Adelaide Railway Station

Adelaide Railway Station

“The interesting thing about the Adelaide Railway Station is that it was built with neither Parliamentary approval nor correct appropriation of the money. It also cost three times the estimates, and because all the dockets have been ‘lost’ no one has ever been able to find out who had authorised its construction.”

So claimed Reece Jennings in his book on W.A. Webb, railways commissioner from 1922 to 1930. An energetic and ambitious American, Webb had inherited an abysmally run-down, archaic system. He embarked on a program of large-scale construction and upgrading that was the most far-reaching since the railway boom 40 years earlier.

Sir William Goodman condemned this imposing structure as an extravagance typical of expenditure on the rehabilitation of the state’s railway network during Webb’s regime. The costs, while underpinning South Australia’s economic advances during the 1920s, directly contributed to the government’s near bankruptcy when markets crashed at the onset of the Great Depression. Yet construction of Webb’s centrepiece, a grand new Adelaide Railway Station, continued, partly to provide work for some of the thousands of unemployed men.

The great size of the building was not purely symbolic as it was assumed that the large passenger numbers of the early 1920s would be maintained. The building typifies that era rather than the ensuing Depression and the decline in railways’ use that followed patrons’ move to the motor car. For many years afterwards it was one of the major entry points to Adelaide and for interstate visitors to South Australia.

The station’s historical role is matched by its appearance. It is one of the state’s landmark buildings, and makes a major contribution to the character of North Terrace along with the nearby Parliament House and Festival Centre.

The station was built in 1926-28 to a design by Garlick and Jackman, who won an architectural competition held in 1924.

During the 1980s much of the interior was refurbished. Facades were cleaned and restored, and a large section approached from the original main entry hall on the east was sympathetically converted to the Adelaide Casino. On the west, platforms were shifted and upgraded to make way for the Hyatt (later Intercontinental Hotel) alongside, the Adelaide Convention Centre and office development, which now overshadow the railway station.


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The neoclassical exterior and interior harks back to the 19th-century, although the building material is not stone or brick but reinforced concrete. The design and detailing of the interior, in particular the Concourse and Marble Hall, the quality of its spaces and its pretensions, are of great interest.

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See also

Images of Adelaide Railway Station

  • Adelaide Railway Station, 2014
Daniel Garlick, Herbert Jackman
Building materials
Architectural styles
3.12 Inter-War Period (c. 1915–c. 1940)
1926 - 1928
Architecture and design features
Neo-Classical, Ionic, Marble Hall
Engineering features
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
W A Webb
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
AS2482 classification
24020 - Railway Platform
Public Access
Access unrestricted
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5853/305 D46426 A1-3
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
NTSA classified
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
3 Developing a City Economy
4.1 Development of City Services
4.1.3 Public Transport
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


Further reading

External links

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