Adelaide Railway Station

This grand structure has greeted railway passengers arriving in the city for more than 80 years. Built in the 1920s, the Adelaide Railway Station marks a period of transformation in the state’s railway system. It was a celebrated achievement at the time, but it was also mired in controversy.

In the early 1920s South Australia’s railway system was in a dismal state. The state government brought out Ohio-born William Alfred Webb from the United States to make improvements.

As the new Railway Commissioner, Webb made major changes. He built stronger bridges and bought bigger locomotives. He also decentralised railway administration, giving greater control to divisional  superintendents. Within a few years, he had revolutionised the state’s railways.

As part of Webb’s vision, plans for a new city station began in 1924. Although its neo-classical design was in keeping with railway stations of the 19th Century, the use of reinforced concrete was a 20th Century advance.

The building was completed by 1928. Its grand scale demonstrated the belief that it would accommodate large passenger numbers. Unfortunately, Webb did not foresee that automobiles would soon outpace rail.

Although mainly positive, Webb’s program and the building of the railway station came with a big price tag. The Railway Commissioner was heavily criticised and was the subject of debate in Parliament. His spending contributed to the near bankruptcy of the State Government by 1929. As the Great Depression set in, Webb returned to the US with a tarnished reputation.

Despite its controversial beginning, the Adelaide Railway Station is still a major transport hub in the city. It has been a landmark of North Terrace for over 80 years.

Images

A view of the Railway Station from Bank Street, 1930

A view of the Railway Station from Bank Street, 1930

Source: National Trust of South Australia Joyce Photographic Collection ID: 212 View File Details Page

Laying the foundation stone, 1926

Laying the foundation stone, 1926

South Australian Premier, Hon. John Gunn laid the foundation stone of the new Adelaide Railway Station on 24 August 1926. Parliamentarians, dignitaries, and the general public were all invited to attend the event. The Premier used a silver trowel which was presented to him by Railway Commissioner William Webb for the occasion. | Source: "Adelaide Railway Station", Chronicle, 28 August 1926, p.7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89789399 View File Details Page

Controversy and conflict

Controversy and conflict

Webb's tenure as the Railway Commissioner was hampered by his controversial expenditures, particularly relating to the railway station. Originally thought to cost the state £300,000, the final figures totalled over three times that! | Source: ‘South Australian Railways’, Barrier Mine, 19 November 1929, p.4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46585383 View File Details Page

Adelaide Railway Station, 2014

Adelaide Railway Station, 2014

The Railway Station has seen some changes, including the transformation of its eastern side into the Adelaide Casino. However, the original design has been mainly preserved. | Creator: Photograph by Jessica Cronin View File Details Page

Adelaide Railway Station, Interior, 2014

Adelaide Railway Station, Interior, 2014

Creator: Photograph by Jessica Cronin View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Adelaide Railway Station,” Adelaide City Explorer, accessed July 23, 2017, http://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/76.
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