Darling Harbour’s railway past hits YouTube


Darling Harbour’s steamy past.



A fascinating feature film showing Darling Harbour’s previous incarnation as a busy railway goods yard, rather than an recreation and entertainment precinct, is now on the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s (NFSA) YouTube channel.

The 20-minute documentary, Steam on the Harbour, was shot by transport buff and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in the 1960s and 70s. You can watch it here.

Highlights include:

  • A ride on a 19 class locomotive travelling through a tunnel from Central Station to Darling Harbour, part of which is now ‘The Goods Line’ pedestrian and cycle path
  • Panoramic views of the Sydney skyline, Darling Harbour, Pyrmont Bridge and the Goldsborough Mort building, as well as buildings which have since been demolished.
  • Scenes showing the physical, dirty and dangerous nature of the work in a shunting yard and railway operations involved in moving goods in and out of Sydney via Darling Harbour

The two filmmakers were given a pass from the New South Wales Railways which gave them access to areas where the public were forbidden from entering, such as workshops and depots.

They often arrived at 4am to get footage of the early morning trains; at other times they would stay overnight. Their favourite locations for filming trains included Hawkmount, Fassifern, around Maitland, Darling Harbour and the Macdonaldtown car sheds.

NFSA Curator Jeff Wray said: ‘This footage reveals the industrial nature of Darling Harbour’s past, and gives us an impression of what a busy railway goods yard it was. The beautiful images, combined with an interview with two former train drivers, will allow audiences to imagine what it was like to work on the railway in Darling Harbour.’

Steam on the Harbour premiered at the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year.

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