Harbour west from Millers Point 1798. J. Heath, By water to Parramatta, with a distant view of the western mountains, taken from the Windmill-hill at Sydney.


Not only did generations of Aboriginal people traverse this peninsula on their (bare) feet: so did most of the new population. Pyrmont’s early industries employed large numbers for long hours, and rather little pay. Commuting was not an option: until 1900 there was no public transport and the Pyrmont bridge charged a toll on pedestrians,…

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Tindall, CSR 1906-08


It is impossible to overstate the symbolic as well as the real significance of shipping in Australia, a country ‘girt by sea’. British colonists arrived in world-class ships, and for many years relied absolutely on sea-borne supplies. Many imagined that Australian history began with the First Fleet: they were not very impressed by the canoes…

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Horses at Saunders’ quarry 1883


Like other quarries, Saunders used Clydesdale horses to pull blocks of stone to building sites: it was common – if awe-inspiring – to see timber jinkers haul huge loads through the streets. In 1875 CSR began to build its Pyrmont refinery. The C. J. McCaffery haulage company followed and established its premises on what is…

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Railway yard showing Darling Harbour.


The Sydney Railway Company (formed in 1848) built a freight terminal at Darling Harbour and opened the access rail line in 1855. Tied to the fate of Darling Harbour, the rail service struggled for custom in the 1860s, but revived in the 1870s to handle farm produce and wool. By 1891, all Sydney’s exports passed…

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Tram in Harris Street 1950s


Between 1879 and the 1950s, trams carried most Sydney travellers. The first (1861-1866) was horse-drawn. In 1879 a steam tramway was initiated: electrification started in 1898. By the 1920s, the system had to compete with motor cars and buses, leading to the gradual closure of lines. The last tram ran in 1961. Most services began…

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In 1937 CSR began to purchase motor vehicles, perhaps because horses found it difficult to gain a foothold on newly sealed roads. In any case the NSW Wide Tyre Ordinance of 1935 limited the loads that could be carried on metal tyres, and that restricted the utility of horse-drawn wagons. As draft horses were retired,…

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Cars, 1940s, Miller and Bank Streets


The first motor vehicle landed in Sydney in 1900, and well-to-do families quickly embraced the chance to travel as whole families; but Pyrmont’s narrow streets and poor families were hardly affected.  For another forty years children played in the streets.  Two circumstances tipped the balance.  Streets that were sealed and widened to support trucks could…

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