Located at the 239.900 km marker from Sydney, on the Main Western line of NSW, is the historically important railway station of Bathurst and former yard, which still sees regular station commuter services in 2013.
Bathurst in the mid 1800s was becoming established as a major inland centre which saw large pastoral holdings. wool and foods crops being developed and combined with a 1850s gold rush, these business developments saw population of the town grow. The requirement and subsequent discussions for proposals for the railways to the town started to be developed in 1860s and became firmer in 1870s. The reason rail reached Bathurst can traced back to the expanding Great Western Railway which was extended from nearby Kelso to Bathurst. With the arrival of the railway, the town underwent a sustainable boost in activity and development, which allowed the town to communicate and trade quicker and cheaper with Sydney.
In order to construct the station, the NSW Government called for companies to tender for the contract for the sites railway station buildings in 1875. Bathurst station opened on 4 April 1876 with the station building, goods shed and Divisional Engineer’s office all in use at this time. Further rail expansion and development saw a stores office built in 1876, coal stage moved from Raglan in 1877 along with a new coal stage built in 1878 and a blacksmith shop in 1879 being built.
The nearby locomotive yard was built into a steam locomotive depot / workshops during the 1879-1881 period as operations expanded. Steam locomotives were used to bank / push train consists to the west and east of Bathurst, as the town lay in a slight valley area. As the depot and line became busier, a turntable (later upgraded to 60′ and electric) was moved from the former end of the western line at Rydal in 1879. A new signal box for the western end of the Bathurst yard was opened in 1885.
The locomotive depot development of Bathurst saw the town grow (as had many others similar towns where medium to large locomotive depots were in use) … and become a “railway town”. The depot saw a large local railway workers’ community grow in the town and also saw a rail institute built in the 1880s to help educate the hundreds of workers at Bathurst.
With the expanding railways in the late 1800s onwards across NSW requiring more railway support, this need saw further changes and additions at Bathurst. Gas lighting was installed to the station and the adjoining Station Master’s residence in 1882. Additional rail infrastructure to support rail business and development included the following improvements –
- wagon repair shed (1891),
- a bigger turntable (1897),
- platform 1 lengthened (1897),
- animal stockyards (c1900),
- waiting shed erected on the Down platform (1902),
- the Down platform extended and widened (1911),
- line duplicated (1915)
- elevated coal storage (1916),
- refreshment room (1917),
- new T6 trucking yards (1927),
- and an additional signal box in 1944.
Bathurst railway station and yard is well known due to its association with Ben Chifley, who was a Prime Minister of Australia. Ben was born in Bathurst and joined the railways as a career when just 17. He soon rose through the ranks becoming the youngest First Class locomotive driver at the age of 24. In the early years of the 20th century, Chifley attended night school and extension classes at the Railway Institute at Bathurst. It was due to attending the Institute that Ben learned about the Unions and the trade union meetings which then drew him towards the ALP and Federal politics. He was also one of the founders of the AFULE (Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen).
The post-war period between 1945 to 1960 saw nearly 500 railway staff working at Bathurst station and yard during its peak years. By the 1970s, however railway overhauls and changes in the freight distribution network and operations combined with the wide scale use of diesel services, saw staffing level and building uses at Bathurst decline. Surprisingly the RRR / refreshment room closed as early as 1968. The much respected Railway Institute closed up in 1975. The western Signal Box was closed and removed in early 2000s.
The 1876 dated brick Type 5 station building is a unique design structure based on a Victorian Tudor style.It is a superb example of a first-class type railway station building, which uses original fabric and fine detailing typical of the period of the 2nd era NSWGR stations.The single storey rendered brick building has two gabled wings projecting forward towards the forecourt with stuccoed quoins and a facetted bay window. The gabled bays feature curvilinear shaped parapets with the “1876” construction date prominently displayed on each of the gables, on top of which is a finial. The roof is clad in slate with gablet vents and octagonal coupled chimneys. The original building, which has now been extended since 1876, was symmetrical with a verandah to the street side supported on paired decorative timber columns and prominent decorative brackets. The central section of the building between the wings, has stuccoed window and door surrounds. The platform side has been altered with the addition of a new awning on cantilevered brackets, built at the time of the northern extension to the building for refreshment rooms and luggage. The station’s location reflects the importance within the town when it was built, as does the station’s orientation to the main part of town. The station building is on the axis of one of the major roads in Bathurst and as such is a key visual part of the city. The station forecourt and the landscaped approaches to station entrance add character and colour to the precinct. A long awning is visible on the platform providing sun and rain shelter to the passengers.
Other buildings at the station include the Down platform waiting shed which is a 1916 built Type 11 design made from timber. The design is of weatherboard/timber and is a simple style when compared to the grand station building. The Bathurst station is unique in having a subway pedestrian walkway, which has stairs leading to the brick vaulted subway which passes under the tracks and a portion of the Up platform. The subway was built to access the Down platform and timber waiting room. Currently in 2014 the timber shed and platform have no public access.
Within the precinct is also found a weighbridge, signal box on eastern or UP end of the platform and a goods shed.
The nearby station masters residence located to the right of the main entrance way to the station dates from 1880 and is a Type 4 design. This is a grand two storey Gothic Revival style brick residence with a projecting gabled front bay with bay window to the ground floor surmounted with a false decorative plaster balustrade. The building is constructed from the typical red brick used throughout Bathurst. The building has rendered quoins, fretted barge boards and rendered detail around windows and doors. The verandah is supported on cast iron columns and brackets and has a bel cast roof. It is possibly one of the best surviving station master’s residences in NSW.
There is a small timber stores building also located on Havannah and Keppel Street which dates from 1902. This is a small building now used for offices with a central doorway and 4 rooms. The building is timber with a corrugated iron roof and a return verandah on the Havannah Street side, with good joinery details.
Bathurst has seen many train services come and go such as daily passenger services from Sydney, freight/goods movements and banking duties to push trains up the hills surrounding Bathurst. Currently the station has become the western boundary of the SydneyTrains network and sees a daily Explorer set leave early in the morning and heads to Central and a return trip arrive back late at night, thus giving a connecting service to Sydney for people. Buses also connect to Lithgow to connect to the daily V set services which run there as well. Additionally there are three trains per day in each direction with an XPT stopping each way. An additional set of weekly long distance trains one to Broken Hill and the other the famous, Indian Pacific which heads to Perth, both stop at the station. The average travel time to Sydney is around 3.5hrs by train.
The railway station at Bathurst and surrounding precinct is noted as a state significant railway site due to it contains a heritage first-class style station building, important workshop group with a range of related railway structures and a residence nearby. A key factor is that Bathurst’s station building design is unique and not copied anywhere else in NSW thus making it necessary to be preserved. Ben Chifley’s connection also makes the station important for preservation A former steam locomotive Ben Chifley once worked on as a driver, 5112 was placed at station in 1970s as a sign of his legacy. In the late 2000s this steam locomotive was taken away for restoration and moved back in 2012 and is now fully restored on display under cover. While many former buildings remain unoccupied, the former District Engineer’s office is now used by the Bathurst Community College and the Station Master’s residence is occupied by a private user.
In 2014, the town of Bathurst remains a key rail hub in NSW but the nearby former lcomotive depot, which used to house EDI -who did train repairs – has now being slated to be closed in 2014. The town will lose jobs – especially more rail skills. The introduction of a daily return railcar service to Sydney in the last 2years has helped to generate more patronage at the station and thus keeping it open. The heritage aspects and the station main building, as long as they remain useable, will allow the station to keep being used. Surprising in 2014 there has been talk of demolishing the timber stores building and there has been a out cry from locals demanding that their local rail heritage remain intact. The yard is rationalised and fewer trains operate from it as it once had in the old days. The station does attract people to see the steam lcoomotive 5112 under cover.