As city railway stations go, Adelaide’s central railway station (though not the grand building housing it) is small. There is good reason for this, Adelaide’s metro fleet is small and there are no longer any regular country train services in South Australia departing from here, or anywhere else. Further, interstate services including the famous Indian Pacific (Perth to Sydney), the Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin) and the Overland (Adelaide to Melbourne) now depart from Keswick Station in one of the city’s inner west suburbs.
In addition to metro trains, the Glenelg Tram passes by the station as do many useful buses so the area is an important hub for local public transport. Adelaide’s transport system is the subject of separate reviews. This review relates to the station itself.
The original Adelaide Railway Station was constructed on this site in 1856 with one line, between Adelaide and Port Adelaide. This was, incidentally, the first government-owned and operated steam railway in the British Empire.
The existing sandstone building, in neo-classical style, was designed by local architects Garlick and Jackman and completed in 1928 after Ohio man, William Alfred Webb, was brought in to revitalise South Australia’s then moribund railway system. While he certainly achieved his task, his spending contributed to the near bankruptcy of the State Government. No-one knows for sure how much the station alone cost as vital records were ‘lost’. The upper three storeys of the building housed the railways administration while the main concourse below was awash with facilities for travellers – a dining room, hairdressers, refreshment rooms etc.
The pièce de résistance was a large domed marble hall which is now a gaming room just inside the main entrance of the Adelaide Casino (separate review), which now takes up most of the station building and is run as an entirely separate business though it does have one, very discreet, entry from the main station concourse – look out for the small flight of steps straight ahead and slightly to you left as you exit the train platforms.
Webb’s new (1928) station had 13 individually covered platforms with plenty of additional space for expansion, expansion which never occurred. Webb had failed to appreciate the impact of the Great Depression and, more importantly, the impact that the introduction of cars would have on railways in Australia, generally. In the 1980s the number of platforms was reduced to 9.
Between 1985 and 1987 the majority of the original 1928 station building was relinquished to accommodate the Adelaide Casino. Today’s station, still very much worth a look even if you are not catching a train, comprises just one main hall (concourse) in its original art deco livery with ticket offices and a small number of retail outlets off it. I assume it retains some of the offices, etc upstairs, not accessible to the public. The retail outlets, a newsagents, snack/coffee kiosks and the like are of no particular note apart from being sufficient to service the needs of local commuters in need of a coffee fix and a newspaper. One does not dine here any more!
Outside the station, since the mid 1980s the Railway has also given up most of its land as yards and rolling stock depots moved out from the city centre. The land thus freed up now accommodates the Intercontinental Hotel (formerly the Hyatt), the Convention/ Entertainment Centre and, most recently, a new hospital complex.
The station clock, while nice, is not as nice as a tall standing clock incorporating seats that was on the centre of the concourse on my last visit here a couple of years ago. Not remembering the clock depicted above from prior visits I suspected that it was the clock part of that beautiful piece of furniture to which I have just referred assuming that the balance of the piece had been relegated to the scrap heap.
On looking back at some of my older photographs I was relieved to see that the current clock did formerly exist in addition to the one incorporating seats. Perhaps that one will return some day.
At the rear of the main concourse (assuming you enter from either of the North Terrace entrances), on the west side, are four large memorial boards listing the names of 3,601 South Australian Railway staff who served in, and/or paid the supreme sacrifice, in World Wars I and II. Credit is due to the Railways Sub Branch of the Returned Services League (RSL) for its successful fight to retain these boards during the late 1980s downsizing of the station and more recent refurbishments. Sadly the Railways Sub Branch of the RSL closed in 2010, I trust this does not bode badly for the continued display of these boards within the station.
Do pop in for a look at this, still beautiful, station and then pop into the Adelaide Casino for a look at the Marble Hall. Enter the Casino via its main entrance on Station Road for best effect.
Address: 125 North Terrace