Sydney’s Transport History – Bradfield

Here at Transport NSW Blog we are starting a new 10 parts series, Sydney’s Transport History. we will be looking at biggest moments in NSW transport history, from the first railways through the wars and onto the Olympics. Look out for instalments on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month through October. Today we are starting with Bradfield.

Dr. John Jacob Crew Bradfield CMG is perhaps the most famous civil engineer in NSW transport history. He is best known for his design of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Bradfield Railway Scheme.

Bradfield was appointed Chief Engineer for Metropolitan Railway Construction in 1912. He devised a grand scheme that involved electrification of suburban railways, an underground CBD subway and a railway bridge over Sydney Harbour. World War One put a temporary halt to these plans in 1915.

In 1922, a bill to allow for the construction of a Sydney Harbour Bridge was passed by Parliament. The building of the bridge coincided with the construction of Bradfield proposed underground subways, now known as the City Circle Line. The bridge was designed with four traffic lanes in the middle and four train tracks, two on each side. These railway tracks were linked into the Wynyard Station of the subway. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened on 19 March 1932. The road over the bridge was named the Bradfield Highway, after Bradfield.

The eastern tracks on the bridge were designed for the never completed Northern Beaches line, however they were used for Trams until 1958 when they were replaced with extra traffic lanes. The western tracks are used for the North Shore line, which previously terminated at Milsons Point in North Sydney.

The City Circle Subway line began construction in 1923, initially with two stub lines. A stub line to St James via Museum station opened in 1926. A line through Town Hall and Wynyard stations to connect to the new Sydney Harbour Bridge Lines was completed at the same time as the bridge in 1932. The City Circle loop was finally complete in 1955 with the opening of Circular Quay station.

Many sections of the proposed railways were never constructed. Some small sections of the uncompleted railways, such as extra platforms at Central and Wynyard and underground tunnel at St James were built. The proposed Eastern Suburbs railway was later built in 1979, but along a different alignment.

Bradfield electrification proposal proceeded, but much slower than envisaged by Bradfield and was not complete until the 1990s. Bradfield retied in July 1933 but continued on as a consultant for the City Circle construction.

A map of the Bradfield Railway Scheme
Part of the constructed Bradfield Railway Scheme with the Bradfield designed Sydney Harbour Bridge


2 Replies to “Sydney’s Transport History – Bradfield”

  1. Could you please include a map showing where the stub tunnels north and south of St James, west of North Sydney actually are with reference to today’s roads and Hyde Park features. Also, were there any stub tunnels south of Wynyard Platforms 1 & 2? With the mid century and later work on the ESR, were there any stub tunnels off the so-far unused platforms 25 & 26 (IIRC) at Central, and also at Redfern?


    1. Unfortunately I don’t actually have any maps showing exactly where the tunnels are in my collection. I understand that there are stub tunnels at Central Platforms 27-28 but not Wynyard (which is now a carpark) or Redfern.


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