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Islington Railway Workshops Group

Source: Go to the Register of the National Estate for more information.
Identifier: 19927
Location: Churchill Rd, Kilburn
Port Adelaide - Enfield City
State: SA
Country: Australia
Statement of
The Islington Railway Workshops Group, comprising the Chief Mechanical Engineer's Office, Fabrication Shop, Fabrication Shop Annexe, Foundry, Apprentice School (already in RNE) and Electrical Shop (already in RNE), is significant as the earliest group of buildings constructed as the Islington Railway Workshops from 1891, associated with the operation and development of South Australia's railway system at a time when rail transportation was crucial to the growth of the Colony (Criterion A.4). The Workshops Group represented one of the most important industrial complexes in South Australia during the late nineteenth century, responsible for the manufacture and repair of South Australia's railway locomotives and rolling stock (Criterion A.4). A major upgrade of equipment and processes in 1925-27 resulted in the Islington Railway Workshops being reinstated as one of the major engineering workshops in the Southern Hemisphere and one of South Australia's most significant industrial complexes, producing the largest locomotives yet built in Australasia and manufacturing large-scale products including freight cars, boilers, motor bodies and electric cranes (Criterion A.4). The Workshops Group is also significant for its role in relieving the State's massive pool of unemployed workers during the 1930s Depression and for its association with the production of military equipment including armoured vehicles, gun carriers and aeroplane parts during World War Two (Criterion A.4). The Workshops Group is significant for its continuity of use as a railway engineering complex from 1891 to the present. The workshops in the Group together demonstrate different phases of development in railway engineering, reflecting changing technology, work practices and conditions (Criterion F.1). The Workshops Group is significant as a good representative example of a group of intact late nineteenth century railway engineering workshops, training and administration buildings and compares with other State railway workshops such as the Newport Workshops in Victoria and the Eveleigh Workshops in New South Wales (Criterion D.2). The six buildings in the Workshops Group reflect a relatively uniform architectural style and method of construction, including sandstone and brick quoins and dressings, gabled galvanised iron roof and windows featuring arched heads with a keystone. The workshop buildings in particular illustrate a utilitarian style of construction typical of engineering workshops of the period, with brick pilasters to provide relief to the external walls, double timber doors, large open internal spaces and exposed timber trusses (Criterion D.2). The Foundry building, with its earth floor, open internal spaces and original 1891 travelling crane, demonstrates an early and intact example of foundry construction and operation (Criteria D.2 and F.1).
The Islington Railway Workshops Group is significant as the main centre for providing up-to-date training of skilled engineering workers, necessary for the expansion and development of the State's railway network during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Criteria A.4 and F.1).
Description: History:
The Islington Railway Workshop complex was established in 1891 by the South Australian Railways Department as the major railway workshops and training centre for apprentices in South Australia. The workshops were fundamental to the development of the South Australian railway system at a time when rail transportation was crucial to the development of the Colony. The workshops represented the first major expansion of the railways from the original yard off North Terrace in the City of Adelaide. The first locomotive to be built at the Islington Workshops entered service on 9 September 1898. The Workshops were described in detail in 1907 in the Cyclopedia of South Australia as follows: quote... They comprise an area of forty-seven and a half acres, of which eight and a half acres are under cover, while there are seven and a quarter miles of railway-line to facilitate the handling and transport of work from one department to another. In extent, arrangement, equipment and general efficiency, it is claimed that this establishment is unsurpassed by any other of a similar character south of the Equator. The various buildings are substantial structures of dressed stone, with brick facings, and the architectural style is uniform throughout ... Inclusive of officers, draughtsmen, and clerks, about 981 men find employment in the various classes of work that are performed. All new carriages, the majority of the new goods and live-stock vehicles, are manufactured at Islington and recently new locomotives have been designed and built at the works. Besides this, practically the whole of the repairs necessary for the rolling-stock of both the broad- and narrow- gauge systems are carried out, the plant comprising 330 engines, 434 carriages and 6,464 trucks, wagons and other vehicles for the carriage of goods and live-stock. ... end quote. The Islington Workshops inevitably lost some of their pre-eminence during successive years and consequently underwent a major rehabilitation during the Webb era in the 1920s. As R I Jennings has recorded in his biography of W A Webb, the South Australian Railways Commissioner in the 1920s: quote...(r)eorganisation of Rushton's antique workshops commenced with typical Webbian wholesale demolition in 1925 and was completed in 1927... Webb gave F J Shea a free hand and he laid out the new works and prepared lists of machines wanted. The reorganisation was dramatic. A long line of vintage tyre turning lathes which produced one per day was replaced with a single American lathe which did the lot. Capstan and turret lathes, tilting furnaces, shaping machines, milling machines, drillers and grinders were installed. The Workshops became a hive of activity turning out freight cars, boilers, motor bodies, electric cranes and all the paraphernalia needed by the Chief Commissioner. When Islington had been completely rejuvenated it could stand over any comparable Workshop in the Southern Hemisphere and produced locomotives larger than had ever been built in Australasia. The works fully justified the entire cost of rehabilitation. In 1928 Essington Lewis inspected Islington and said the layout and machine tolls were magnificent and reflected great credit. This was praise indeed. Lewis went to Islington because R L Butler had told him how cheaply they were making trucks and an incredulous Lewis went to see for himself...end quote The upgrading of the Islington workshops during the 1920s was one of the most significant reforms initiated by Webb and ensured that they continued to play a major role in the railways. Indeed, for many years the Islington complex was among South Australia's most significant industrial complexes. As such it served an important role in helping to relieve the State's massive pool of unemployment during the years of the Depression. Not only did the workshops succeed in making generations of workmen proficient in up-to-date technologies, but they also became a significant manufacturing establishment for the production of large and small items for the South Australian Railways and other Australian railway authorities. Later, during World War Two, the Workshops fulfilled an important role in helping to provide military equipment such as armoured vehicles, gun carriers and aeroplane parts. As a major complex, Islington provided the most up-to-date workshops and training centres for future planning expansion of the railway network which needed a large skilled body of employees. The attention to design and construction reflects the importance paid to the future development of the railways in the Colony. The workshops remained an integral part of the South Australian Railways Department until the complex was transferred to Australian National in 1978. Since then the complex has been rationalised and many of the traditional activities have been transferred to a new site at Dry Creek. Description:
The Islington Railway Workshops Group comprises the following six buildings: Chief Mechanical Engineer's Office, Fabrication Shop, Fabrication Shop Annex, Foundry, Apprentice School (already in RNE), Electrical Shop (already in RNE). The Chief Mechanical Engineer's Office is a double storey, red brick building with a hipped-gable galvanised iron roof, double-hung, timber-framed sash windows, featuring arched heads and a keystone and brick pilasters providing relief to the front and rear elevations. The Fabrication Shop and Fabrication Shop Annex are similar single storey, sandstone buildings with brick quoins and surrounds, a gabled galvanised iron roof with a central lantern above each ridge and glass skylights, and multi-paned, pivoted windows. The Fabrication Shop is constructed in three bays of similar design, although the ends of two of these have been altered by the addition of large doors to provide easier access. The Annex is in two sections, one the mirror image of the other. Both buildings are plain and utilitarian in their design, although the brick quoins and dressings provides some relief. The Foundry is a single storey sandstone building with brick quoins and dressings, a gabled galvanised iron roof, multi-paned arched, pivoted windows featuring arched heads with a keystone, a brick parapet to the walls and gable ends, brick dentils to the gable, large timber doors along one side wall to permit entry of vehicles and machinery, and a lantern in the centre of the roof. The interior is a large open space with exposed timber trusses featuring an earth floor. There are two panels set into the wall above the front entrance bearing the date of the building. The Apprentice School is a double storey, sandstone building with rendered quoins and dressings, a gabled galvanised iron roof, timber-framed double-hung sash windows, and large arched headed windows in the ends of the building at the first floor level. There is a brick parapet to the gable ends, featuring decorative metal finials and urns. The Electrical Shop is a single storey, sandstone building with brick quoins, dressings and parapets, a gabled galvanised iron roof with a central lantern, and multi-paned pivoted windows with arched heads. The interior is a large open space with exposed timber trusses.

Report produced : 30/7/2015
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