Metropolitan Goods railway line
The Metropolitan Goods Line is a network of railway lines for freight trains in Sydney, Australia linking the state’s rural and interstate rail network with the city’s main yard at Enfield and the sea terminal at Port Botany. The Metropolitan Goods Line forms part of a dedicated freight only corridor between Glenlee and Port Botany. The line is managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
One arm of the network starts at Flemington while another starts at Sefton with both merging at Enfield. Services from the state’s north and west approach via the former and from the south via the latter.
From Enfield the line heads south to Campsie where it turns east and runs parallel to the Bankstown passenger line as far as Marrickville. From here a connection to the Illawarra line provides a link to a sea terminal at Port Kembla, south of Sydney. From Marrickville the line continues on its own alignment to the Cooks River and Port Botany container terminals.
There was previously a loop line that completed a circuitous route of the inner suburbs. Diverging at Dulwich Hill it headed north beneath the Main Suburban line at Summer Hill to Lilyfield before heading east to Rozelle and Pyrmont, and then south under Railway Square through NSW's oldest tunnel to join the Main Suburban line outside Central. This line served the ports at Glebe Island (diverging via a spur from Lilyfield) and Darling Harbour.
With the exception of the Marrickville to Port Botany and Lilyfield to Central sections, the network was electrified, but with electric haulage of freight trains ceasing in the late 1990s this infrastructure is no longer used and has been removed in parts.
The line had connections to allow suburban passenger services to operate on it including accessing the Canterbury Park Racecourse sidings on race days but these were out of use by the mid 1980s and have since been removed.
For a time in the 1980s and 1990s there was a weighbridge east of Campsie but this has since been removed.
From the time when the Sydney Railway Company was formed in 1848, it had been the intention of the company to build a freight terminal at Darling Harbour. To this end, a railway line was constructed between the Sydney Railway Station (the predecessor to Central railway station) and Darling Harbour, which opened on 26 September 1855. Initial traffic was spoil for the construction of the Main Suburban Line (now the Inner West Line) between Sydney and Parramatta, then for the carriage of departmental coke for steam engines, and a small amount of timber from 1860. Initial reports of the traffic on the line suggested that freight revenue amounted to only £20 a year, and there was only 60 tonnes of coke carriage a week.
Other problems beset the line in the 1860s. Darling Harbour had begun to silt up by 1863, and the 3d. charge per person, each way on the nearby Pyrmont Bridge (at that time privately owned) was a turnoff to traders looking to use the railway for the transport of their goods. Other factors combined to offset these problems: a plan to convey goods by horse tram to Circular Quay turned out to be a failure; traffic in hay, straw and chaff was transferred to the Darling Harbour yards in 1878; and by 1881, the main goods terminal in Sydney had become overcrowded, leading to directions that traffic for Sydney was to be directed to Darling Harbour. The Pyrmont Bridge was later purchased by the New South Wales Government for £48,600. By 1891, all outwards goods traffic was also being dispatched from Darling Harbour.
By 1908, goods traffic on the line to Darling Harbour and the neighbouring suburban lines had become excessive, with 592 wagons arriving each day and 512 being dispatched. It was decided to construct separate goods lines from Sefton to Darling Harbour via Enfield, Dulwich Hill and Rozelle, with extensions to Botany and the State Abattoirs at Homebush Bay. The initial scheme, approved by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works, approved the initial line from Dulwich Hill to Darling Harbour. To avoid an opening rail bridge alongside the existing Glebe Island Bridge, a circuitous route was built around Rozelle Bay through the suburb of Pyrmont. The proposal, which included two tunnels under Pyrmont and Glebe, was approved on 23 November 1914, and the line opened on 23 January 1922.
An additional Goods Yard was established at Cooks River in 1947. This yard connects with the Port Botany line to the east of the Princes Highway overbridge.
The demise of the working harbour
The Darling Harbour branch experienced widespread use throughout the early 20th century. With the use of containers and the decentralisation of freight terminals in Sydney to places such as Chullora, Port Botany and Port Kembla, Darling Harbour traffic reduced considerably, with the yards closing in October 1984. In January 1996 the Lilyfield to Central section closed. Much of the trackbed was used for the light rail that opened to Wentworth Park in August 1997 and was extended to Lilyfield in August 2000.
A spur of the branch was retained from Central to connect the Powerhouse Museum to the network. The line has been used to transfer rolling stock, although as at December 2012 it appeared to have been a while since last used.
In 1995 the freight only network was extended north with a dedicated bi-directional single freight line constructed from Flemington to Homebush where it joined a refurbished existing line to North Strathfield and Rhodes.
During the 1990s the section between Dulwich Hill and Rozelle also saw a considerable decline in traffic after handling of bulk grain moved to Port Kembla, Enfield yard was remodelled and marshaling of trains consolidated there, and operations at the Glebe Island and White Bay ports wound down. Rozelle yard became overgrown but was used intermittently for the storage of disused railway wagons and passenger carriages. Eventually, the sole traffic was a service to deliver cereals to Mungo Scott's flour mill at Summer Hill. In 2009 the mill relocated to Maldon and all traffic on the line ceased.
In August 2004 the Australian Rail Track Corporation and RailCorp entered into an agreement for the ARTC to lease the Metropolitan Freight Network, specified as being the dedicated freight lines within the rail corridors:
- Sefton Park to Chullora
- Flemington South to Belmore
- Belmore to Marrickville (shared passenger and freight corridor - separate tracks)
- Marrickville to Port Botany and Dulwich Hill to Rozelle
The goods lines once had a number of passenger stations along them, to service workers at local industries and railway facilities:
- "History of Rail Transport in Glebe" The Glebe Society
- "State Rail Gears up for Heritage Week Program" Railway Digest April 1996 Page 10
- Rozelle - Darling Harbour Goods Line NSWRail.net
- The Direct and Scenic Routes to Darling Harbour Oakes, John Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, June;July 1999 pp203-225;265-271
- Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches -- Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 97.
- Bozier, Rolfe, "New South Wales Railways: Rozelle-Darling Harbour Goods Line". Retrieved 18 May 2007.
- Cooks River Goods Yard Singleton, C.C. Australian Railway History|Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin May 1949 p11
- "Trackfast" Railway Digest April 1985 Page 96
- "Last Freight Finishes on Darling Harbour Line" Railway Digest March 1996 Page 15
- "Sydney's new light rail system" Railway Digest September 1997 Page 14
- "Sydney's Tram Extension Opens" Railway Digest September 2000 Page 4
- Sydney Metro Light Rail, Australia railway-technology.com
- "The Flemington - Rhodes Freight Line Project" Railway Digest September 1994 Page 24
- Light Rail to Dulwich Hill Metro Light Rail
- Light rail extension on track for 2014 finish Sydney Morning Herald 1 June 2012
- Inner West Light rail extension now complete Transport New South Wales 27 March 2014
- "Interface Definition Survey". Australian Rail Track Corporation. Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
- ATRC & Transport for New South Wales sign historic agreement to boost rail freight in NSW Australian Track Access Corporation 5 August 2012
- ARTC gains control of Sydney Metropolitan Freight Network Rail Express.com.au
- Southern Sydney Freight Line Parsons Brinckerhoff April 2006
- New Line to Reduce Congestion on Sydney Rail Network Opens Australian Rail Track Corporation 21 January 2013
- North Strathfield Rail Underpass Transport for NSW