NSW Railways first installed the Otis timber escalators for the deep underground stations at Wynyard and Town Hall when they opened in 1932. They were then an innovative people-moving technology adopted by the Harbour Bridge engineer John Bradfield in his ambitious transport plan for Sydney. The escalators proved vital to the new underground railway system, moving large numbers of passengers quickly in peak hours between street, concourse and platforms.
Even after replacement in the 1950s, and multiple overhauls and upgrades in subsequent years, wooden escalators continued to operate in one of the busiest stations on the network. Riding the escalators was a sensory experience well known to Sydney-siders for the hum of the motors, the vibration of the steps, the constant motion and the feel of the timber treads underfoot. Over the years they became a ‘must-see’ for Sydney visitors, and were much loved by regular users.
While in operation the escalators moved thousands of Sydney commuters and visitors each day, right up until their retirement in 2017. After rumbling reassuringly for over 60 years, at the end of their working life they were some of the rarest operating escalators in the world.
Sydney Trains, Transport for NSW and Art of Multimedia produced a documentary and historic booklet called Escalation Sensation. Along with a small curated exhibition display, the story of the machines and their final days can now be told. In a fitting tribute, artist Chris Fox’s suspended twisting escalator sculpture, Interloop, uses salvaged timber treads to amaze and inspire. Suspended above Wynyard Station concourse, the artwork literally stops people in their tracks.
Go behind the scenes at Wynyard Station to see the motor room, where salvaged historic escalators have been reassembled as a historic display. There, lucky ticket-holders will look back over the history of the last operational wooden railway escalators in Australia with Sydney Trains heritage specialists. Guests will then ride the new escalators to meet artist Chris Fox who will introduce and discuss his award-winning artwork Interloop, which has captured Sydney's imagination.
Sydney Trains heritage staff & Interloop artist Chris Fox
This tour has a capacity of 15 people per session.
Please arrive 10 minutes before the tour start time to register. Punctuality is important as once the tour has begun it cannot be joined.
Participants must be 18 years or older. Storage is limited; please bring only essential items with you.
Lift access available. Tour includes riding modern escalators.