The coming of the Northern Railway Line





Railway stations

 The sale of part of the Field of Mars Common was undertaken by the State government to fund the building of a new railway line through the northern suburbs of Sydney to Newcastle and then beyond.

 In planning for this new railway line the surveyors originally advised that the inclination between modern day Epping and Thornleigh was so steep that no station should be built between these two locations. However the absence of a railway station would have  made the sale of land along this stretch of the line almost impossible and so the surveyors report was minuted on 18 June 1886: “Approved. I have arranged for two platforms. HC.” HC was Henry Copeland the 47 year old Minister for Lands. On 23 June 1886 there is a note amongst railway papers that a new platform is to be built as “Beecroft platform at 16m 38 ch.” The measurement is the distance the new platform is to be from the rail terminus at what is now Redfern station. This is the first use of the name Beecroft that has to date been located. It was the maiden name of Henry Copeland’s wife.

 The first platform was built, in readiness for the opening of the line, in just under 3 months after the decision to build was made. It was a brick-faced platform of 264 feet in length and was built between July and September 1886 on the Sydney side of the present day Copeland Road bridge. A short while later a small timber waiting room was added. The station was surrounded by bushland as no residential subdivisions had happened at this time. 

 While most of the material for the railway did not come from this locality some of the ballast did come from a quarry that was excavated between Cobran and Day Roads in Cheltenham and a siding was built to carry the ballast to the new line.

 The Strathfield to Hornsby line was opened on 17 September 1886 by William Lyne (Secretary of Public Works) and George Dibb (Colonial Secretary). The opening was so low key that one of the local members along the line said that he “would have liked a little more ceremony.” [1].

 Representations were made in 1888 to build a goods siding. The representations were made by local residents Messrs George Pile, Lawson, Harrison, Biden, Herring, Page and Tucker. The purpose was to move out timber and fruit and bring in building supplies. The Minister for Works initially advised that such a plan would be difficult again the reason given was due to the hilly terrain. [2] When built the goods platform was on the down side of the line north approximately opposite the current platform and near the substation. It is unclear whether the goods platform was built at the time that a goods siding was constructed in 1892 or when the timber platform was replaced with brick in 1910. The goods platform ceased use in 1925. [3]  In 1890, the height of the Beecroft platform was raised to overcome problems with the gradient. 

With the duplication of the line in March 1892 two timber-faced side platforms were built near the end of Hannah Street. The basic timber sheds built on the new platforms were upgraded in 1894 with a waiting shed on the Hornsby bound platform and a ladies waiting room on the Sydney bound platform.

In 1894 two railway bridges were built by Mr A Taylor for both Copeland and Malton Roads. [4] The first morning the Copeland Road bridge was opened Messrs Chorley and Tucker had a race to see who would be the first over the bridge – with Mr Chorley winning.[5]

 With the appointment of the first station master, Tom Casserley, in 1894 a cottage was built for him on the western side of the railway line on Wongala Crescent between the present day children’s playground and Copeland Road. In 1898 two extra rooms were added to the cottage. This house was demolished in the 1950s.

 Also in 1898 a platform was built at Cheltenham near the home of William Chorley. Chorley and another resident George Rattray each contributed 100 pounds to the total construction cost of 260 pounds for the new railway platform. Again, the building of the platform facilitated the sale of residential blocks in close proximity to the new platform.

 Finally in September 1898 two boxes of trees arrived from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney containing 60 ornamental and shade trees and shrubs to beautify the station grounds. The present day Bunya and Hoop pines and the original (rather than present) camphor laurels all date from this time.   


 The station gardens won many prizes under the second station master Mr Hopkins, at the turn of the century. [6] Mr Hopkins was much appreciated by the local residents and was given a silver mounted pipe and cleaners upon his departure. [7] From 1909 until 1915 the gardens were neglected and local residents were asked to help maintain them. In 1916 help on the gardens was proposed as a project for returned servicemen and by 1918 rose bushes were being stolen.[8]  Some hundred or more ornamental trees supplied by the Botanic Gardens were planted around Cheltenham station in 1901. [9] Following the completion of the third railway track in 2018 the Beecroft and Cheltenham Garden Club started assisting with the maintenance of the gardens between the playground and the war memorials.

 Signals and lighting on both stations were converted from candle to kerosene in 1904. Gas was installed for lighting in 1907. “Beecroft railway station was a blaze of light…From the dismal oil lamps to large incandescent gas lamps is a huge jump and what a difference it makes.” [10]

 Following the opening of the Copeland Road bridge there became an on-going campaign to construct an entry to the southern part of the platform from off the bridge. [11]

Photo of demol;ition of first Railway station taken from Copeland Road Bridge. 


Commencing in 1910, the timber foundations for the Beecroft platform started to be removed as a result of termite infestation – to be replaced in brick. [12] In 1912 a new brick island platform was built for Beecroft. Although with a slightly new alignment, this island platform was built in approximately the same location as the side platforms. Due to lack of funds it did not have a proper entrance until 1914 when a tunnel was built over the top of a former creek bed. This flooded in heavy rain and created much local controversy as access to the southern end of the platform was blocked off. While it was noted that the flooding only happened at a time of very heavy rainfall – how heavy this was could not be recorded because the headmaster’s rain gauge overflowed. [13]

  In the subway a booking office was included. The booking office was later relocated to the platform and is currently used for storage. In the 2010 tickets were largely dispensed with and were replaced with a card system that allowed people to ‘tap on and tap off’.

 The controversy over the lack of a station entrance on the southern end of Beecroft station (where most of the housing was then located) culminated in August 1914 some 20 to 30 local citizens being confronted by a squad of railway officials for breaking onto the platform at the southern end. In September 1914 the Commissioner of Railways (John Harper) even visited and pointed out the short distance that was needed to walk to the northern end. [14]

The station building was a standard Type A8 building with slight modifications and so is typical of many railway stations of the time. By way of contrast the original booking office and subway are unique in the Metro North region of railways and rare across the whole Sydney metropolitan area.

 Automatic signalling was installed between Epping and Thornleigh on 3 April 1925 and the lines were electrified between Strathfield and Hornsby on 21 January 1929.

 Note . Link  Malcolm Cox Railway Recollections of 1950s-1960s

  In 1990 additional shelter was constructed for waiting passengers.

 The road bridge at the southern end of the railway platform was originally built in 1894 as a wooden bridge aligned with Copeland Road. This bridge was removed and replaced in 1914 with an iron bridge slightly to the north and no longer in alignment with Copeland Road. [15] The 1914 bridge was, in turn, replaced in 2008 to permit the third railway line to pass underneath.

A bridge at Murray Road was washed away in 1914 and the Chapman Avenue Bridge was built in 1914. [16]

 A third railway line was built in 2016 resulting in a new railway station at Cheltenham and the addition of art works at both stations and heritage signage at Beecroft to which the Beecroft Cheltenham History Group contributed images to the artwork at Cheltenham and one of the two heritage signs (not the one on Aboriginal people) at Beecroft. Brickwork opposite the original booking office was constructed using the bricks from the former goods platform.

 In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data showed a suburb population for Cheltenham of 8,484 with 310 residents (3.65%) travelling to work and 660 people entering the platform between 6.00 am and 9.30 am each day. For Beecroft the suburb population was 9,396 with 798 residents (8.45%) and 1,450 entering the platform. [17]

[1]        Andrew Hardie McCullough quoted in L Muir Shady Acres: Politicians, Developers and Sydney Public Transport Scandals 1872-1895 (Halstead Press, Ultimo, 2007) p227

[2]        Cumberland Mercury 11 July 1888 p3 

[3]        Artefact Heritage Beecroft Station: Heritage Interpretation Plan, November 2015 pp 8 and 30

[4]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 8 September 1894 p7.

[5]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 8 September 1894 p7

[6]        For example, Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 19 May 1900 p 10

[7]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 6 June 1903 p10

[8]        Artefact Heritage Beecroft Station: Heritage Interpretation Plan, November 2015 pp 33-34.

[9]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 2 February 1901, p10

[10]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 30 November 1907 p6

[11]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 8 September 1894 p7

[12]         The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 14 May 1910 page 8

[13]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 March 1914 p8

[14]      Sun 21 May 1914; The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 8 March 1923, 1 and 22 August, 19 September, 3 October 1914.

[15]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 March 1914, p8. For subsequent flooding see: The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 August 1915 p 8

[16]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 25 April 1914, p 11

[17]      quoted in The Australian 24 February 2018

 Railway crashes and crimes 

A number of railway workers have been killed at the stations since the opening of the line. In 1896 Robert Wickham a railway engineer driver while oiling an axle on the moving train. Gordon Norton, a block port was killed in the course of shunting a goods train in August 1919. [1]

A resident, Mrs Frances Boylan, who conducted a local school in Malton Road was killed while crossing the line prior to the construction of the subway. Her estate successfully sued the Commissioner for damages and this may well have been an inducement to build the subway shortly thereafter. [2]

The earliest recorded train crash so far located was in December 1940 when a troop train from Tamworth carrying 200 soldiers crashed into a stationary goods train. There were no casualties. [3]

The station master (Cyril Scott) at Cheltenham was robbed with the day’s takings of 5 pounds 5 shillings in November 1925 while it was the night porter at Cheltenham, the 18 year old, Ronald Martin of the Beecroft Martin family, was robbed of the days takings of 20 pounds in June 1937. It was noted that the station was “situated in a very lonely position.” [4]

There was a derailment near Cheltenham in the 1970s caused by the curve and the gradient of the line.

[1]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 20 June 1896 p10; 16 August 1919 p8

[2]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 27 April 1914 p7

[3]        Goulburn Evening Post 20 December 1940 p5

[4]        Daily Telegraph 5 November 1925 p1; Cairns Post 3 June 1937 p6