Main Suburban railway line

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Main Suburban railway
Sydney metropolitan rail area, with Main Suburban railway highlighted
Sydney Metropolitan Rail Area with Main Suburban railway highlighted in black
Operator(s)Sydney Trains
Track length10 km (6.2 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead 1500 V DC[1]
Operating speed
  • 90 km/h (suburban max.)[2]
  • 43.3 km/h (network average)[3]
Route map

Croydon Railway station, NSW.JPG
Main Suburban line through Croydon
Summer Hill

The Main Suburban railway line is the technical name for the trunk railway line between Redfern railway station and Parramatta railway station in Sydney, Australia, but now generally refers to the section between Redfern and where the Old Main South Line branches off at Granville Junction.[4] The railway line then continues on as the Main Western line towards the Blue Mountains. This term distinguished this trunk line from the Illawarra Line which branched south from the Illawarra Junction to Wollongong, and later the North Shore tracks which carried trains north over the Harbour Bridge.


Former Petersham railway station on the Up Main. Replaced by a station on the Local tracks.

The Main Suburban line between Redfern and Granville is the first railway line to be constructed in New South Wales. The first company to start rail transport in New South Wales was the Sydney Railway Company[5] which was incorporated on 10 October 1849 with the aim of building a railway from Sydney to Parramatta. Capital was raised, shares were sold, and a route was surveyed. The first sod was turned by Mrs Keith Stewart (daughter of the Governor) at Cleveland Paddocks (an area between the southern end of the current Central station and Cleveland Street) on 20 May 1850.

The original engineer appointed was Francis Webb Sheilds, an Irishman. He persuaded the New South Wales legislature to pass an Act on 27 July 1852 requiring all railways in the colony to be of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) gauge. This was the gauge in use in Ireland and is now referred to as 1,600 mm gauge. After Sheilds resigned due to difficulties, a Scot named James Wallace was appointed. Wallace persuaded the legislature to repeal the previous act and replace it, on 4 August 1853, with one requiring a gauge of 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) - the current standard gauge. (Unfortunately for Australia, the legislation requiring the broad gauge had been noted in the colonies of Victoria and South Australia and some rolling stock ordered.)

The Sydney Railway Company encountered many troubles: engineers came and went; real estate required became expensive and difficult to acquire; money, supplies and manpower ran short, partly because of a gold rush. Eventually the property of the Sydney Railway Company was transferred to the government of New South Wales on 3 September 1855.

The line opened on 26 September 1855, from Sydney to Parramatta Junction (near Granville Station), with stations at Newtown, Ashfield, Burwood and Homebush.[6][7] The Sydney terminal station was on the south side of Devonshire Street, just south of the current Central Station. Although the vicinity was sometimes referred to as Redfern, it was not near the current Redfern station.

Sextuplication works at Newtown station in 1927

The line was quadrupled to Flemington in 1892.[8] The line saw its most dramatic change in the period 1926-1927, when the section from Redfern to Homebush was expanded from 4 to 6 tracks by the addition of 2 tracks initially intended for non-electric express trains. Prior to 1926, all stations on the line had platform faces to all four tracks, and the tracks were labelled as 'fast' and 'slow'. After the completion of works in 1927, only Redfern and Strathfield had platform faces on all six tracks.[9] The four tracks now known as the 'Up and Down Local lines' and the 'Up and Down Suburban Lines' were electrified in 1928. It was not until 1955 that the 'Up and Down Main Lines' were also electrified to coincide with the opening of the Blue Mountains electrification programme.

Description of route[edit]

The line commences at the Illawarra Junction south of Redfern station, the junction point of the Illawarra railway line. The line consists of three pairs of electrified tracks, six in total, which head west through the Inner Western suburbs of Sydney to Strathfield. The tracks are named 'Up' and 'Down' Main', 'Up' and 'Down' Suburban, and 'Up' and 'Down' Local. The 'Main' lines are express lines which have no intermediate platforms between Redfern and Strathfield, and usually carry Intercity, Interstate, Heritage, or express suburban trains. The inner 'Suburban' pair of tracks have some intermediate platforms and generally carry express or limited stops suburban train services (usually North Shore, Northern & Western Line suburban services). The southernmost 'Local' pair of tracks have platforms at all intermediate stations and carry all-stations and some limited stops services (usually Inner West & Leppington Line suburban services).


Station Platforms Served by
Macdonaldtown 2
Newtown 2
Stanmore 3
Petersham 2
Lewisham 2
Summer Hill 3
Ashfield 5 (inc 1 turnback)
Croydon 5
Burwood 6
Strathfield 8
Homebush 6 (inc 1 turnback)
Flemington 4
Lidcombe 4 (plus 1 turnback for Olympic Park line & 1 for Bankstown line)
Auburn 4
Clyde 4 (plus 1 fenced off, 1 for Carlingford line)
Granville 4

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Asset Standards Authority (19 March 2014). RailCorp electrical system general description, version 1.0 (PDF).
  2. ^ Asset Standards Authority (30 April 2015). Train operating conditions manual – general instructions, version 3.0 (PDF).
  3. ^ Saulwick, Jacob (24 July 2013). "Smallest stations are biggest losers in new rail timetable". Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. ^ Sydney Electric Trains from 1926-1960, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, April 2001.
  5. ^ "Sydney Railway Company". State Records.
  6. ^ "William Webster - the first railway engineer". The Iron Road. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2006.
  7. ^ "FIRST RAILWAY FIREMAN". The Evening News (11, 948). New South Wales, Australia. 25 September 1905. p. 5. Retrieved 9 October 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ Australian Railway History, Vol 56, No. 810, April 2005
  9. ^ Sydney Electric Trains from 1926-1960, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, April 2001.
  • Hagarty, Don; Australian Railway Historical Society. New South Wales Division (2005), Sydney Railway 1848-1857, The building of the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, ISBN 0-9757870-1-2