Lavender Bay And Its Stations

Lavender Bay 3 Front copy

The image above shows a view which many Sydneysiders are not only familiar with, but which many enjoy on special occasions like New Years Eve. Lavender Bay is a popular foreshore area, not least for its historic fun park, Luna Park. However it is the train in this image which is of particular significance.

Construction on the Milsons Point extension to the existing railway began in 1890, with the track running between Milsons Point and St Leonards. The extension would complete the North Shore Link, finally connecting the harbour to Hornsby. The Milsons Point station itself was a transport hub, connecting trains, ferries and trams, but it stood near to where the Northern Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stands. In 1924, planning for the construction of Sydneys famous bridge meant that the station needed to be relocated. A site was chosen in Lavender Bay, down at water level below Glen Street.

This was not the first time this site had been used as a station though. In 1915 the Station was first opened to the public with plans for it to replace Milsons Point Station. Passengers did not approve though, refusing to leave the train and demanding the trains continue to and stop at Milsons Point. The walk to the trams in Glen Street on the escarpment above was steep and the ferry company were unhappy with servicing two wharves when one would suffice. The Lavender Bay Station only lasted for a total of seven weeks before the original service resumed to Milsons Point.

The remodelled station avoided these problems though, with long escalators taking commuters from water level to Glen Street where the commuters could connect with the tram network. A new ferry wharf was also built to connect the station to the ferry network. The escalators were actually the first in Australia and were relocated to Wynyard Station when Lavender Bay Station closed in 1932 (following the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the new Milsons Point Station). They are apparently still in use today.

The Darling Of Sydney – Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour Sydney Showing wharves and boats front copy

The image above, taken from a postcard dated to circa 1910, reveals a Darling Harbour which is very different to the one we are all familiar with today. In our modern Sydney, Darling Harbour is a tourist hub full of restaurants and tourist attractions, but once it was at the heart of the working harbour.

One of Darling Harbours original European names was Cockle Bay, referencing the remains of shellfish which were scattered along the shore, remnants of many feasts held by Aboriginal people in the place they knew as Tumbalong. These middens provided a valuable source of lime for the Europeans and the area soon became the domain of the lime burners who provided the much needed resource for making mortar.

The valuable harbour area was quickly recognised though and by 1815 Australias first steam engine was hard at work and by the 1820s shipyards, wharves, warehouses and factories were being built along the foreshore. In 1826 the name of the area also changed with Governor Darling naming the cove after none other than himself. Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th Darling Harbour saw wool, wheat, coal and timber come and go from its wharves and warehouses. In fact by 1900 shipping was the main focus of the area with a multitude of wharves and warehouses replacing many of the small scale industries and factories. In 1900 the Government resumed Darling Harbour and assumed control of the many wharves but the working harbour continued to thrive with ships coming and going full of goods for import and export. By the end of the Second World War though coastal shipping was declining and Darling Harbour was seeing less trade. In 1984 the industrial history of the harbour concluded, with the area being returned to the people of Sydney and in 1988, just in time for the Bicentennial celebrations the new Darling Harbour was opened to the public.

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island Sydney Front

The image above, showing a busy Cockatoo Island, is evocative of a time when this island in Sydney Harbour was not only the focus but indeed the heart of naval life in Sydney. Cockatoo Island has a long and fascinating history, but the image above, from circa 1920 harks back to a time when the island was the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard.

Cockatoo Islands history, in the era of European Settlement, dates back to the early years of the colony when the island was home to a prison which was built in 1839 to alleviate the overcrowding on Norfolk Island. By the 1850s, although still a prison, the role of the island was slowly starting to shift towards naval service with the Fitzroy Dock and a workshop built (by the prisoners in fact) to service the Royal Navy. By the 1880s shipbuilding and repair work done on the island was expanding rapidly and a second dry dock, Sutherland Dock, was built.

During this era the shipyard serviced the Royal Navy, but in 1913, with the establishment of a new, Australian Navy, Cockatoo Island became the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, servicing not just the Royal Navy, but the new Australian Navy. In fact by 1930 Australias first steel warship had been built at the islands shipyard. Over the 20th century ship building and repair continued to expand, even servicing submarines, but in 1992 the dockyard closed. Today, the island is controlled by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and you can visit to discover more of the story of this historic island.

Time For A Change – Central Station

New Railway Station Sydney NSW From Elizabeth Street (Central) Front copy

The postcard above is a beautiful snapshot, showing Sydneys grand Central Station, the station which was built to replace the dingy and congested Redfern Terminus. The postcard probably dates to very soon after the new railway station first opened in 1906 as the grand tower is not yet built and of course, the postcard lauds the ‘New Railway Station’.

By 1900 Redfern Terminus was disliked by passengers and crew alike, sparking increasing agitation for a new and improved station, closer to the city itself. Yet as far back as 1888 there had been interest in moving the station to a more central location. This is when Railway Commissioner Eddy made inquiries about moving the terminus, resulting in a Royal Commission. In 1891 the Commission recommended two new stations, one at the Benevolent Asylum site and one in Hyde Park, but the depression of the 1890s meant that no action was taken. Another request to move the station was made in 1896, and another Royal Commission was launched, recommending that a single larger station be built in Hyde Park, facing St James Road. The public, though wanting a more convenient station, objected strenuously to the loss of public parkland, and the scheme was abandoned in 1899. It was clear though that a new station was needed and in 1900 State Parliament agreed to the plan of E. W. O’Sullivan (the Minister for Public Works) to build the new station north of Devonshire Street, close to the existing terminus. The public would have its new station, but not their City railway extension.

Plans for the new station were signed off on November 2, 1901, but construction would not be able to commence until the existing buildings and even a cemetery had been removed. The original depot of the steam tramway, a convent, police barracks and the Benevolent Asylum were all demolished while the graves in the Devonshire Street Cemetery were relocated. On April 30, 1902 Minister O’Sullivan laid the foundation stone and construction commenced. The station opened on Saturday, August 4, 1906.

Redfern Station – The First Central Station

Leaving Redfern Station Front copy

When we think of the centre of train based transport in Sydney, most of us today immediately think of Central Station. Yet once, before Central Station even existed, another station was at the heart of Sydney transport. This station, originally known as Cleveland Sydney Station is better known as Redfern.

Redfern Station has its origins in 1855 when a simple station with a single wooden platform and corrugated iron shed was built. This simple and rather humble station was the first terminal station in Sydney. In 1856 the station was slightly upgraded with an engine shed, carriage shed and goods shed built at the site, and as time marched on the station continued to be expanded in order to deal with an ever expanding railway network.

By 1874, a grander and more appropriate building and station had been built to accommodate the important Sydney Terminal Station. The station was designed by the famous NSW Government Railways Chief Engineer, John Whitton and construction of the grand new building began in 1871. The new station was built using both brick and stone and was considered, at the time, one of the most beautiful public buildings in Sydney. Unfortunately, the beautiful building could not hope to cope with the ever expanding railway network and its patrons. The increasing length of trains reduced the effectiveness of the platforms, the site was congested, and the station was unable to truly cope with the 25 million passengers who passed through it in 1899 alone! In addition, passengers who were traveling to the city itself had to disembark from the train and transfer to trams or horse and carriage and then travel through the busy streets around the station and on to the city. Of course, this led to the area around the station itself becoming increasingly congested and unpleasant. By 1900, passengers and crew both heartily disliked the station. Today, the beautiful and historic station continues to operate, and indeed is the closest station to Sydney University. It now offers a much more pleasant experience!

Come back next week to find out about Central Station – the station which replaced the despised Redfern Terminus.

Reconstructing Millers Point

View south along Hickson Road from bride at Munn Street, showing how uplands border Darling Harbour restricting expansion of ware houses etc. Dock sheds at right and residences facing High Street on cliff top at left

View south along Hickson Road from bridge at Munn Street, showing how uplands border Darling Harbour restricting expansion of ware houses etc. Dock sheds at right and residences facing High Street on cliff top at left

Millers Point is a fascinating area of Sydney with a rich history. It is also an area which many Sydney-siders are quite familiar with and the photo above is not only evocative of the rich history of the area, but shows how similar certain views remain today. Yet Millers Point has also undergone some of the most drastic changes of any area in Sydney.

The 1890s were a time of hardship and turmoil for the people living and working in and around Millers Point. With strikes, depression and the collapse of the wool trade, things looked bleak. The wharves were increasingly insanitary as were the houses. The outbreak of bubonic plague in January 1900 was a heavy blow and became the catalyst for major changes. The area was quarantined, houses underwent compulsory disinfection and anybody suspected of coming into contact with the dreaded disease was sent to the Quarantine Station at North Head under cover of darkness.

In the wake of the plague, and the public fear which accompanied the dreaded disease, the government had all the excuse it needed to resume the area, including the wharves, and begin an extensive redevelopment. The first priority of the newly created Sydney Harbour Trust was to rebuild the wharves, but they also resumed hundreds of properties and by the 1920s whole streets had disappeared, new cliffs had been constructed and many, many houses had been rebuilt. High Street, the largest grouping of these residential buildings, was even constructed during this period in the wake of quarrying along Hickson Road. These were Sydney’s first public housing, but they were not allocated according to need, but instead given by the Trust to maintain their own workforce.

Come back next week for the final installment of The Past Presents series on Millers Point.

Millers Point

View south from High St. steps along Hickson Road at Union Co. #5 dock showing restriction of wharf frontage by high cliffs paralleling Darling Harbor. Warehouses Etc. on upland.

View south from High St. steps along Hickson Road at Union Co. #5 dock showing restriction of wharf frontage by high cliffs paralleling Darling Harbor. Warehouses Etc. on upland.

Sometimes photos of an area show a glimpse into a past long gone, and the photo above, taken by an unknown photographer, circa 1936, is one such image. Although it is a view which remains remarkably similar today, Walsh Bay and Millers Point is a very different place now to the working maritime area which is glimpsed through this image.

Before the 1830s, Millers Point was isolated and reasonably deserted, with few people settling in the area. Three windmills, operated by John Leighton (known as Jack The Miller, which inspired the name of the area itself) and a military hospital were built in the area, but only six or so houses were to be found in Millers Point in the 1820s. However, by the 1820s Sydney Cove itself was becoming crowded and Dawes Point was already being adapted to the maritime industry. The deep waters of Millers Point, adjacent to Dawes Point, became the focus of a thriving, if malodorous, whaling and sealing industry and by the 1840s workers cottages and even the occasional fine house belonging to wharf owners were beginning to appear.

It was in the 1850s that Millers Point became a hub for maritime activity. Almost all workers in the area during this time were connected with the wharves or the local infrastructure which supported them (including hotels, boarding houses and pubs). By 1861 there were even six large warehouses built on the waterfront.

The Millers Point of this era though would have looked very different even to that pictured in the photo above. Come back next week when the Past Present will share another beautiful photograph of the area, and the story of how and why the area underwent such dramatic changes.

Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge

Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge

Yesterday, on May 1st, it was the anniversary of an engineering marvel in Australian history. On May 1, 1889 the first Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge was officially opened, and The Past Present decided it was the perfect time to share the beautiful image above with our readers.

The Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge may, at first glance, not appear all that significant. However, the opening of this railway bridge not only fully linked Sydney and Newcastle by rail, but essentially saw the linkage of the South Australian, Victorian, NSW and Queensland railway systems. The bridge (and indeed the currently used bridge which was its replacement) was a vital part in Australian transport history. So significant was the bridge that it was even used by Sir Henry Parkes as a symbol of Federation at his speech to open the bridge (a speech which may claim was his first Federation speech)

Plans to construct a Railway Bridge over the Hawkesbury River began to be put into action in 1886. The contract was awarded to Union Bridge Company in New York, but various subcontractors were involved in the construction work itself. At the time of construction it was an engineering marvel, with concrete piers below water level giving way to fine sandstone masonry above the water. Five of these piers were also sunk to what were then record depths, between 46 and 49 metres below water level. The bridge was constructed with seven spans and the total length of the bridge was nearly 900 metres. The spans were assembled on Dangar Island and from there floated out to the bridge site, approximately 1500 metres away.

In 1927 the bridge needed strengthening, but by the 1930s cracks were starting to appear. In 1946 a new, replacement bridge was opened and the spans were removed from the old bridge, leaving the sandstone and concrete piers as historic relics alongside the newer bridge.



On Your Bike To BHP

BHP Steelworks Newcastle

BHP Steelworks Newcastle

This week, with many people gearing up for the Easter break and possibly finishing up work for a day or two, The Past Present is sharing the beautiful image above, from the collection of an unknown photographer and taken in 1936. The photo is a rarity in the collection, a work without a negative or description, but it is such an evocative glimpse into the past.

The photo is believed to show BHP Steelworks in Newcastle (a location which features heavily in the collection), but the aspect of the photo which I find most intriguing is the number of bicycles being ridden away from the factory. It appears to be the end of the day and the workers have mounted up and are heading home on their two wheeled transport. Several sources I have been able to find suggest that bicycles were a popular mode of transport for workers at the steelworks with hundreds of bicycles making the journey on a daily basis. There is a certain relaxed, country air to the scene for such a busy steelworks!

Moore Street


Moore Street Front copyThis week, The Past Present is focusing on the postcard image above. Moore Street may not be a street which many of our readers are aware of their familiarity with, as most people are much more familiar with its modern name, Martin Place.

Moore Street, which at the time ran between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets, was well in use in the 19th century. Yet it truly came to fame in 1863 when proposals began to suggest the building of Sydney’s General Post Office in the area. The northern exposure of the site was onto a small laneway which ran between Pitt Street and George Street, but during the construction of the General Post Office it was elected that the main facade would face North, onto this tiny lane. Soon enough the small lane was widened, creating a proper street which connected to Moore Street. In 1892 the new street was opened and named Martin Place in honour of the Premier of New South Wales, James Martin.

Both Moore Street and Martin Place were important centres of business and in 1913 the main office of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was even constructed on the corner of Moore Street and Pitt Street. Other banks soon followed. In 1921, reflecting the increasing importance of the area to Sydney’s business, Moore Street was widened and renamed Martin Place. This extended the existing Martin Place, with the street now running between Castlereagh and George Streets. In the 1930s the street was further extended, until it ran all the way up to Macquarie Street.