Posts Tagged ‘History of Cityrail’

The bulk of the Cityrail suburban network had been electrified by the time the Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932.  However, complete electrification would take a further 59 years (edit: thanks to Jim for pointing out my typo), occurring in bits an pieces with about one line being electrified every 10 years.

Tracks diverging at Rosehill

The two tracks just North of the Rosehill Station can be seen here. The track on the left continues North to Camellia Station, just past the bridge. The track on the right veers right and continues East, parallel to the bridge that can be seen here. (Source: Author)

The next line to be electrified was the Carlingford Line. However, this happened in two stages: Clyde to Rosehill in 1936, then Rosehill to Carlingford (and Rosehill to Sandown) in 1959. I will cover the rest of the Carlingford Line as part of the 1959 electrification post. The line has dual tracks between Clyde and Rosehill, after which a single track continued North to Carlingford and another went East to Sandown through the industrial park. The first stage of electrification allowed electric trains to be run up to Rosehill station, which is adjacent to the Rosehill Racecourse, rather than having passengers have to take a steam train.

The Sandown Line and its 4 stations, used mostly by the workers along Grand Avenue in Camellia, would eventually be closed to passenger trains in 1990. Today it is used as a freight line, serving the warehouses and distribution centres. This portion of track has a level crossing, and there is usually a freight train that goes through there daily at around 6PM. If you happen to be driving along there at that hour, you can get stuck for about 20 minutes waiting for the freight train to pass. I know this from personal experience.

Tracks crossing Grand Ave

The tracks on the old Sandown Line cross Grand Avenue from North to South. The Shell oil refinery can be seen in the distance, as can some rail cars on the left used for transporting oil. I have been stuck behind a slow moving freight train using this crossing on more than one occasion. (Source: Author)

Post Script: Jim points out two things in the comments below. One is that Richmond was not electrified until 1991, making the period 59 year. I made a calculation error in working out the number of years between 1932 to 1991 and wrote down 49 years by mistake. This has now been corrected. The other is that as of 2010, freight trains no longer use the Sandown Line. I’ll have to take Jim at his word, though I will say that the last time I saw one on it was in mid 2009, which is consistent with what he says.

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.