to the southern end of platforms 2/3.
This is close to the location of the original terminals, the first opened in 1855 and the second in 1874. The third station was opened in 1906 and is the one you see today. At BO187 you are standing on top of the Devonshire St tunnel, which used to be the street at the front of the earlier stations.
Mortuary Station, the sandstone, architect-designed building whose spire and dome you can see to your right served the funeral train service between Sydney Central and Rookwood between 1867 and 1948.
On the first day of rail - 26 September 1855 - 750 first class tickets at 4 shillings each were sold for the run between Parramatta and Sydney. There were no ticket barriers and there were no platform indicators.
This third station was built in stages. The design was completed at the end of 1901. Eleven stone masons commenced work on 7 August 1902 and work gangs demolished the platforms of the old Sydney station as the new ones were built. Platforms 1 – 15 and the first two floors of the new station were opened by the Premier and Minister for Transport, in August 1906. The clock tower and top two floors were completed in 1921 and the electric platforms (16 - 23) and electric suburban rail network opened in 1926.Central Station location No. 3:
Return to the main concourse and out the western archway on your left.
Walk to the garden to the left of the archway. You will notice a small memorial to Donna, the hearing guide dog. This is a good vantage point to view the change in building material types reflecting the different status of people and workers who used the different sections of the building.
Look southwards from the clock tower and you will notice the most expensive, sandstone buildings (with marble interiors) and beautifully designed facades.
The clock tower is 75 metres high. There are 302 steps to the clock face. Look closely and you can see the stairs going up to the clock inside the clock tower and the NSW Government Railways crest sculpted in stone.
Keep following the line of the platform and you will notice that the buildings have been built using brick. This is platform 1 with the old parcel handling area underneath. Finally, if you look to the end of the buildings, beyond the Parcel Post Office you will notice corrugated iron sheds. These were the work sheds for the maintenance workers.
Look for the archway about halfway along the outside of platform 1. This was the Governor’s Archway and if you look closely at the top you can still see the gas light fitting where the Governor’s coach would stop. The Governor could then go directly from his coach or car to his rail carriage on platform 1.Central Station location No. 4:
Walk to the end of the garden pathway.
Concern for safety has always been an important part of railway life. When the first train service began in 1855, every engineman, fireman, guard, gatekeeper, pointsman, policemen and platelayer was required to sign the last page of his ‘Rule Book’, agreeing to observe and obey the rules.
Ambulance Ave (along the front of the Parcel Post Office which are now the Medina Apartments) is an example of the railway industry’s earliest commitment to safety. The horse-drawn 1880’s ambulances were a railway service and in the 1920’s and 1930’s when motorised ambulances were first introduced, many of the volunteer ambulance drivers were often off-duty railway men.Central Station location No. 5:
Return through the main archway to the main concourse and John Whitton’s memorial at the entrance to the tram tunnel on your left.
The main concourse area has been changed, renovated and ‘remodelled’ throughout its history. Its 1901 design had pedestrians moving in a north-south direction, as people arrived on their train and walked through these archways to catch the tram uptown. In the 1920’s, platforms 16 to 19 were taken over for the new electric trains and people needed to walk east-west from the country to the suburban platforms.
Central Station was one of the major transport hubs for Sydney’s Olympic effort. Approximately $45m has been spent refurbishing the building and refitting areas that had been closed.
Central Station location No. 6:
Walk east to the Bakehouse area and notice the beautiful, stained glass windows of the station’s original ticket office.
Central Station location No. 7:
Go through the archway to the light rail stop.
Central Station has always been a hub for a variety of transport modes.
The 1901 loopline was in a clockwise direction from Pitt St, along the Central colonnade (where you are now standing), along Castlereagh St to Circular Quay and back south along Pitt St. This is opposite to the direction that the current light rail system uses.
Trams were also used to prepare for the
construction of the current Central Station. The Botany tramline was
extended in March 1901 to take remains from the Devonshire St cemetery
to Bunnerong cemetery, because the land was needed for the construction
of the new station. Light rail was introduced to Central Station in
August 1997. Light rail is a modern version of the traditional tram and
currently extends from Central to the inner west.
Central Station location No. 8:
Turn right and follow the edge of building outside and around the corner towards the electric platforms.
The official name for platforms 1-19 was Sydney Terminal. Once the "electric" platforms and the City Circle were opened, Central Station became its common name.
Work began on the city underground in 1916 but stopped again in 1918. Work resumed in 1922 and the first electric train ran from Central Station to Oatley Station in March 1926 and to St James in December 1926.
Notice the maze of train lines ahead of you
and to the left. Compare this with the photo showing the construction of
the city railway.
Take the escalators down to the electric platforms concourse and walk east, following the line of the platform entrances (notice the lifts, installed as part of the Olympic upgrade programme) and turn left to the station entrance in Elizabeth St.
Central Station location No. 10:
Walk outside the entrance in Elizabeth St and look south along Chalmers St. You are now standing just north of the deep excavation for platforms 24 and 25 which are used for the Illawarra and Eastern Suburbs Line.
The excavation was so deep that two
additional platforms (26 and 27) were added on top of 24 and 25 for
possible future use but remain hidden there today with no
Central Station location No. 11:
Walk around the corner to your left under the Eddy Ave viaduct. The central arch was originally used by the trams. Stop at the bus terminal end of the arch.
To your left, the suburban platform buildings are a different colour sandstone to the lower sections of the Central Station main building (to your right) which was built from sandstone quarried at Pyrmont. The upper sections are a different sandstone again.
You will also notice a plaque to your right remembering the soldiers of World War I. They would travel from here to Darling Harbour where the ships were loaded. Even today you can still see tracks on some of the piers still standing at Darling Harbour.
At the time, there were 45,000 railway men and 8,500 of these enlisted. More than 1,200 were killed. Many of them operated trains in Europe – either the heavy rail systems or the narrow gauge lines which took them to the front line.Central Station location No. 12:
Walk along the colonnade to the corner of Eddy Ave and Pitt St.
Walk to the end of this lower colonnade and view the plaque which commemorates the 1902 completion of the foundations for the new station. This foundation stone weighs 4.5 tons, was quarried at Bowral in the southern highlands of New South Wales and brought by rail to Central. It cost 30 pounds sterling.
Chief Commissioner Eddy died in 1898. Rawson St, named after Governor Rawson, was cut off at Pitt St (where you are now standing) and the remainder of the street from Pitt eastwards to Elizabeth St, became Eddy Ave in honour of the Chief Commissioner.Central Station location No. 13:
Go up the escalators and west of the station. End your tour at the western entrance to the main concourse.
You will notice two plaques on the base of the clock tower close to the taxi rank. Governor Rawson is commemorating the opening of the new station on one plaque and the politicians are doing the same on the other plaque! Close by you can also see the Commissioner’s entrance to the main building. Look closely through the glass door and you may even be able to see his marble staircase.
When it opened, Sydneysiders were proud of their massive, beautifully designed, innovative new railway station. For example, it was the first time that the track points were to be operated by compressed air and the first use of a suspended concrete slab (the main concourse) in a public building. It has remained a link between country and city for a hundred years as well as a working transport icon, linking rail, bus, tram, taxi and car.