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You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Built Environment Plan Phase 1 - The State Significant Sites / South Eveleigh Precinct / The Large Erecting Workshop / Eveleigh Railway Workshops, Redfern – Places at Risk Nomination from the National Trust NSW 18th April 2007.

Eveleigh Railway Workshops, Redfern – Places at Risk Nomination from the National Trust NSW 18th April 2007.

The National Trust (NSW) has nominated the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, Redfern for the National Most at Risk Places in 2007. The National Top 10 Our Heritage Most at Risk List will be announced on 1 July 2007. The Details of the Listing for Eveleigh and the link to the listing is provided below.

MOST AT RISK PLACES - 2007 NOMINATION

Place: Eveleigh Railway Workshops, Redfern

Threat:  Devaluation of Heritage Values

Significance:

The Eveleigh Railway Workshops are some of the finest historic railway engineering workshops in the world and Eveleigh contains one of the most complete late 19th century and early 20th century forge installations, collection of cranes and power systems, in particular the hydraulic system. The place is of international significance and is one of Australia's finest industrial heritage items. The value of the place is increased by the fact that it is comprised of assemblages, collections and operational systems rather than individual items still in use. Of the many buildings on the greater Eveleigh Railway Workshop site, the Large Erecting Shop was still performing its original use until November, 2006, demonstrating a high level of intactness.

The entire complex has a strong industrial character generated by the rail network itself, by the large horizontal scale of the buildings, the consistent use of brick and corrugated iron, the repetitive shapes of roof elements and of details such as doors and windows and because of the uniform grey colours. The simple, strong functional forms of the buildings have landmark quality, not only as important townscape elements in the Redfern / Eveleigh area, but as part of the visual train journey of thousands of commuters, marking arrival in the city centre.  The major buildings from the original 19th century development of the site are well designed, detailed and built exhibiting a high degree of unity of design, detailing and materials. (State Projects 1995:109)

The workshops were an important part of the NSW rail network which was instrumental in the development of the state during the 19th and 20th century. The construction of the workshops influenced the development of the local area (which was developed for worker's housing) both by providing employment and by its bulk and presence, starting bells and sirens. The yards were associated with developments in working conditions now crucial to the Australian cultural identity, eg) the weekend. The yards had an important association with the labour movement. The place was seen initially as a positive instrument of state socialism and in later periods as the site of important labour actions and of restrictive work practices.

The workshops were conceived by Whitton, the 'father' of the NSW railways, and were an integral part of his NSW rail system, and were executed in detail by Cowdery. (State Projects 1995:109) The Eveleigh railway workshops have considerable research potential for understanding the operation of railway workshops. This potential is enhanced by the extent of archival material available and because the relatively recent closure means that there are many former workshop workers who are still alive and who know how the place operated.
They have unique educational value enhanced by the highly valuable location and the relationship with the ATP and the three universities. They contain the potential to achieve an understanding of the work practices of today through an understanding of the cultural continuity between 19th century technology and 21st century technology.
*There is potential for further research to yield information about the labour movement, labour relations and  work practices in the 19th and 20th centuries. Archaeological remains have the potential to reveal further information about the operation of the Yards. (State projects 1995: 109)

The Workshops were one of the largest employers in Sydney at the turn of the century, declining only in the latter half of the 20th century. It was and is an important source of pride and in demonstrating the capacity of Australian industry and workers and a high level of craft skills. The place is significant to railway workers, former railway workers and railway unions and is associated with the stories of many, including workers and locals, which are important to cultural identity. Although no longer operating as a workshop, the place maintains symbolic value for the community as a former workplace and a place that provided economic input into the local area. It has strong symbolic ties with existing trade unions. (State Projects 1995: 106-111) 

The Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops are an exemplar of the railway workshops of the steam era built in each state in Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and are broadly representative of similar facilities built for British railway technology throughout the world. The Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops comprises a relatively intact group of buildings, though the locomotive workshop buildings have been adapted to office spaces and the carriage workshop to a performance space.  Further plans are proposed to remove further buildings and to further adapt the remaining buildings. The Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops are the largest surviving, intact railway workshops dating from the steam era in Australia, and possibly the world. (State Projects 1995: 110)

 Statement of Risk:

 Degree of Risk:        At risk – no solution agreed

Threat:                      Devaluation

Outcome:                 Stable (not yet saved or secure, ie, solution not yet fully implemented)

 Various buildings within Eveleigh have already been redeveloped and adapted to a range of non-railway uses but several significant buildings which are yet to be adapted have been rezoned for multi-storey development under the Redfern–Waterloo Authority’s Built Environment Plan.  The on-going maintenance and repair of steam locomotives and heritage rolling stock within the Large Erecting Shop ceased in December, 2006 and Locomotive 3801 and several historic carriages were relocated to open-air storage at Thirlmere, 85 kilometres south west of Sydney.  In general, government policy appears to be primarily directed towards the economic commercial redevelopment of this historic site, with rail heritage pushed into inadequate facilities remote from its potential audience.

 Desired Outcome / Vision:

 The Eveleigh Railway Workshops should be adaptively reused in a manner consistent with its heritage values and the totality of its site.  Redundancy at Eveleigh provides a valuable opportunity for rail heritage activities at a traditional railway site with excellent access to an audience, to support facilities and to technical staff however, urban property values mean that this opportunity is being progressively degraded in favour of the higher short-term returns from commercial redevelopment.  

Bibliography:

Eveleigh Rail Yards Locomotive Workshops Conservation Management Plan, Heritage Group, State Projects, 1995              

 Rail workshop to become platform for inner city hub Claire O'Rourke, SMH 26/7/03                        

Sparks still fly over rail's long-silent workshops, Geraldine O'Brien,  SMH 2/12/03                        

 Eveleigh Precinct Sydney Conservation Policy  Schwager Brooks and Partners, 1994

At Risk Listing: http://www.heritageatrisk.org.au/Eveleigh_Railway_Workshops,_Redfern.html

National Trust NSW Media Release: World Heritage Day is Wednesday 18th April. Up for national list: National Trust nominates rare forest, crane and railway workshops as state’s most endangered items