Cardiff Railway Workshops
The railway maintenance network in Newcastle has been an important hub of employment over the years, as well as facilitating the establishment of many social, sporting and leisure groups.
The Cardiff workshops story was born from circumstances which included outgrowing other premises in Newcastle. The original maintenance workshop in Newcastle was located at the yards at Honeysuckle Point. As rail services throughout N.S.W grew, so too did the demand for railway maintenance. The demands quickly outgrew the capacity of the Honeysuckle yard as there was no room for expansion - with the harbour boardering to the north and the town centre to the south.
It was decide to open a facility in Hamilton to service working engines, thus alleviating some pressure on the city workshop. However, as the system continued to expand and with the advent of longer and heavier engines, a new workshop was needed. This new site would require more space with modern machinery and greater capacity cranes.
A decision was made to seek a new location in 1925. At this time, the Newcastle Wallsend coal company had a suitable site for sale west of Cardiff and adjacent to the main line to Sydney. On the 15th November 1925 the 127 acre plot of mainly swamp land was purchased for £13,000. Clearing and construction began in early 1926 and the original working title of Cockle Creek workshops was changed to Cardiff workshops. The first siding connected to the main line was constructed by April 1926 and the erection of a steel frame by early 1927. By December 1927, the building was almost complete at a cost of $201,000. Repairs to the first locomotives began in early 1928.
The official opening was1st March 1928, with the ribbon being cut by the chief commissioner, Mr James Frazier. The architecture of the workshop buildings was considered to be light and airy. The lower walls were made of brick with the upper wall clad in fibro cement sheeting.
The workshops continued to expand and change over the years in tune with political and technological influences. During World War II the workshops produced tools and dies for the manufacture of shell casings and other munitions components.
From 1960, diesel engines were replacing ssteam trains, and much of the work being carried out at the workshops tapered off. Staff numbers which had grown to 1200 started to decline with improvements in technology and increasing mechanisation. The last steam boiler to be overhauled at the workshops was in 1970.
The Workshop's time as a major maintenance centre came to an end with the last locomotives departing Cardiff workshops in December 1993. The gates closed on 7 January 1994.
It was not the last work that was to be carried out at the site, however. Since then the sheds have been used for other railway projects. From 1994 to 1998, the Cardiff site was used for the fitting of radios to locomotives. Then in June 1998 Downer Rail was successful in tendering to build a fleet of 140 electric suburban carriages known as the Millennium Trains. Downer Rail chose the workshops for construction and moved to prepare the old buildings for their new role.
Cardiff workshops employees formed several competitive sporting and leisure groups over the years. These included soccer, bowls, cricket, quoits, cycling, a brass band, choir, and an ex-services association.
Jones, Gary 2010, Recollections of working at Honeysuckle Point and Cardiff Railway workshops
Preston, R. G. (Ronald George) 1999, A great place to work : the Cardiff Workshops story, Orion Fine Arts, Strathfield, N.S.W
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