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REDWatch Submission on Eveleigh Railway Workshops

Below is the text of the REDWatch Submission on Eveleigh Railway Workshops Draft Interpretation Plan & Implementation Strategy proiduced on 15 April 2011.

REDWatch appreciated the presentation by Peter Tonkin and Roy Wakelin-King to our April monthly meeting. Peter Tonkin’s Draft Interpretation Plan & Implementation Strategy was well received and there was recognition that the Plan and Strategy had dealt well with a large and difficult site.

REDWatch would also like to acknowledge the hard work of Juliet Suich in servicing the Redfern Waterloo Heritage Taskforce and Eveleigh Steering Committee and in helping bring together the RWA and many of the people with heritage concerns.

Submissions have been made by some key REDWatch members who have a special interest in heritage such as Guido Gouverneur and Bruce Lay and these submissions are supported. It is not my intention to duplicate these submissions although some issues raised in their submissions may be touched upon also in the course of this submission.

Overall Site Co-ordination

While the Draft Interpretation Plan deals with that which can be done to better interpret heritage across the entire site it does so primarily by way of what can be achieved by way of developer contributions and by the various site operators as part of their maintenance and other obligations. A Plan across the whole site is a welcome advance in providing an underlying interpretation of the site, but in my view it is only an initial step.

The Plan does not address what mechanisms need to exist to ensure the Plan is delivered and that there is ongoing management and development of the heritage and tourism potential across the broad ERW site. My main concern is that unless the Implementation Strategy addresses this central issue it is likely to fail or at least not deliver the potential that could be achieved if there is an implementing and co-ordinating body.

Some discussion has been had at the RWHT and ESC about how to continue the existing Task Force process and consideration of specific co-ordinating mechanisms used in other places that may be directly applicable to the implementation of the Plan and its ongoing work needs to take place.   

There are in my view a number of issues that need to be considered:

There needs to be ongoing oversight of the ERW

The discussion about the future of the RWHT and ESC will hopefully deliver a mechanism. There needs to be a group with a specific ERW focus but which has some of the membership of the existing RWHT.

The RWA resourced and facilitated the RWHT and ESC mechanisms. With the winding up of the RWA there will no longer be an appropriate government body which has responsibility across the entire ERW site. One option would be for the new Heritage Office to take over the facilitation role from the RWA. Council could also possibly take on this role. In the absence of either of these two options another mechanism will need to be developed to service a co-ordinating Taskforce and the ongoing administration of the ERW wide heritage functions.

The focus of the current RWHT is broader than ERW and it also only involves two of the site’s three current owner / managers. A future oversight body needs to include all landowner / managers within the ERW – currently ATP, Railcorp and CarriageWorks. Any mechanism needs to involve all parties responsible for decisions about parts of the site. I am of the view that heritage operators on the ERW site should also be represented on a future committee even though they are not currently involved in the current wider RWHT. Representation from relevant state bodies is also important.

There is an ERW wide delivery and development role

Some of the elements indicated in the Strategy require a whole of site mechanism. In particular:

  • 5.4.14 Audio Guides
  • 4.4.16 Flyer & Guidebook
  • 5.4.17 Archive & Research Centre

Other areas that would need to be site wide that are not mentioned include:

  • Servicing Heritage Information Point(s) to ensure audio guides are maintained and flyers are available
  • Running and administering an ERW Website, probably in conjunction with the Archive & Research Centre
  • Co-ordinating ERW Heritage Festivals / activities that cover the entire site 
  • Providing interpretation advice
  • Helping develop / encourage new heritage and tourism initiatives at the ERW

This whole of site mechanism is the missing element from the Plan as it currently stands. As noted above the Plan makes reference to a number of site wide aspects, but not to how they might be organised or delivered. This is probably because they have resource and co-ordination issues which are not yet resolved.

The original letter from Heritage Groups and REDWatch to Minister Keneally set out a number of areas where “Organisations …  would be prepared to work with an inter-departmental committee to develop the heritage and heritage tourism potential of the Eveleigh site.

The committee could deal with / advise on a range of heritage issues including:

  • the development of a comprehensive Eveleigh Heritage Interpretation Strategy
  • the development of a Heritage Tourism Strategy for Eveleigh
  • the establishment and monitoring of conservation management plans where required
  • the encouragement of active heritage uses where possible including heritage trade training for volunteers and the creation of new heritage employment opportunities.
  • the establishment of business plans to enable heritage activities to operate in the long term with minimum requirement for government funding.
  • Mechanisms for the preservation of the labour and social history of those who have worked on the site including the maintenance of a workers register and the creation of a workers wall”.

The Eveleigh Heritage Interpretation Strategy, the first item on the list in the letter to the Minister, has now been delivered. The remainder of the list remains outstanding.

There needs to be a way to pay for the ERW

If there is to be a heritage function across the entire site then it has to be paid for somehow. This could come from site managers being levied to cover the cost of the ERW wide co-ordination, it could come from government support through the Heritage Office or it could come from the co-ordination mechanism having an income stream from merchandise, technical advice and/or the tourism activity generated.

The call to set up what became the RWHT also saw a need for the development of a Heritage Tourism Strategy for Eveleigh and for the establishment of business plans to enable heritage activities to operate in the long term with minimum requirement for government funding.  This approach should be explored for the ERW coordinating mechanism.

This aspect of the request to the Minister did not flow through into the RWHT Terms of Reference but I remain of the view that the development of product to attract people to the site to deliver a heritage experience is an important development role for the new site-wide mechanism. This does not mean the co-ordinating body should itself run tours or provide product, but rather that it has a role in encouraging the development of heritage tourism on the site and needs to receive some return from such activity to cover some of its costs in the long term.

Website & Virtual Access

One area missing from the Interpretation Strategy is the important role that the internet can play in both the dissemination of information about the site and also the internet as a mechanism for collecting ERW stories and information.  An ERW online presence needs to part of an ongoing cross site mechanism and should not be left solely to individual site managers.

Accessing Information about ERW – The following items could be included:

  • Audio and video downloads – Some guides could be available for download as mp3 files for use around the site on mobile phones, so avoiding the costs of delivery equipment.
  • Flyers, Guidebooks, Information Sheets and merchandise – Guides to the sites could be available on line which would make material available to the public prior to visiting the site and for teachers’ pre-visit planning. It would allow some of the story to be pre-told or refreshed around a visit to the site and reduce the number of flyers required at Heritage Information Points. An online store could also provide income.
  • Virtual tour of the site – Material displayed on site could also be available virtually to enable remote access to video and audio about the site.
  • Information about workers, the site and how to access records – There will be a lot of interest from family historians about workers and the kind of work their forebears undertook. Access to such records is best supplied on the web.
  • Electronic versions of historical documents about the site – Many important documents predate electronic records. Scans of documents, and where possible with OCR overlays, can make this information much more readily available than just having a copy in a research library. It will also cur down on overheads. REDWatch has made some documents available in this way and has received appreciative comments from interested parties.

Collecting ERW Information – Opportunities for the public to provide information which would otherwise be unavailable to the public could include:

  • Worker and Family stories and reminiscences about Eveleigh – Information is often collected in family histories.
  • Scans of Documents held by individuals or other institutions – Documents relevant to Eveleigh that sit in private collections, family histories and institutions which are not readily accessible could be submitted electronically.
  • Information about location of items made or used at Eveleigh – With the dispersal of items  from North Eveleigh it is likely that some people know where some of the equipment or memorabilia is now located. There was also a long tradition of ‘foreign orders’. The locations of some of these items would also be useful for tracking and possible exhibition and interpretative work.
  • Other connections to Eveleigh – There are connections to Eveleigh from all over the state. The website could help to register some of these connections as people find them, e.g. I am told by Guido that on a recent visit he located a place that said it supplied fuel to the ERW Gasworks.

REDWatch encourages the RWA to continue to negotiate with Lucy Taksa to open up community access to the information and memorabilia she has obtained through earlier projects working on the site and her academic work. This includes the database of workers and the virtual fly through of the ERW.

Targeting Schools on the web and for site visits

The employment of an education consultant may be a worthwhile investment to advise how visits to the site and material on the web could be used to teach aspects of the NSW curriculum as it would likely generate repeat visits. They could also develop site and subject specific material tailored to different age groups, subjects and topics that could be available on the website and for site visits.

The proximity of the NCIE, which is promoting use of its residential facilities to school groups, has possibilities for school visits from areas other than just the metropolitan area. 

The use of a website also gives access to the material in remote schools that are unable to visit the site.

ERW Wide Heritage Events

The proposal for an annual Heritage event at ATP in conjunction with a Railway Film Festival is welcomed. This event should not just be an ATP event it should be an ERW event, perhaps part of a Heritage week at the ERW. CarriageWorks should be consulted about how it can also be involved. Is there a possibility for a railway themed production / Open Day or similar that they can offer to their patrons that might introduce them to a wider experience of the ERW site?

If displays are to be set up for a day or weekend it may make sense that these be set up in the week before and targeted also at ATP workers and the pedestrian traffic through the site. Similarly during this time the exhibitions could be used to encourage school visits with invitations provided not only locally, but also to appropriate professional teaching bodies – such as Design and Technology, history and geography.

For such a heritage event it would be beneficial to also have tours of the Large, Paintshop and Heritage Equipment in the Railcorp operating area as well as blacksmithing demonstrations. Tours of these sites have previously run in conjunction with North Eveleigh and South Eveleigh events and been very well received.

It would be also useful if a way could be found for Redfern Station to be linked into such a heritage festival or Heritage week so commuters get a taste of what is on offer. Maybe some of the Train to Treasure boards could be used at the station.

Key heritage calendar dates should also be explored as possibilities for heritage activities. In particular Heritage Week in April and History Week in September provide opportunities for events at Eveleigh to be promoted widely to people with an interest in heritage places and activities. This approach would be consistent with the Heritage Demonstrations and Events referred to in the report. As mentioned earlier however an ongoing co-ordinating mechanism is required to implement such events.

Need to Incorporate Bay 10 and Other Machinery

The ERW Interpretation Strategy makes no reference to the collection in Bay 10 and this collection is not on the proposed heritage site route. The ATP needs to give thought to how this machinery collection can be included in the Heritage Trail and how machinery situated around other bays can best be incorporated into the Heritage Trail.

While I appreciate that the equipment in these areas are already signed, many of these items are of great importance and can tell stories about the site and its processes that should be incorporated into the Heritage Trail. Some people may visit just to see some of this equipment.

Key machinery that can no longer be stored in Bays 1 & 2 North and some of that stored in shipping containers could be added to the collection in Bay 10 unless an alternative interpretive use can be found.

Where possible, I would like to see some of the machinery that historically may have been used in the general vicinity of a new building, exhibited in the foyer of the new building. With the removal of the original buildings the placement within the foyer of a new building of equipment, that needs to be retained, can help link the new building to the site’s original function and remind people of the work that used to be under taken on the part of the site they now occupy.

As an example in close proximity to the Fan of Tracks I would like to see a carriage displayed that was actually made at Eveleigh. The North Eveleigh Interpretation states that carriages manufactured at Eveleigh are not suitable for outdoor exhibition but an appropriate interpretation would be to include a carriage on a line within a building, maybe as part of the interpretation of the fan of tracks.

Heritage in Current RailCorp Operating Area

Apart from the ERW Access Tunnel and the Gasometer, other important heritage items on RailCorp controlled sites have not been identified. As the Interpretation Plan is to cover the next 20 years these items should be identified. This serves two purposes. Firstly it potentially makes possible guided tours to some of these important sites during heritage / open days. Secondly it identifies key heritage assets which should be preserved should the South Eveleigh area cease to be required for operational rail uses. Of particular note here is the Turntable and the Air Compressor House but there are likely to be other items of heritage value also within this area also.

The Large has been under the stewardship of 3801 Ltd and has operated under separate management to the Railcorp operational area. If this situation continues then working with whoever has responsibility for admission into the LES will be necessary to gain access to this important site.

Development of a common safety protocol to allow access for tours to the LES and the Railcorp area would assist open days and avoid the delays experienced on previous tours.

One area covered in the RWHT Terms of Reference that has not received attention is heritage skills training. This hopefully will be possible when the future management structure, occupancy and function of the LES is clarified.

Being able to view into the LES is welcomed as making this area more publically accessible. However in the long term having the LES engaged in active heritage work, training in heritage skills and blending this with that the opportunity for public access will give the best long term heritage results.

Using 3801 Ltd to run a shuttle between Central and Eveleigh would be a good adjunct to an Eveleigh heritage event.

Redfern Station as a separate Interpretive Zone

Redfern Station and its key heritage items should be included as a separate zone in the Plan and it should also have a signage cluster. There is more at Redfern station of heritage interest than the ticket office recognised under BEP1 heritage map. The state’s oldest public convenience is one item that was mentioned by the Minister when the RWA was established.

The Station is important, not only because it is part of the ERW precinct, but also because it could provide a bit of a sampler within the station of what lies beyond in the broader ERW. It could help travellers pass the time and better understand the station, its history and its environs.

The station should be an important the starting point for the Heritage Trail. It would be a good location for some artefact displays, heritage information posters and building showcases. These could happen within the station possibly on platform 1 and possibly on the inside walls of the ticket office near Lawson Street.

Maybe the state’s oldest public convenience could be seen through a Perspex door.  The role of station gardens, information about the dives and the Eveleigh workers who passed through the station could be highlighted; even a reference to how vibrations from the large hammer in the Bay 1 could be felt on Redfern Station.

There would need to be some work done with RailCorp to obtain approval for such interpretive signage and exhibition boxes, but given the importance of the station as the gateway to the site, both in the past and the present such interpretation could help link the rail travelling public to the EWT and encourage people to visit the surrounding area. The successful display of heritage material at Museum and Central stations indicates that such an initiative should be achievable.

The station could be another good place for a map that shows an overlay of the former rail yards and what currently exists.

Signage and Site access points

While I appreciate the concept of Interpretive Zones outlined in the report it seems to me that they may be better defined in terms of the reports signage clusters. The main change in this regard would be that the Large is incorporated into the Locomotive Interpretive Zone rather than into a current use zone of Railway Corridor Zone. As mentioned above Redfern Railway Station should be a discrete zone / signage cluster.

One of my concerns about the signage clusters is that they are not all at key entry points to the site. It seems to me that there is also a need for signage at each entrance which at least point to the heritage zones and signage clusters.

In the absence of a walkway across the railway lines, the top of Cornwallis St (near entrance to the station via Platform 10 and the entrance to the ATP), is currently the best place to view the majority of the site. The bridge when it is constructed will provide another vantage point for the whole site but I doubt it will be suitable for a signage cluster.

A signage cluster and information booth could be located at this entrance into the ATP. This entrance to the ATP portion of the site is used not only by workers and residents, but also by visitors to Media City.  An overview would be much better placed here where it is possible to see the majority of ERW on both sides of the line. Signage at this entrance to the site needs to bring people to the Heritage Trail and provide an overview / interpretation of what they see around them from this vantage point.

The only better vantage point for the entire site is likely to be from the top of one of the new buildings on North Eveleigh and a viewing platform for this purpose should be considered in future planning on this site.

There should be some information available at other entrances such as at the Henderson Road pedestrian entrance and possibly at the car park and not just at Signage Clusters 1 & 2. These signs may be different from the signage clusters but something is needed to alert people that they are entering a heritage site and whet people’s appetite. As there is no heritage remaining on the Henderson Road end there should be signage which explains to people what used to exist there.  What was the building shown on the map along Henderson Road?

Consideration could also be given to imbedded signs along the pathways that mark / remember the Olivers, Tinsmiths and Pattern Shops which the path in part now passes over. Some signage needs to direct interested people from the main access path towards the LES end of the site and alert them that more information is available at a signage cluster located near buildings at that end of the site. Consideration should be given to at least part of Signage Cluster 1 being replicated near the main walking path.

Heritage Concerns on North Eveleigh

The ERW Strategy notes that there is conservation work that needs to be undertaken at the Scientific Services Building and the Communications Equipment Workshop. This work should be undertaken as soon as possible and not left until after the site is sold.

I note that the Transport NSW submission on BEP2 notes that the North Eveleigh site would be needed until 2017 if the City Relief line was to proceed. This raises the prospect that conservation work needed on heritage buildings at North Eveleigh may be still a long way off if this is left to be handled by a new site owner. Given this Government needs to look carefully at how the necessary heritage work can be carried out before the sale of this site rather than left to be all handled post sale.

Both the Scientific Services Building and the Communications Equipment Workshop are intended for community use under the Concept Plan so for these buildings the issue seems one of cash flow and timing rather than what is going to happen to the site.

The Interpretation Plan proposes a room in the Scientific Services Building be left in situ. If this is to happen it seems like this building could also be a suitable base for a potential ERW Place Manager and the Archive and Research Centre. The balance area could potentially also be made available for community uses in the near future rather than left until the entire site is sold to be made available for community use.

A different issue arises in relation to the Chief Mechanical Engineers Building. Here there is concern about the extent of deterioration that will take place if conservation work is not carried out for a further 6 – 10 years. There needs to be an assessment of the impact of this delay on the CME building.

Before the RWA winds up these heritage sites need to be reviewed to see if support for work on these sites can be achieved independent of their being linked to the sale of the wider site. If it is decided that such a move is desirable then the RWA will need to propose a mechanism to government to undertake this work.

Given the prominent position of the Chief Mechanical Engineers Building on Wilson Street this building should be provided with interpretive signage as a matter of priority. Other buildings around CarriageWorks and Eveleigh Markets should also receive interpretive signage as early as possible rather than await sale so these areas can be interpreted for current visitors.


The ERW Draft Interpretation Plan & Implementation Strategy is generally welcomed and supported by REDWatch. Much remains to be done to both deliver the Plan’s implementation and to realise the tourism and educational potential that the Eveleigh site can contribute.

The Plan indicates some of the depth of the potential on the site. The challenge for the site managers and the heritage community is to find ways of unlocking the site’s stories and making them available, not only in the interpretation outlined, but in the active heritage uses and the visitor experiences that makes the site and its history come alive for a new generation of people.

REDWatch looks forward to continuing to working with Government, Heritage and other stakeholders to develop the site’s heritage and tourism potential.

Geoffrey Turnbull

REDWatch Spokesperson

Member Redfern Waterloo Heritage Taskforce

15 April 2011