'The Station' is Newcastle's former city railway station. It is an important state heritage listed building in the city's east end, and a significant component of the Revitalising Newcastle program.
Following truncation of the former heavy rail corridor into Newcastle, HCCDC has completed significant heritage restoration works, site enhancements and major site landscaping to unlock potential for an exciting future for the former railway precinct.
While the long-term use for the site is being planned, HCCDC is temporarily activating The Station delivering a popular community hub for pop-up events, retail and recreation. The sites current attractions include shopping, cafe offerings, gallery spaces, creative workshops, group fitness and wellbeing classes, kids play and scooting, and a mix of pop-up events including markets, family days, live music and festivals.
Restoration works and enhancements
HCCDC's restoration of The Station's public areas celebrates and enhances heritage in line with Revitalising Newcastle objectives, and allows for the temporary activation of the site.
Completed works include:
- filling the former track areas between the former platforms
- creating a huge community piazza with interpretive art features
- restoration and reveal of the original verandah that had previously been closed in
- providing new access to The Station from Scott Street and Wharf Road
- providing greenspace connections with Market Street Lawn
- repairing damaged doors and windows
- restoring and painting the original metal fretwork
- opening ground floor retail, office and amenity spaces.
HCCDC has delivered major landscaping and construction works to create a large and accessible open-air community space that can be used for recreation and events.
Significant works included filling in the former railway tracks between the original platforms; greenspace landscaping connecting with Market Street Lawn; and transforming the former bus depot into an impressive community piazza.
The piazza completed in 2020, contains raised planting beds with feature trees and ground planting, bluestone and granite paving, seating, a kids corner play space, smartpoles and lighting as well as interpretive art elements that pay tribute to the sites Aboriginal and European heritage.
The Station is an example of Victorian Italianate architecture. It is a legacy of a bygone era, and a striking symbol of rails expansion into regional NSW improving the lives of Novocastrians in the mid 1800s.
The former station buildings
The Station’s first buildings were constructed in 1858 opening up access to and from Newcastle like never before. The first station was a small brick building with a single platform - however as Newcastle grew, the original station quickly became inadequate and a new, two-storey station was built.
The red brick Victorian Italianate façade of The Station’s central building, edged by two end wing pavilions, is a monument to Newcastle’s great past and exciting future. Unusually built parallel to the tracks, it played an important role in the street-scape of Scott Street. It included a verandah along the Scott Street frontage that was later closed in.
Newcastle had the only regional station with a silver service dining room for passengers. The spaces for the dining room and upstairs kitchen, including a dumbwaiter, are still visible.
The current awning along Platform One was built around 1897 and additional buildings were established in the late 1800s.
In the 1920s The Station was extended. Original plans included an L-shaped, two-storey wing along Watt and Scott Streets, with a three-storey tower on the corner where the streets meet. However with no funding to construct the proposed works, a smaller extension was constructed followed by a building on the corner of Watt and Scott Streets used for rail administration.
The former gasworks 'retort' building
At the north eastern boundary of the site, a modified 1880s former gasworks building stands. The gas retort building and associated gas tanks on the northern side of The Station were constructed in 1883 to provide the site with gas.
Comprehensive community engagement was undertaken to establish a clear understanding of how people would most like to use The Station precinct, and see it restored following the truncation of the heavy rail corridor into Newcastle.
Through the 2016 Ideas Festival community engagement program, the community was asked for its thoughts on the future of the space. Over 1,500 comments were received, consisting of 146 unique ideas.
Through a rigorous process involving stakeholder and community groups, four ideas were most supported:
- an outdoor piazza
- an active art space
- cinema under the stars.
In consideration with the community feedback, HCCDC delivered heritage restoration works to preserve The Station's historic buildings, along with significant platform infill and landscaping works, enabling temporary activation of the site while planning for its future use.
We are committed to activating The Station until an exciting long-term use is determined, and since its temporary activation commenced in 2018 have seen the precinct transform into a much-loved destination for pop-up events, shopping and play. The former transport hub is now a popular place for locals and out-of-towners, with an eclectic mix of activities and retail offerings attracting people to the precinct time and time again.
Read more about the ideas supported in the Revitalising Newcastle Ideas Festival Outcomes Report (PDF, 12MB).
A unique meeting place
A feature of the piazza is an Aboriginal interpretive artwork that also serves as a unique meeting place. We worked with the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council to create designs that reflect Newcastle's First People and their relationship with the land and the harbour of Muloobinba (Newcastle foreshore).
Seating is arranged in a boomerang configuration, while stenciled designs represent tide lines and the importance of Newcastle harbour as a food source. Fish, crustaceans and land animals are represented, and an illuminated 'fire pit' glows red after dark.
Tributes to the former railway station
Purpose-built design elements in the new piazza celebrate the sites European history and honour its life as the former city railway station.
The features include a unique bandstand performance stage where the former gasholder that once powered the former station sat; a timeline tribute to The Station's history; and interpretive 'misting tracks' representing the retired railway line. The misting tracks light up at night and provide fun and interactive misting spray for cooling off on hot days.
Other preserved railway features include The Station bell, former train timetables and original platform seating.
'The Flyer' public art installation
The Flyer is an interactive interpretation of the iconic Newcastle Flyer express steam train that ran between Newcastle and Sydney from 1929 until 1970.
The public art installation on the former platform is appreciated by families and rail enthusiasts alike - with lighting, interactive sounds and train-style seating as a tribute to the special service The Flyer provided for the people of the region. The artist behind the project, David Cianci, and the Artscape team scoured transport records and spoke to people familiar with the Flyer service for inspiration to draw out the essence of the mighty 38 Class locomotive.
The Revitalising Newcastle program and The Station have been recognised with prestigious accolades including:
- Planning Institute of Australia 'Great Place' Winner
NSW Awards for Planning Excellence
The Station, 2021
- NSW Premiers Award for 'Building a Strong Economy'
Revitalising Newcastle Program, 2019
- Australian Institute of Architects Newcastle 'Award for Heritage'
The Station (EJE Architecture), 2019