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Back to the Past: 6 Places to Find Historical NSW Transport Information

Interested in the history of public transport in NSW? Take a dive into the archives with these 6 websites packed full of historical resources - from photos and videos to geospatial data and engineering drawings - going back decades. We've also included information on some offline ways to get up close and personal with transport history.

1. Transport for NSW Historical Archive

The Transport for NSW Historical Archive contains hundreds of photos from throughout the history of NSW: the official opening of the Kings Cross Tunnel in 1975, Prince Charles at the Royal Easter Show in 1981, the Grand Concourse at Central Station in 1983, and so much more. If you’re a lover of visual snapshots of the past, this will definitely be of interest to you. Search for something specific, or browse through premade categories including bridges, fashion, personalities, vintage vehicles, and office culture. 

2. NSWRail

With a comprehensive timeline of railway station openings in the state, a list of train station names and their origins (Nowra was named after the Aboriginal word meaning 'black cockatoo'!), and historical maps and photos, the NSWRail website is sure to excite any transport history buff.

3. The Railway Archives

This website is managed by the The Australian Railway Historical Society (ARHS) and is an historical treasure trove. You’ll find original railway documents, engineering drawings, audio/visual materials, manuals, timetables and reports plus a large amount of historical material written since the ARHS began in 1933. Access to the archive is free for ARHS members; a $15 charge applies to non-members.

4. Sydney Trains Culture and Heritage

Read about the history of NSW railways, watch documentaries, access the Heritage and Conservation Register, check out some historic advertising from railway stations of the past and more with the Sydney Trains Culture and Heritage website. You can also take the self-guided tour of Central Station, which gives great insight into the history of the station as well as the monuments that exist within and around it. 

5. NSW State Records and Archives Railways Guide

The NSW State Records and Archives catalogue includes thousands of historical transport resources. Search the catalogue to find photos and drawings, plans, survey field books, personnel records, historical notes and references and more. Be sure to select the ‘Digitally Available’ filter for your search if you’re after immediate online access. 

6. Trove

If you’re interested in finding historical news articles, magazines, and papers you can do so with Trove. The website contains searchable collections from Australian libraries, universities, museums, galleries and archives. It’s free and available online all day, every day - just type in some keywords of interest and you're good to go. 

For those who'd like to see a piece of history in real life, a few of our endorsed travel apps may be able to help! Head over to Anytrip’s web app and use the Heritage Sets filter to see if any heritage sets are crossing into the Intercity and Suburban train network.

Provided there are pickups/set downs in the data, you’ll also find them in Tripview marked with “Special”, and in NextThere you can turn on run number information in settings to help you identify Z Set trains. 

If you want to get up close and personal with the state’s transport history, you can also pay a visit to a museum. The NSW Rail Museum is located in Thirlmere in Sydney’s south west, and has been home to a significant rail heritage collection associated with the history of the railways in NSW since 1975. There are also many others located throughout NSW. 

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