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Eveleigh's Still Hidden Heritage

Some of the finest historic railway engineering workshops in the world are located just south of Sydney's Central Railway Station adjoining Redfern Railway Station (originally called Eveleigh) writes Graham Quint of National Trust NSW in the February 2009 issue of Trust News Australia.
Eveleigh's Still Hidden Heritage

A jib crane in the Carnage Workshop 1996 - David Moore Estate.

This site originally included locomotive and carriage  workshops (1887), a paint shop, foundry, Large Erecting Shop (1899), Chief Mechanical Engineer's Office, compressor house and blacksmiths' workshop.

The scale of the operations at Eveleigh was extraordinary. In 1955 the locomotive workshops staff averaged 3000 people and each year 239 locomotives were overhauled, the foundry produced 7717 tons of iron castings, the Spring Shop manufactured or repaired 25 500 tons of coil springs and 33 200 laminated springs and the Boiler Shops repaired an average 94 locomotive boilers.

Already much of the site has been redeveloped but the exceptional workshops that remain are now threatened with closure and redevelopment for high-rise commercial and residential purposes. Such a result would destroy not only the context and historic qualities of Eveleigh but exceptional and extraordinary machinery and processes and the skills associated with them will be lost. Visit the Trust's website to view a large-scale map of the site with historic photographs — www.nsw.nationaltrust.org.au/eveleigh .

When we think of Eveleigh steam trains come to mind. However, of equal importance is the amazing collection of machinery that was intended to be protected by heritage listing. It is time now for a full stock-take and a rethink on this wonderful machinery that was meant to be preserved and kept in working order.

Shortly before the closure of the Eveleigh railway yards in 1988, this extraordinary complex was believed to be of World Heritage Significance. The Smithsonian Institute had indicated that it was the most intact Victorian period railway workshops in the world.

The Eveleigh Workshops were listed on the National Trust Register in 1986 and on the Register of the National Estate in 1988. State Heritage Register listing followed in April. 1999.

The Appendix to the 1995 State Projects endorsed Conservation Plan set out policies for the conservation of the workshop's machinery. While some of the policy recommendations were implemented, in many notable instances they were not. If the preservation of some machinery fitted into the design of the Australian Technology Park, then that machinery was kept and preserved. Conservation was not based on significance bur on circumstance.

Many of the extraordinary items of machinery were photographed by David Moore and published by philanthropist and conservationist the late Caroline Simpson in the 1996 publication Railways Relics and Romance — The Eveleigh Railway Workshops.

 Wheel press and jib crane dismantled and deteriorating, 2008. Guido Gouverneur


One such exceptional item was the wheel press crane originally installed in the Wheel Press Shop in 1917. It had remained in that position and was used until about 1986. The Wheel Press was used to press newly tyred wheels or new wheels onto axles. It was also used to remove wheels from axles for re-tyring or repair (in this context, tyres are metal tyres). The bogey assembly, or axle, was placed in grooves in the support mechanism and the wheel was pushed on or taken off by hydraulic pressure generated by the Wheel Press itself. The Statement of Significance for the wheel press stated that it was a rare industrial piece which represented former manufacturing technologies now rare in operating workshops. It has research and educational potential and is significant to former workers and special interest societies. The Wheel Press and its operation is easy to interpret from its existing fabric.

The Conservation Policy advocated the retention of the wheel press in one of the workshop bays and its preservation via maintenance of the cylinders, repacking of bearings and glands, internal metal surfaces were to be dried and greased to prevent rust and all moving parts of electric motors were to be covered to prevent dust penetration. An associated maintenance schedule stipulated inspections and treatments for any rust recurrence every five years.

As the photographs sadly confirm, this fascinating and impressive piece of machinery was not re-positioned as stipulated. It was dismantled and presently is in pieces in a shipping container at the rear of the current redevelopment site behind Australian 'Technology Park.

However, it is not too late to salvage, re-assemble and reinstate the Wheel Press and its jib crane in one of the bays at the Eveleigh Workshops.

Source: www.nattrust.com.au/about_the_trust/trust_news Trust News Australia FEBRUARY 2009 page 20