Unique city stories
The first ‘Sydney’ station, 1855-1874
The first railway line in Sydney opened in 1855 and operated between Sydney and Parramatta. The Sydney terminal station was built in September 1855 on traditional Gadigal land of the Eora Nation.
The site was also known as the ‘Cleveland Paddock’, situated between Devonshire and Cleveland streets. The station was commonly referred to as Redfern Station as it was located close to Redfern. The station was a single 30m long wooden platform in a corrugated iron shed, described by some as a “temporary tin shed”. In 1856 additional railway sheds and yards were added to the site but by the early 1870s the station was unable to meet the demands of the rapidly growing Sydney railway network.
The second ‘Sydney’ station, 1874-1906
The second terminal station was designed by the Railways Chief Engineer John Whitton. It opened in 1874 on the same site as the first station and continued to be known as Redfern. The station was constructed to allow for the future expansion of the railways. While the brick and stone building was impressive when first built, by the 1880s platforms (up to 13 in total) had spread to the forecourt area. In 1899 there were 25 million passenger visits to the terminal station and the site was simply too restrictive and congested for any more development.
The third ‘Sydney’ station – Central Railway Station
The plan to shift the Sydney terminal station to the north side of Devonshire Street was proposed by the Minister for Public Works, E.W. O’Sullivan. Government Architect W.L. Vernon designed a 15 platform steel-framed and concrete station. Parliament approved the Act for its construction on 11 December 1900 at an estimated cost of £561,000. The design for the station included a large arched roof to cover the main concourse area, with covered platforms and pedestrian access through subways between George St West and Strawberry Hills. Railway Square became a major tram interchange point. The sandstone used in the construction came from the Pyrmont Quarry, the decorative marble from Borenore, near Orange and the ticket office was made of Tasmanian blackwood.
Before construction could begin the site had to be cleared of the rail sheds and yards. Property resumption included the Benevolent Asylum, Devonshire Street Cemetery, Christ Church Parsonage, Police Barracks, Sydney Female Refuge, Convent of the Good Samaritan and the South Sydney Morgue. At the Devonshire Street Cemetery site, £27, 890 was spent on relocating the remains and headstones to a new cemetery site at Botany and around Sydney.