Perhaps you are asking “What is The Goods Line, Sydney?” Well, it’s a pedestrian and bicycle pathway in the centre of the city. The result of a creatively converted disused and unsightly rail corridor it is now a vibrant public space. The Goods Line was opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in 2015.
Where is The Goods Line?
The Goods Line follows the route of its predecessor, an elevated rail corridor which connected Central Station and Darling Harbour Goods Yard. Trains chugged along the tracks transporting wool, wheat and other essential items back and forth, including coal which was destined for the Ultimo Power Station (now the Powerhouse Museum). The last goods train left Darling Harbour Goods Yard in 1984.
Now, many people walk The Goods Line, using it as a short cut between Central Station and Darling Harbour. However, more than a pedestrian walkway, it is a destination in itself and provides an inviting outdoor space for office workers and students to study, meet and relax. It follows the original elevated route, running 4m above the ground.
I am going to Walk The Goods Line
Only a short 500m long, the walk passes artefacts which hark back to Sydney’s industrial heritage. Today, for the first time, I am going to walk The Goods Line and explore some of this industrial past.
Approaching The Goods Line from Tumbalong Boulevard in Darling Harbour, I can’t resist a quick diversion into the newly opened Steam Mill Lane. Lined with interesting eateries, colourful geometric installations hang above the Laneway brightening things up as people queue for a seat.
After carefully crossing the Light Rail tracks I head right towards the Goods Line. Today being my babysitting day, I am thankful for the ramp which makes pushing the pram to the elevated rail corridor easy.
The Powerhouse Museum (which will move to and reopen in Parramatta in 2023) is at this end of The Goods Line which runs off to my left.
References to the Industrial History of the Area
Taking the time to more closely observe my surroundings, I notice round metal plates embedded at intervals in the concrete pathway. They all tell a story. The single capital letters etched into the smaller plates form words relevant to the history of the area.
There’s “M-E-A-T-S-I-D-I-N-G” and “D-E-P-A-R-T-U-R-E” while larger rings have whole words etched into them, including “TRANSFORMATION AND RENEWAL” and “MARSHY SWAMP COCKLE BAY”.
There are plenty more. Look carefully and discover for yourself other references to the industrial history of the area. Unfortunately, some of the plates have been removed but it is easy to guess which letters are missing.
The sun is shining and people are out and about enjoying the unseasonal autumn weather. Some walk determinedly towards their destination, others stroll appreciating the opportunity to be in almost an “oasis” in the city.
A Recreation Space
The children’s play area includes a sandpit where a sandstone culvert, discovered during nearby digging work, has been re-built. Originally constructed in 1853 it could be one of the earliest surviving pieces of infrastructure from NSW’s early railway construction. The nearby water feature provides little ones with creative play opportunities.
A man practices his boxing moves on one of the grassed areas while students play a light-hearted game of table tennis. There is even exercise equipment set up for anyone who wants to use it.
The bright yellow metal seats and communal tables have an industrial look, in keeping with the past use of the area. People come and go from the tables – they are well used.
In some areas along the walk, sections of the early railway tracks run through garden beds. In other parts, the railway tracks are flush with the concrete of The Goods Line pathway itself.
There is a section of wooden tiered seating that puzzles me. Office workers and students sit individually or in groups on the seats eating lunch or chatting, but what other purpose does the seating serve? Later I read that the seats form an amphitheatre for outdoor movies and similar activities.
The “Paper Bag Building”
This is the first time I have come face to face with the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. Also known as “the paper bag building”, this fascinating construction houses part of The University of Technology Business School and is the first building in Australia designed by Frank Gehry.
You may not be aware that the lower levels of the Dr Chau Chack Wing Building are open to the public, and it is worth taking time out to have a look around, being cognizant of the classes that may be in session.
Ultimo Road Underbridge
Walking over the Ultimo Road railway underbridge built in 1879, I wonder why this rare industrial structure is called an underbridge when it passes over a road? Apparently, it all depends on where you are standing.
“Where a railway passes above a road [as is the case with this bridge], the bridge is an overbridge from the point of view of the road, and an underbridge from the point of view of the railway [The Goods Line]”. (edited extract from Wiktionary)
Unfortunately, the wooden signal box that once stood here burnt down in 1996. What remains is the 36-lever frame interlocking machine providing yet another reminder of Sydney’s rail history. Different combinations of the levers and points worked to control the movement of trains on the tracks.
Fig trees lining the pathway along much of its length provide welcome shade and a break from the concrete and glass of surrounding buildings which include more UTS buildings and the home of The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
While there are plans to extend The Goods Line to Redfern, today the tracks disappear under tall metal mesh gates. To the left of these gates, stairs and a ramp provide easy access to Central Station.
Thoughts on The Goods Line in Sydney
I walk up the ramp (still pushing the pram) and pass through Sydney TAFE arcade with its bright orange and blue walls, to the Henry Deane plaza and into the Devonshire Street tunnel to the Southern Concourse of Central Station.
The Goods Line in Sydney is nothing like The High Line in New York, but it certainly is worth a visit. Now that I have walked it for myself I’ll be back – to get from Central to Darling Harbour, or just to relax under one of the fig trees and watch the passing parade.