Sydney's railway past comes to life

Sydney's railway past comes to life


11 October 2016

Darling Harbour’s railway past comes to life in Steam on the Harbour


A documentary showcasing Darling Harbour as a busy railway goods yard, long before it became one of Sydney’s main destinations for recreation and entertainment, has been published online ( by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).


Titled Steam on the Harbour, the 20-minute film features footage shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in the 1960s and 70s.


Curator Jeff Wray said: 'This footage reveals the industrial nature of Darling Harbour’s past, and gives us an impression of what a busy railway goods yard it was. The beautiful images, combined with an interview with two former train drivers, will allow audiences to imagine what it was like to work on the railway in Darling Harbour.’


Highlights include:

A ride on a 19 class locomotive travelling through a tunnel from Central Station to Darling Harbour, part of which is now 'The Goods Line’ pedestrian and cycle path.

Panoramic views of the Sydney skyline, Darling Harbour, Pyrmont Bridge and the Goldsborough Mort building, as well as buildings which have since been demolished.

For the train enthusiasts, scenes showing the physical, dirty and dangerous nature of the work in a shunting yard, and railway operations involved in moving goods in and out of Sydney via Darling Harbour.


Steam on the Harbour premiered at the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year. It is now available on the NFSA’s YouTube channel:


Steam on the Harbour: Darling Harbour’s working trains.



Roger McKenzie (d. 1992) worked as a film editor for television’s ATN 7 in Sydney. McKenzie, along with his good friend Bernie Kent, was a film collector who also captured his personal interests on film including his love for trains and other transport such as buses and ferries. These films don’t just show the vehicles and machinery, but also include the workers who operated them and the surrounding area.


McKenzie and Kent were able to acquire a pass from the New South Wales Railways allowing access to places from which the general public were otherwise restricted such as workshops and depots. They would often start at 4am to get into position to record the early morning trains passing; at other times they would stay overnight.


Their favourite locations for filming trains included Hawkmount, Fassifern, around Maitland, Darling Harbour and the Macdonaldtown car sheds.


More information about the McKenzie collection is available on the NFSA website.



Curator Jeff Wray is available for interviews. For more information, please contact Miguel Gonzalez (NFSA National Media Manager), (02) 8202 0114,, or Jemma Pietrus (NFSA Publicity Coordinator), (02) 6248 2248,



Download: Darling Harbour's railway past comes to life in new documentary - media release