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The Goods Line

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour.

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour. Hard to believe this is now an urban walking route and playground!

A chance reference to “The Goods Line” in a news article last week sent me straight to Google. What was this elevated railway-turned-pedestrian walkway in Sydney, and why had I not heard of it before?

Rather than rewriting what I’ve since learned, I’ll simply quote. “The first railway in New South Wales was laid on this route in 1855 to transport goods from the wharves of Darling Harbour to the railway goods yard at Redfern … Today the entire length of the re-invigorated rail corridor is only 500 metres – basically from Central Station’s Devonshire Tunnel under George Street to the southern boundary of the Powerhouse Museum. Yet this was once one of the most lucrative commercial arteries in the British Empire.” (source)

I somehow managed to miss the reference to the tunnel under George Street, so wandered around at street level until I finally found a map of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) (which grew up around the original train line) and was able to join The Goods Line at the halfway point, where it crosses Ultimo Street.

The black and white photo below is part of an information display above the bridge. I was unable to match the angle of the old shot because, as you can see, there is quite a bit more traffic on Ultimo Street now! The only shared landmarks in these shots are the rail bridge and the tower behind. The tower is the restored bell tower of the Sydney Markets, now standing outside the Markets Library of the UTS; the bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Australia, built in 1879. What I find most striking about the old photo is the complete lack of trees.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

Now that I’d found the line, doing only half the walk would have been cheating (not to mention absurdly short) so I headed back to the beginning. This is where the tunnel from Central Station, which I should have followed, spits you out.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

If you go down the stairs and look over your left shoulder, you see this. Aren’t you itching to know what’s behind those locked gates?

Train track to ... where?

Train track to … where?

Looking north, you see the rail line, and the walk, stretching arrow-straight ahead of you. The last goods train left Darling Harbour on this line in 1984, and until redeveloped as a pedestrian link (at a reported cost of A$15 million) and opened last September, the land and infrastructure were unused (apart from the occasional steam train taking things to the museum).

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

I certainly hadn’t done anything requiring a rest, but there was no shortage of benches.

Bench after bench after bench ...

Bench after bench after bench …

This extraordinary structure sits at the corner of Ultimo Street and The Goods Line. It’s the first building in Australia designed by globally renowned architect Frank Gehry and belongs to the UTS.

The nature of the walk changes dramatically at the bridge, from concrete hemmed in by buildings in the south (below left), to meandering paths, greenery and play areas in the north (below right).

If you compare the view north now (above right) with the view in the undated b&w photo below (displayed above the bridge), the only common feature is the twin peaks of the roofline of the power station (now housing the Powerhouse Museum).

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

Strolling towards the museum, you’ll pass a number of diversions, such as ping pong areas (BYO paddles!):

Anyone for ping pong?

Anyone for ping pong?

… a child-sized interactive fountain …

… old railway objects …

… flowers and little gardens.

The Goods Line leads you to the Powerhouse Museum …


Powerhouse Museum

… where the walk ends abruptly, blockaded by a solid grey barrier.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

Welcome to the pedestrian hell that is the Darling Quarter/convention centre construction site. Here’s a small sample of what’s going up:

Yet more Sydney construction.

Yet more Sydney construction.

The brave walker pushing on to Darling Harbour, as I was, must negotiate this blot on the landscape.

This was a very short walk (I walked at least as long trying to find the start!), but it revealed to me a part of Sydney’s history that I hadn’t known about. You can discover where other people have been walking on Jo’s Monday Walks.


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10 thoughts on “The Goods Line

  1. Well you have here potential for a bench challenge, fountains and garden all rolled into one Karen! Incredible to compare old and new, isn’t it? Thank you very much for an entertaining sojourn xx

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  2. New York City also has an elevated park like this, using an old railroad line – it’s called the High Line. I love that they take old things like this that were abandoned and derelict and turn them into something that people can enjoy. I’d love to visit the Goods Line at some point. Thanks for sharing this!

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! As you can imagine, everything I’ve read about this line compares it to the High Line. (I resisted the impulse to do so myself.) I would love to visit that line at some point, but I don’t get to NYC often.

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