Stephen Buck sbuck

Gordon Station Competition Blog no.6     

History of Gordon Station.

Gordon is 17 km north of Sydney’s CBD.  In the early 19th century it would have been covered in quality hardwood, which was harvested.  Arrival of the railway in 1890 lead to market gardens, an orchards being constructed, and these were steadily replaced by housing, as Sydney’s North Shore is a prestige part of the city.  Commuter train services have increased dramatically since the railway was constructed, with trains at 3 minute headway in the peak in the steam era, and similar services with much higher capacity trains today.  Over the years most available land has become housing and it remains a popular commuter area.  There has been extensive tree planting over the years resulting in a very leafy and pleasant area.

Gordon station was opened as an interlocked crossing loop with the opening of the line in 1890.

The original mainline became the Up Main with duplication in 1909 and the Local Platform was the original loop.  A platform was provided on the loop in 1898, with a basic timber waiting room, which survives to this day, although how much is original is questionable.

In 1909 the line was duplicated, the original timber station building on the mainline platform was replaced with a NSWGR standard brick building, the new Down Main was constructed on the western side of the existing Up Main and the footbridge with timber overhead booking office was provided.  The goods shed was relocated from the Down end of the yard to the position shown.

At the same time an Act of Parliament authorised the construction of a branch east to the coast at Narrabeen, the earthworks were done for a fourth platform, which would have converted the Local Platform into an island platform, and the footbridge was  made long enough for this fourth platform.  Some land was resumed for this new line.  A lower cost, and probably more useful electric tramline was constructed from Manly along the cost to Narrabeen. 

Gordon Station Description

This description covers the station provided in 1909 with duplication.

Gordon track plan 1909.jpg
267 stations of the pattern used at Gordon in 1909 were built by the NSWGR between 1892 and 1935. They were built in patterns for island and single sided platforms.  Over the years there many changes in design detail but they follow the Australian “Federation” style, one of the more distinctive features being the use of glass of varying colours in windows.

The Gordon station layout can be traced to the arrival of Edward Miller Gard Eddy as NSW Railway Commissioner from 1888 to 1897.  He had joined the London and North Western Railway in 1865 and worked his way up to the position of Superintendent of the railway, and one of his achievements was to cut costs.  The design of island platform building was aimed to reduce costs as staff were responsible for ticket sales, train running, parcels and safeworking. 

A 30 lever McKenzie and Holland lever frame was installed at Gordon with duplication in 1909.  The lever frame was placed under an open section of the island platform building, as was provided at numerous stations in NSW (at lesser stations the leverframe was placed in the open).  On the North Shore line for example, with 13 out of 15 stations having interlocking, only the terminus, Milsons Point, a short lived intermediate signalbox at Lavender Bay and junction at Hornsby had full separate signalboxes. 

An overbridge and weatherboard booking office were provided n 1910.  These overhead booking offices were once common in NSW.  Today there are just a few older buildings remaining, quite a few newer structures have been built in recent years.  Gordon is an excellent example.

The overhead booking office has been extended and rebuilt 3 times!  After original construction, a rather tatty dry cleaner’s shop was added adjacent to the building.  This was removed and the building was extended in the 1990s to provide two shops.  When lifts were installed, a further extension was made to provide two new shops as the old shops were used as entrances to the lifts.

Gordon Kerry 2954 comp.jpg  gordon kerry 1 today.jpg 

Standing at the northern (Down) end of Platform looking in the Up direction

 Gordon 1909.jpg  

  gordon kerry 2 today.jpg 

Looking north (Down) form the Down end of the station

Note in both photos the substantial growth of trees!

Why does the Station Survive?

The main reason is intervention by the National Trust and Heritage Commission.  The Railways have attempted to install covered walkways on stairs and the overbridge.  Lifts were installed and the Railways were forced to install this in a discrete manner.

The Station Gardens

Ku-ring-gai Council, which covers half the stations on the North Shore line, has actively constructed large areas of ornate gardens on Railway land around all stations in the municipality, where suitable land is available for perhaps 100 years, the largest being at Gordon.  In recent years budget cuts have eliminated annual flower plantings, but a high standard has still been achieved.

DSC_0175.jpg  DSC_0168.jpg 

Two current views of the gardens, on opposite sides of the station

 Sourcing Information

My first call was to the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society which had a good article on the station in one of their magazines.

The NSW Government Archives holds a large (but certainly not complete) collection of Railway plans and photographs.  Because of standardisation, if you can’t find plans for a particular station, then hunt one don which is similar, and it generally means looking for one built at the same time, often at some distance

gordon overhead 03001.jpg  Part of the drawing of the Overhead Booking Office from NSW Government Archives

The Australian Railway Historical Society also operates an archive with plans, photographs, Working Timetables, Railway Appendices, which detail operating procedures and yard layouts, Train Composition Books etc.

The NSW State and Commonwealth Libraries have extensive photographic collections

The national Library also has scanned copies of newspapers from the 1830s to the 1960s which are a useful source of information.

Gordon Yard Signalling

The 1909 signals were supplied by McKenzie and Holland who had factories in Melbourne and Brisbane and were major suppliers to railways in Australia and New Zealand.

Two signals in the yard had been installed in 1890 and were retained, these being the Up Home and Up Starting signals, nos. 24, 25, 27 and 28.

In British practice, it seem likely that more shunting signals would have been provided, in particular for shunting the goods siding.  Just two shunting signals were provided in 1909, no. 23 on the Up Home (which was probably removed around 1912), and no.7, to shunt a loco back into the Local Platform.  The Goods Siding was provided with point indicators at both ends of the siding which indicated the position of the catch points.

There are 6 leads (sets of points), two single slip points and two catch points, and 3 facing point lockingbars.


Between 1900 and 1912 the NSWGR installed Tyer’s One Wire, 3 Position Block Instruments on newly duplicated lines and these were installed on the North Shore line.  At many stations there was provision to cut out the instruments.  No additional safety features like Starter Control or Welwyn Locking were provided on this line.


The North Shore line was electrified in 1926, with 1500 Volt overhead.  Colour light signalling was installed at the same time.  A substation was built for the electrification and was fitted with an experimental mercury arc rectifier.

Later History

The goods siding was removed in the 1980s, and the yard was rearranged in the 1990s so that trains could terminate on the centre platform rather than the eastern platform.

More to come.

Stephen Buck



Quote 1 0
Good luck with the competition and your build, we will be following your progress. Our first competition update will start this week
Quote 0 0
Stephen Buck sbuck
Hi.  Thanks for the message.  I've been feeling a bit lonely in the competition!
Quote 1 0