Log in

Forgot your password?

Engineering Heritage Committee to Minister 1996

May 1996 Letter from M.N. Clarke Chairman of the Engineering Heritage Committee to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning concerning Heritage retention at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop.


9 May 1996

Hon. Craig Knowles MP
Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning
Minister for Housing
Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
Sydney 2000


Dear Mr Knowles

It is understood a development application for the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop was displayed in January. Unfortunately, like many interested groups, the Engineering Heritage Committee of The Institution's Sydney Division, missed the opportunity to comment, because of the holiday period.

Notwithstanding, the Committee now wishes to draw your attention to a growing concern within the heritage community, that in the development of the Australian Technology Park, heritage conservation of the Workshops and the machinery contained therein is likely to be severely compromised.

The collection of machinery, together with the architecture of the workshops and their social history, has high heritage value. This collection of heavy machinery for the manufacture and maintenance of steam locomotive components is now quite rare particularly in the western world. It presents a unique opportunity for display and demonstration, of not only machinery from a bygone era, but of work methods and working conditions, primitive by today's standards.

The Conservation Management Plan for the locomotive workshops recommended reservation of bays 1 to 4 to house and display the machinery. Most who were aware of the Plan, had an expectation that a decision on the conservation of the workshops and machinery would be in accordance with its recommendations.

However, it is understood that the development application under consideration seeks to confine most of the machinery to bays 1, 2 and part of 3, with some items being returned to their original locations and displayed in what will become a gallery area, towards the centre of the building. Under this plan, the existing operating blacksmith's shop will remain, but will be restricted to the two half bays it presently occupies.

There is a very real concern that the current proposal to crowd all the machinery into little more than two bays of the workshop will make it impossible to adequately display and interpret the equipment and the working conditions of its erstwhile operators. It will also drastically change the historic location of many items and important working relationships between machines, thus destroying an important aspect of significance.

It is submitted that a document vital to the decision making should have been prepared and considered as part of the Development Application. This is a long term management plan for the machinery and the building, which thoroughly explores options for their long term conservation, display and continued use, in accordance with the principles of the Burra Charter.

Without such a plan being part of the decision-making process, it is likely that many important values of the collection will be compromised and possible opportunities lost, such as the creation of a working museum of world significance, with high potential for training, education, skills maintenance and tourism.

As it stands, the proposal is contrary to many of the principles of the Australian charter for the conservation of places of cultural significance (the Burra Charter).

Pending the completion and adoption of a long term management plan, it is our view that no approval should be given or action taken, which would change the status quo with respect to both the machinery and the workshop from bays 1 to 4.

Attached is a paper entitled Conservation of Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops and Historic Machinery, which sets out principles we believe should apply to decision-making with respect to the conservation and future management of the building and machinery. It also identifies areas of conflict between the Development Application and those principles.

In consequence of the foregoing, the Engineering Heritage Committee respectfully requests the Minister refer these concerns to the Heritage Council for advice and action. We further request the Minister to defer making a decision on the Development Application until options for the long term management of the building and machinery have been determined.

Yours sincerely

M.N. Clarke
Engineering Heritage Committee