The Story of Sydney's Railways


Building Sydney's Suburban Railway Network

    The Story of Sydney's Railways
  • Sydney's First Public Railway
  • Planning Sydney's Suburban Railway Network
  • Building Sydney's Suburban Railway Network
  • Building Sydney's City Circle
  • Forgotten Tunnels on the City Circle
  • Sydney's Central Station
  • Sydney's Abandoned Railway Lines
  • Sydney's Railway Tunnels
  • Sydney's Abandoned Railway Tunnels
  • Eveleigh Railway Workshops
  • Major Railway Accidents
  • Sydney's first railway - a 22.2 km single line track between Sydney to Parramatta - was opened on 26th September, 1855. Over the next four decades, other lines were opened and extended under the guidance of John Whitton, the Chief Engineer of New South Wales Railways, who instigated the plan for a metropolitan railway system built around three main lines to the north, west and south. Foreign-built steam locomotives, most of which were built by Bayer Peacock of Manchester, England, hauled all trains in New South Wales until 1907, when the Eveleigh Workshops at Redfern and the Clyde plant at Granville began building locomotives alongside rolling stock.

    As the early colonial governments had not reserved corridors of crown land to cope with future transport needs, the Government had no choice but to embark on the compulsory resumption of all land needed for the railway. The purchase price and the routes taken were set and there was no compromise. For some land owners, particularly those who intended to sell out to a developer, it was an opportunity to make some quick money. As their property was right on the railway line, they could demand and get the best price. For others, like those who worked the land and wanted to continue to do so, it often brought great hardship. Many a farmer had their property cut in half by the railway, leaving them with no means of access to that part of their property cut off from their homes by the railway, rendering it useless. Others had their access way to the nearest main road cut by the railway, leaving their homes totally isolated, hemmed in on all other sides by neighbouring properties. In the St. George district alone, ten homes were in the direct path of the railway. Their owners had no choice but to move out and build elsewhere.

    If the railway passed through undulating country, cuttings and embankments had to be created. In such instances, very little thought was given to the effect this would have on the drainage of the area, and such problems were left to the local councils and landowners themselves to work out. In the Kogarah district, one house was left underwater when a newly erected railway embankment acted a dam wall, collecting the runoff from nearby hillsides, forming a temporary lake behind the embankment after the first heavy rain.

    The first areas to develop as a direct result of the arrival of the railways were in Sydney's west (Ashfield to Parramatta), south east (Sydenham to Bankstown), south (Arncliffe to Hurstville), north east (Meadowbank to Thornleigh) and north shore (Chatswood to Hornsby). The latter, due to its isolation from the city, was the slowest to develop, and did not really come into its own until the harbour bridge provided the first direct rail and road link into the city in 1932.

    Australia's first major railway accident occurred on 10th July, 1858 at Haslam's Creek at about 9 o'clock. The morning train from Parramatta ran off the line at a spot near the present Auburn Swim Centre, some of the carriages turned over and fell down the embankment. Two passengers were killed, and several were injured including Mr. Charles Boynton who later became the first station master at Haslam's Creek.

    The process of electrification of the suburban railway system commenced soon after the Eveleigh Workshops at Redfern and the Clyde plant at Granville began building locomotives alongside rolling stock. By 1926, all suburban lines had been electrified and steam locomotives ceased to be used for suburban passenger services. Their replacements, known affectionately as 'red rattlers', held their own until the 1950s, when they were gradually replaced by quieter, more comfortable double decker units which were nicknamed Sputniks after the pioneer Russian satellite which was launched in the same year the new cars were brought into service.


    The Indian Pacific and a suburban passenger train pass through Summer Hill

    Main Western Line
    The first railway line laid in Sydney was a single track serice between Sydney to Parramatta (22.2km). It commenced on 26th September, 1855. Duplicated 1857. Quadrupled 1869. It was designed as the first stage in the Great Western Railway, which was to link Sydney with the towns of the Bathurst plains.
    Parramatta Junction (Granville) to Blacktown (13.4km) opened 7th July 1862. Stations were Blacktown Road (Blacktown), South Creek (St. Marys), Parkes Platform (Werrington).
    Blacktown to Rooty Hill (6.0km) opened 23rd December 1861
    Rooty Hill to St Marys (6.3km) opened 1st May 1862
    St Marys to Kingswood (5.5km) opened 7th July 1862
    Kingswood to Penrith (2.4km) opened
    19th January 1863. Granville to Penrith duplicated Duplicated 1867.
    Penrith - Weatherboard [Wentworth Falls] (46.0km) completed 11th July 1867. Duplicated 1913.
    Weatherboard to Mt. Victoria (25.6km) opened 1st May, 1868. Duplicated 1913.
    Mt Victoria to Bowenfels via the Great Zig Zag (31.5km) opened 18th October, 1869. Duplicated with opening of the Great Zig Zag deviation 1913.
    Rookwood Cemetery Branchline: Junction to No. 1 Mortuary Station (1.1km) opened 22nd October 1864. Extended to No. 3 Mortuary Station (1.3km) 26th May 1897. Extended to Mortuary Station No. 4 19th June 1908. Lines closed 29th December 1948. Lifted.


    Blacktown station

    Blacktown to Richmond
    Although there had been agitation for the proposal of a rail service to Richmond from 1846, it wasn't until April 1856 that a successful public meeting took place at the Fitzroy Hotel, Windsor. A petition prepared by William Walker, the local Member of Parliament, was presented and 1,600 signatures were collected. Finally, funds became available in 1862 to extend the line to Richmond, using horse-operated power, at a cost of £60,000. There is some confusion about the mandatory turning of the first sod. This misunderstanding came about with two contractors constructing different parts of the line. William Walker, the local member, officiated on 14 January 1863 but the following day, contractor Randle had organised the Minister of Works, Mr. Arnold, to turn the obligatory first sod.

    The line (26.1km) was officially opened on 1st December 1864 by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir John Young. The function was held in the newly completed goods shed. The line opened with stations at Riverstone, Mulgrave, Windsor and Richmond. In 1870 a station was opened between Windsor and Richmond called Racecourse, but this was renamed Clarendon in 1876. In June 1867, the Hawkesbury River flooded, and reached an all-time peak of 63 feet above the mean river level at Windsor. The original South Creek viaduct - often the last land link between the town of Windsor and the outside world during flooding - was replaced by the present wooden trestle structure in 1876. On 22 May 1975, the electric train arrived at Riverstone, and electrification was finally extended to Richmond and opened on 17 August 1991.
    The line was extended by 2.0km to Nepean Sand & Gravel on 18th April 1925. A further 9.2km extension to Kurrajong was opened on 8th November 1926.

    Carlingford branch line
    (5.4km) Clyde to Carlingford opened 20th April 1896 as a private line. The idea of a line to Dural was first raised in 1881. A deputation of property owners in the district submitted a plan for a light railway from Parramatta to Castle Hill, Dural and Pennant Hills.
    A spur line was constructed from Clyde to Sandown to the Parramatta River in 1888. Bennett's Railway Act of 1886 gave permission for the construction of a railway line into the lands of John Bennett and the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company, terminating at Sundown. The 2.0km line was opened on 17th November 1888.
    The Simpson Railway Act of 1893 authorised the construction of a railway line in three sections to Dural, from a point on Bennett's railway line just north of the Rosehill Racecourse platform. The first section terminated at Carlingford, which was opened on the 20th April 1896. Because of the poor returns on both the freight and passenger services, the second (to Castle Hill) and third (to Dural) stages were never begun. The government purchased the Carlingford branch line in 1900, and public services began on 1 August 1901, It was affectionately known as the "Apricot Express". The line has now been extended to Chatswood via Epping.


    Darling Harbour/Rozelle goods line, Rozelle

    Darling Harbour/Rozelle goods lines
    Sydney terminal to Darling Island (1.7km) opened November 1855. Closed 6 June 1993. Lifted.
    Darling Island to to Darling Harbour (0.7km) opened 22nd January 1900. Closed 6 June 1993. Lifted.
    Darling Island to Balmain Road Junction (4.1km) opened 23rd January 1922. Closed 22nd January 1966. Lifted.
    Wardell Road Junction to Rozelle (6.1km) opened 29th May 1916.

    Main Southern Line
    The section between Haslem's Creek (Lidcombe) and Liverpool (13.5km) opened 26th September 1856. Fairfield was the only intermediate station. It was the first section of the Great Southern Railway, which reached Goulburn in 1869 and the Victorian border at Albury on 3rd February 1881.

    Macarthur Line
    A suburban rail line which utilises the stations and tracks on the Main Southern Line as far as Macarthur.
    Liverpool - Campbelltown (19.0km) completed 10th May 1858.
    By 1st September 1862, had reached a temporary terminus at North Menangle (9.5km). The only intermediate station was at Ingleburn (at that time, Ingleburn station was called Macquarie Fields). Regents Park to Liverpool branch line (9 km Regents Park to Cabramatta) opened 8th October 1924
    Warwick Farm Racecourse private branchline - Junction to Warwick Farm DE (1.6km) opened 2nd June 1889, closed 19th November 1977. Reopened 17th February 1979. Last train ran 18th August 1990, line closed 7th December 1991, lifted.
    South West Rail Link (11.4 km Glenfield to Leppington) opened 8th February 2015.


    Como Railway Bridges across the Georges River, Illawarra Line

    Illawarra Line
    Illawarra Junction [nr Macdonaldtown] to Hurstville (12.6km) opened 15th October, 1884. Duplicated 1895. Sydney to Sydenham quadrupled 1912. This was the first section of the Illawarra railway, which connects Sydney to the Illawarra district. The original stations on the line were St Peters, Cooks River (Tempe), Arncliffe (Arncliffe Hill), West Botany (Rockdale), Kogarah and Hurstville. Hurstville to Sutherland (9.8km) opened 26th December 1885. Duplicated 1895.
    Sutherland to Waterfall (14.1 km) opened 9th March 1886. Duplicated 1895.
    Waterfall to Coal Cliff (20.6km) opened 3rd October 1888. This section was by far the most demanding section of railway line built in Australia at that time, and included the cutting of 8 tunnels south of Helensburgh. Four tunnels were eliminated in 1915 when a section of the line was re-routed.
    Waterfall to Coal Cliff (20.6km) opened 3rd October 1888.
    Coal Cliff to Wollongong (19.2km) opened 21st June 1887
    Coal Cliff to Clifton (4.4km) opened 23rd July 1888
    Wollongong to Bombo (34.8km) opened 9th November 1887.
    Bombo to Bomaderry (36.2km) opened 2nd June 1893.
    Royal National Park Branch Line: Loftus to Royal National Park (1.9km) opened 9 March 1886. Closed 11th June 1991. Re-opened 1st May 1993.

    Main North Line (Central Coast)
    Redmyre (Strathfield) to Hornsby (21.8km) opened 17th September 1886. This was the first stage of what was known officially as the Homebush to Waratah line, a rail link to the Hawkesbury district which necessitated the building of the five Bononia tunnels, a tunnel under Mt Wondabyne (at that time, Australia's longest tunnel) and the first Hawkesbury River Bridge.
    Hornsby to Hawkesbury River (23.5km) opened 7th April 1887. Duplicated 1909.
    Hawkesbury River to Wondabyne (8.3km) opened 1st May 1889. Duplicated 1912.


    Steam locomotive 3801 passes the entrance of the old Boronia No.5 tunnel on the Main North Line near Cowan

    North Shore Line
    St Leonards to Hornsby (17.0km) opened 1st January 1890.
    St Leonards to Waverton (2.5km) opened 1st May 1893
    The initial section, Waverton to Milsons Point [the original station was located on site of Luna Park and not in its present position] (2.4km), was opened 1st May 1893. This section of line was used until the new Milsons Point station was opened and connected to Wynyard via the Harbour Bridge in February 1932. It is now the North Sydney car sidings line.
    Waverton to Lindfield duplicated 1896. Lindfield to Hornsby duplicated 1910.

    Wynyard to Waverton (3.8km) via the present Milsons Point station opened 28th February 1932.
    The first section of the north shore line to be built was between St Leonards and Hornsby. The stations on the line upon opening were Chat's Wood (Chatswood), Roseville, Lindfield, Killara, Gordon, Pymble, Eastern Road (Turramurra) and Pearce's Corner (Wahroonga). Even as the line was being constructed a question yet to be answered was how the north shore railway would be linked to the transport infrastructure on the southern shore. Milsons Point, Balls Head, Cremorne and Blues Point were all considered as viable termination points of the service. John Whitton, chief engineer of the Railways Department, reduced the options to two alternatives:
    a St Leonards to Milson's Point option to cost £350,000 (excluding the necessary land resumptions)
    a more fanciful option of a line to Balls Head at £710,000 (including the wharves required). The Ball's Head extension was given serious consideration in light of the burgeoning industries at Pyrmont and Darling Harbour. Commercial interests saw Balls Head Bay developing as another Darling Harbour.

    As the railway line and harbour crossing debates ran concurrently, the ideas put forward often included large and grandiose schemes including bridges and tunnels. A cross harbour rail link from Balls Head to the Darling Harbour Goods Yard was considered as part of the Balls Head option. Its proponents envisaged a series of three bridges linking Balls Head with Goat Island, the tip of the Balmain Peninsula and Darling Island.


    The original Milsons Point Station, 1890. Luna Park now occupies the site.

    The route finally chosen terminated at Milson's Point Ferry Arcade and provided a transport interchange for rail, ferry, bus and tram commuters from the north. Today, it is the branch line which links Waverton station to the sidings on Lavender Bay, the original Milsons Point station being located on the site of Luna Park. This extension opened in 1893 to much fanfare but not without disruption to the area. There was much public debate about the difficult topography of the lower north shore and the great costs involved. Besides its lower cost, the Milsons Point option allowed for the line's connection to the city via a bridge between Dawes Point and Milsons Point which at the time was being given serious consideration by the State Government, though it would not eventuate for another 40 years. When it did, the line which now links Waverton and the Sydney Harbour Bridge via North Sydney station was created to allow the north shore line to be joined to the City Circle.

    Bankstown Line
    Sydenham to Belmore (8.2km) opened 1st February 1895.
    Belmore to Bankstown (5.4km) opened 14th April 1909.
    Bankstown to Sefton Park East Junction [nr. Regents Park] (4.1km) opened 1914.
    Sefton Park East Junction to Sefton Park North Junction [nr. Lidcombe] - opened October 1924.

    Botany Goods line
    Marrickville Junction to Botany DE (8.6km) opened 14th October 1925.
    Botany DE to Bunnerong (2.3km) opened 1927. Closed 1979
    Jctn to Port Botany & ANL Termi
    nal (2.2km) opened 21st December 1979

    Campsie - Flemington Goods Line
    Campsie to Lidcombe Goods Junction and Flemington Goods Junctions (9.8km) opened 11th April 1916.

    City Circle
    Central to St James via Museum (2.0km) opened 20th December 1926.
    Central to Wynyard via Town Hall (2.6km) opened 28th February 1932.
    Wynyard to St James via Circular Quay (1.2km) opened 22nd January 1956.

    East Hills Line
    Wolli Creek Junction to Kingsgrove (5.3km) opened 21st September 1931
    Kingsgrove to East Hills (11.4km) opened 21st December 1931
    East Hills to Glenfield Junction (8.3km) opened 21st December 1987


    Tanagra train on the Eastern Suburbs line at Woolloomooloo

    Eastern Suburbs
    Town Hall to Bondi Junction - opened 23rd June 1979.

    Without question, the arrival of the railway was a turning point in the history of every township or village on a railway route. It brought a substantial rise in real estate values and an influx of new people which would bring growth and prosperity to the local community. But initially, the arrival of the railways was very much a mixed blessing. Many local councils were brought to the brink of ruin, their limited financial resources unable to meet the cost of supplying the essential services required as farms were bought, subdivided and sold, often within the space of a few weeks.




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Railcars: 1960s onwards


Tulloch Double-decker trains
In the 1960s, tenders were called for double-deck electric passenger cars. In 1964, the first of 120 "Tulloch trains were delivered, and integrated into the single-deck sets. The cars originally originally only the City Circle, South, Bankstown, East Hills and Inner West Lines. They consisted of normal floor level over the bogies, with a double deck passenger section between the bogies. The cars were largely riveted aluminium, with steel underframes. They carried green internal livery and were painted Tuscan Red on the outside sides with painted silver roofs to match the single deck carriages. For the first time in Sydney, fluorescent internal lighting and air suspension bogies were used. The initial 40 cars were used in power door sets, the remainder in non-powered door sets, and they replaced the remaining wooden bodied trailer cars. Tullochs began to be withdrawn in 1994, some seeing service until February 2004, before the introduction of the Millennium Trains. Examples of Tulloch Double-decker railcars are on display at Trainworks, Thirlmere.


Comeng power cars
In 1972, the first Comeng-constructed stainless steel double deck power-cars entered service. These cars were loosely based on the recently introduced inter-urban cars. Their stainless-steel bodies were originally painted the standard "Tuscan red" to match the livery of the existing fleet. Some cars were delivered in the blue and white livery of the Public Transport Commission in the 1970s, and repainted to deep Indian red after 1976, before being paint-stripped to run in their original stainless steel finish in the early 1980s. Internally, they had reversible seating. Sliding windows were fitted to the upper and lower decks, with drop windows in the doors. The windows were replaced with Hopper windows in the 1990s and internally they were repainted light grey with blue upholstered seating. These motor cars had tapered ends, which were fitted with destination boards in the 1990s. With the introduction of the Millennium Trains in 2002, several early Comeng power-cars were converted to non-driving trailers, with their pantographs removed.


Goningan power cars
Goningan power cars were very similar in looks to Comeng power cars. In 1981, Goninan built the first air-conditioned cars for the Sydney suburban network. The first 100 cars had their upper deck windows at the unpopular lower height, the final 60 were modified and these final 60 were distinguished by their front end being painted into the 'candy' white, orange and red State Rail livery of the time. The final batch also featured bright yellow internal walls. The forced ventilation cars were later retrofitted with air-conditioning, and the Beclawat sliding windows replaced by fixed panes in the late 1990s. Also at this time, the standard light grey internal livery was adopted, and the seats were replaced with blue upholstery. These trains continued to operate until 2011.


Tangara cars
In 1988, the new generation train, called Tangara  an aboriginal word meaning "to go", was introduced. This train marked a radical departure from the previous double deck car design both in appearance and technically. The Tangara is the last publicly funded electric rolling stock built for CityRail  all future electric trains are being built and operated under public private partnership agreements. A total of 450 T set cars were introduced between 1988 and 1994, allowing the withdrawal of the remaining single deck suburban passenger cars in 1993. Eighty G set cars featuring toilets, high-backed reversible seating and passenger door opening controls were built between 1994 and 1996. These generally operated on outer-suburban runs, typically to Wollongong, Springwood and Gosford, though they also sometimes operated in suburban service.


Milleneum cars
From 2002, 140 "fourth generation" carriages were introduced, known as Millennium trains or M sets. These trains allowed the withdrawal of the 1960s-era Tulloch double-deck trailer cars. These were the first passenger trains in NSW to introduce automatic passenger information displays and announcements. The design of the M sets was formed the basis for the design of H sets and A sets. As these trains are maintained by EDI Rail at a facility at Eveleigh, they are essentially captive on Sector 2 (Inner West, Bankstown, East Hills, Liverpool & Campbelltown) services.


Waratah cars
The Waratah cars (also called "A sets") are a double-decker, air-conditioned train based on the Millennium train, the order being for 78 sets of eight cars per train. The body shells were constructed in China and completed at Newcastle by a joint venture between the NSW government, Downer EDI Rail, and other companies under a public private partnership, with delivery between 2011 and 2014. The first set went into regular service on 1 July 2011 on the Macarthur East Hills Airport line with the last set delivered in mid-2014.

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