Darling Harbour Rail Corridor
Statement of SignificanceThe 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, wool stores, 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 overbridge (outside the curtilage 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, archaeologically rare and socially rare.
Transport - Rail
Construction Years: 1853 - 1911
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.
Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: 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 transhipment 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.
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.
Aesthetic significance: Aesthetically the space is free of development within an urban context dominated by multi-storied buildings.
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.
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.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Written||Wayne Johnson||1999||Archaeological Assessment, Ultimo Rail Corridor, Ultimo|