Central railway station, Sydney

From Academic Kids

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Clock tower of Central Station

Central (also known as Sydney Terminal) is the largest railway station in Sydney, Australia, which services almost all of the lines on the CityRail network, and is the major terminus for interurban and interstate rail services.

Despite its name, Central Station has never been at a central location within Sydney. It has however long been central to the operations of New South Wales Railways. The remoteness of "Central" from the commercial centre of Sydney stimulated the construction of the Sydney underground railways at an earlier date than the equivalent in Melbourne where the main stations were in the CBD.

Central has twenty-five platforms. Platforms 1 to 15 are terminating platforms and are the departure point for all interstate, country and intercity services out of Sydney. Platforms 16 to 25 are through platforms and serve suburban services, including all those via the City Circle. Platforms 24 and 25 are underground, and service the Illawarra/Eastern Suburbs line. Platforms 26 and 27 also exist, but have never been used.

Central is also the terminus of Sydney's only light rail line, and many major bus services depart from adjacent Eddy Avenue, Chalmers Street or from Railway Square on George Street, accessible through the Devonshire Street Tunnel, which crosses directly under the rail station from the suburban lines.

All long-distance rural and interstate passenger trains operated by the State-owned CountryLink and the formerly Federally-owned Great Southern Railway terminate there, including the famous Indian Pacific, the thrice-weekly train between Sydney and Perth, Western Australia - the only train to cross a continent from one ocean to the other.


In attempting to describe Sydney's Central Station, it is probably for the better to conceive of the station as two separate, but adjacent, railway stations. In the days of steam, the station was regarded as divided into "steam" and "electric" parts.

The western ("steam") half of Central Station comprises fifteen terminating platforms and was opened in 1906. This section is dominated by a large vaulted roof over the concourse and elaborate masonry composed primarily of sandstone, the most common rock in the Sydney region. A prominent Gothic Revival sandstone clock tower stands at the north-western corner of the station. This western section is popularly known as the country platforms, even though only four platforms are commonly used for long-distance trains. Most of the fifteen platforms are used for CityRail's intercity services which terminate at Central.

The eastern ("suburban" or "electric") part of Central Station consists of twelve non-terminating platforms, four of which are underground. These platforms are used exclusively by suburban CityRail services (and a limited number of non-terminating intercity services during peak hours). The eight above-ground platforms were opened in 1926 as part of a large electrification and modernisation programme aimed at improving Sydney's suburban railway services.

The four underground platforms were built as part of the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Construction commenced in 1948 but the underground railway line was not finished until 1979. While the plans called for four platforms, two were found to be not needed and are currently used as archival storage by the New South Wales Railways.


The platforms at Sydney's Central Station are numbered from 1 to 27, with 1 being the westernmost platform and 27 being one of the easternmost. The services which generally use each platform are listed below.

  • Platforms 1, 2 and 3: Long-distance intrastate and interstate passenger trains operated by CountryLink and Great Southern Railway, as well as occasional heritage and train enthusiasts' special trains
  • Platforms 4 through to 15: CityRail intercity services to Newcastle the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands, the Illawarra and the South Coast. There is usually a pattern as to which destinations are served by which platforms - for instance, trains to the South Coast often leave from Platform 14 - but these patterns can not be relied on for every train.
  • Platform 23: East Hills Line via the Airport branch (runs to Sydney Airport)
  • Platforms 26 and 27 (underground): Located directly above Platforms 24 and 25, these platforms have never been used by rail traffic

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There have been three stations on the current site. The original Sydney Station was opened on 26 September 1855 in an area known as "Cleveland Fields." This station (one wooden platform in a corrugated iron shed), which was known at the time as Redfern, had Devonshire Street as its northern boundary. When this station became inadequate for the traffic it carried, a new station was built in 1874 on the same site and also was known as Redfern. This was a brick building with two platforms. It grew to 14 platforms before it was replaced by the present-day station to the north of Devonshire Street. The new station was built on a site previously occupied by a cemetery, a convent, a female refuge, a police barracks, a parsonage, a Benevolent Society and a morgue. This new 15-platform station was opened on 4 August 1906 and is still in use.

The Western Mail train that arrived in Sydney at 5:50am on 5 August 1906 went straight into the new station. Devonshire Street which separated the two stations became a pedestrian underpass to allow people to cross the railway line and is now known by many as the Devonshire St Tunnel. Sydney station has expanded since 1906 in an easterly direction. A 75 metre clock tower was added on 3 March 1921. Platforms operating electric trains began opening from 1926.


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