History of Cityrail: Introduction (1855-1932)

Posted: September 8, 2011 in Transport
Tags: , ,

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Cityrail network recently, as part of my research on planned future extensions. I also got to see it all as part of my Cityrail Challenge. In doing so, I started learning a bit about the history of the Cityrail network and have decided to start an ongoing series entitled the “History of Cityrail”.

Today I will provide a brief introduction through to the completion of the Harbour Bridge in 1932, and then every second post will sequentially detail the changes to the nextwork through to the present day.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

You can see the two rail tracks on the right which connected Central to North Sydney across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The two lanes on the left (one is now a bus lane) were initially tram lanes that were eventually be converted to heavy rail to take trains to the Northern Beaches. This line never eventuated, so when the tram lines were removed, they were converted to car lanes. (Source: Wikipedia)

The history of Cityrail dates back to 1855, when the line between Sydney (now between Central and Redfern stations) and Parramatta (now Granville) opened, today part of the Western Line. Over the following 70 years, additional lines were built going West from Granville to Penrith and Richmond (the Western Line), South from Granville to Campbelltown (the South Line), North from Strathfield to Hornsby (the Northern Line) and back South to North Sydney (the North Shore Line), South from Sydney to Sutherland (the Illawarra Line), and West from Sydney to Bankstown (the Bankstown Line).

The late 1920s to early 1930s saw an expansion of Sydney’s rail network in 2 significant ways. First, it began to be electrified, with electric trains replacing steam engines, allowing them to enter underground subway portions of track. This was critical for the second addition: a CBD subway system that would also link up Central Station on the Southern end of Sydney’s CBD to North Sydney on the North Shore Line via a new bridge over Sydney Harbour. During this time a rail line to the East Hills was also built, the first electric line to be built as electric from the start rather than converted.

In charge of this was engineer Dr John Bradfield, who is today famous for overseeing the design and construction of the Harbour Bridge and is considered as the father of Sydney’s modern rail system. The Great Depression and Second World War brought an end to his plans to continue building the network, which also included an Eastern Suburbs Railway (a shortened version of which eventually opened in 1979), a rail line going West through Rozelle before roughly following Parramatta Road and a rail line to the Northern Beaches that would use the 2 Eastern Lanes on the Harbour Bridge that were initially used by trams.

For anyone interested in historical maps of the Cityrail network, I highly recommend the Netzplan website. It has old maps of the network, both as originally designed and as they would look in today’s design.

Next time: the Clyde to Rosehill electrification.

  1. […] Harbour Crossing, a City Circle line and an Eastern Suburbs line. The first was completed with the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, but the Great Depression and World War 2 put the others on hold until after Bradfield’s […]

  2. […] Harbour Crossing, a City Circle line and an Eastern Suburbs line. The first was completed with the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, but the Great Depression and World War 2 put the others on hold until after Bradfield’s […]

  3. […] by Bambul Shakibaei — Leave a comment October 2, 2011 The Western Line began as the Sydney to Parramatta railway, opened in 1855. This was extended out to Blacktown in 1860, to Penrith in 1863 and through the […]

  4. Jacqui says:

    Hi, thanks for starting this blog – I think we need more talk about public transport and definitely for people who use public transport to have more of a say. I wish you luck with this blog. I’m trying to put together something about the history of electric transport and was wondering if you know any good sources for info on electric rail (trains and trams). Thanks

  5. Thanks for the comment.

    I’m a bit low on information on electric rail. There’s the tram and train museums (I’m assuming you’re from Sydney). I also have a pdf copy of Bradfield’s Proposed electric railways for the city of Sydney from 1916 which I’ve attached. Links are below. Not sure if that’s what you’re after or not. Good luck!


    Click to access proposed-electric-railways-of-sydney.pdf

  6. […] the electrification of the suburban Cityrail network that had begun when Bradfield built the underground city subways in the 1920s and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s. The opening of the newly electrified line was covered by Nine News on the day, video ois included […]

  7. […] the Bridge. Alternatively, the Easternmost lanes on the Bridge could be converted to rail, as they were when the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened, and a new road tunnel built under the Harbour (more cheaply than a rail one) to maintain roadspace […]

  8. I have just been handed a coin on one side it reads THE SYDNEY RAILWAY 26 SEPT 1855 otherside reads HANKS and LLOYD could this be from the opening of the RAILWAY back in 1855 ?

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