Looking east along Wellington Street with the second Perth Railway Station on the left and the Beaufort Street Bridge in the background, 1923. Photo: State Library of Western Australia.
Governor class rail motor leaving Perth railway station about 1938. Barrack Street bridge is above the train, the main rail station building beyond to the right, and the roof of Signal Box 'B' is above bridge. Photo: Western Australian Government Railways, Wikimedia Commons.
22 May 2022
Perth railway station is centrally located in the city’s central business district. It was opened with the commencement of services from Fremantle through Perth to Guildford on 1 March 1881. Railways came later to Western Australia than the other Australian colonies. The first railway was operated by the Western Australian Timber Company between Lockville, near Busselton, and Yoganup, and opened in 1871. Western Australia’s first government railway was opened between Geraldton and Northampton, in the mid-north, in 1879. Finally, Perth saw its first railway open in 1881.
Fremantle to Guildford railway
Although a proposal for a railway from Fremantle via Perth to Guildford and then further east was considered by the Legislative Council in January 1871, the Government’s attention and resources became focused on other issues. An offer in October 1875 by a group of influential gentlemen to construct the line with some government backing was considered favourably, but was followed by considerable debate about priorities regarding expenditure on public works. A survey of possible routes north and south of the Swan River was undertaken. Further debate ensued regarding the merits of the different routes, and landowners petitioned for the line to be constructed through their areas. The Legislative Council initially voted in favour of the southern route in June 1878, but further investigations revealed that this route would involve a lengthy bridge and extensive earthworks, resulting in it being considerably more expensive. On 4 July 1878 the Legislative Council agreed to the northern route and construction was authorised. A tender was accepted from John Robb of Adelaide for £74,592.
On 3 June 1879 the first sod was turned near the site of today’s Perth station by Governor Harry Ord, who would serve as Governor Western Australia for less than five months. Robb established a team or workers, including navvies from interstate, and began to assemble the necessary plant and equipment. Earthworks for the line were completed by the middle of 1880 and track laying commenced, assisted by a 2-6-0 locomotive that was ordered from Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, England. A ceremony was held when it hauled a train over the North Fremantle bridge on 31 August 1880. Work continued and Robb’s contract had been virtually completed by early February 1881.
The line was officially handed to the government on 14 February, on which day a trial operated along the length of the line and then trains were operated for the general public. The line was officially opened for traffic by Governor Robinson on 1 March. A special train departed from Perth station at 10.00 and ran to Fremantle, returning through the city to Guildford, and finishing back again at Perth, where the line was declared open.
Perth station in the 1800s
While the Fremantle to Guildford railway was under construction a ceremony was held on 10 May 1880 where Lady Robinson, wife of Governor William Robinson, laid the foundation stone of Perth Central station. She was given a commemorative trowel with an engraving of the station design on it. The site was located on the site of a former swamp known as Lake Kingsford, which had been drained in 1854. It was an important food source for the Nyungar Aboriginal people, who inhabited the area prior to European settlement. Sand to a depth of three feet was required to cover the site for construction of the future station and yard. Perth Central station was designed by Richard Roach Jewell. Upon opening the station had a single through platform, along with bay platforms at the eastern and western ends.
Traffic density increased quickly on the railway and a new station building was soon required for Perth. Designed by Government Architect George Temple Poole, it was opened in March 1894 and this building remains today. It is a two-storey brick and corrugated iron building with a style described as neoclassical. It faces Wellington Street, which is on the southern side of the station. East and west wings were added in 1896 and 1897 respectively. On the building’s ground floor were ticket windows, booking offices, dining room, luggage cloak room, and a news stand. The first floor housed administrative offices, telegraph operations and store rooms. When the new building was opened the old one was demolished. The new building was constructed closer to the street, enabling an island platform to be added to the station. Footbridges were built, enabling passengers from Northbridge to access the station without having to go through the main entrance on the southern side.
Twentieth century changes
The Horseshoe Bridge, located at the western end of the station, which carries William Street across the railway, was constructed in 1904. Today it is one of the oldest surviving intact
bridges in Perth. Its unusual design was to accommodate gentle gradients required for horse drawn vehicles within a confined space. The Beaufort Street bridge, which crosses at the eastern end of the station, was constructed in 1908.
The 1894 station building remains today although it has been renovated several times throughout its history. Other structures have been built around the station and a roof built over the platforms. As the railway network in Western Australia expanded, railway traffic continued to increase. Perth station handled suburban and country traffic. Additional platforms were built on the northern side of the station.
Standard gauge interstate passenger trains between Perth and Port Pirie in South Australia commenced running in 1969. A new Perth Terminal station opened at East Perth as a terminus for these trains, which did not enter the original Perth station. Perth station was renamed ‘City’ around the time of opening of the new terminal station in 1969. The name City Station was used for many years but eventually the station reverted to ‘Perth’ on 14 August 1989. Various proposals over the years for a larger station on the site or a new central Perth station at a different location did not eventuate. The administrative offices were re-located to East Perth in the 1970s.
In 1987 work commenced on Northern Suburbs Transit System project, which involved construction of the Joondalup railway line. Perth station was redeveloped as part of this project. The redevelopment included the addition of a second island platform, construction of a steel and glass roof over the platforms, underground parking, and the construction of the Citiplace Centre at the station’s eastern end and above the platforms, incorporating retail outlets and community facilities. New walkways were also added, connecting the station with local attractions. Electrification of Perth’s suburban railway network in 1991 and 1992 saw overhead wiring installed above the tracks and associated infrastructure. Electric Multiple Unit trains replaced the diesel railcars that had been operating services.
Further expansion of Perth station occurred with the New MetroRail Project, work commencing in 2006. Included in the project were construction of the Mandurah railway line and associated works in the central business district. The Mandurah line entered the city underground with a new underground station at Elizabeth Quay and two new underground platforms at Perth station. At the same time the existing Joondalup line was realigned to enter Perth station underground, with trains from the Joondalup line now running through to the Mandurah line. Two underground platforms were opened at Perth on 15 October 2007.
Platform 9 opened to the public on 20 September 2013. Further work around this time included refurbishment, roof extension, a new pedestrian underpass, tunnel roof work, paving and landscaping.
Perth station today
Today Perth station caters for suburban electric trains, as well as the Australind, which runs between Perth and Bunbury. The station has nine platforms; the lines serviced from each platform are shown below:
1 Joondalup line
2 Mandurah line
3 Bunbury line (Australind)
4 Thornlie line
5 Armadale line
6 Armadale line
7 Fremantle line
8 Midland line
9 Midland line
Perth station building and the Horseshoe Bridge are heritage listed. The Perth Railway Precinct area is significant to the Nyungar Aboriginal Group, and is listed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
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The Horseshoe Bridge to the west of the station, which was connected to the lower platforms via staircases. Various advertisements are visible to the left. Perth, 1940s. Photo: State Library of Western Australia.
Perth railway station, with an A Set train at Platform 2 in the foreground and another A Set train at Platform 7 in the background. Photo: RaNdOm26, Wikimedia Commons.