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B2450 Destination board, Central Station, wood / glass / metal, designed and made by New South Wales Government Railways and G E Crane and Sons, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1906, used on main concourse at Sydney Terminal Station 1906-1982. Click to enlarge.

Sydney's Central Station indicator board

For 76 years the indicator board, which stood on the huge assembly platform of Sydney Terminal Station, also called Central Station, was an integral part of the history of the NSW railways. It comprises 22 vertical panels on which passenger train information was displayed, particularly the departure time, platform number and station names at which trains would stop. It was entirely mechanically operated from floor level by station staff through a series of rods, reduction gears, cranks and …

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Object No.


Object Statement

Destination board, Central Station, wood / glass / metal, designed and made by New South Wales Government Railways and G E Crane and Sons, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1906, used on main concourse at Sydney Terminal Station 1906-1982

Physical Description

The indicator board is a freestanding structure of 22 vertical panels plus notice boards. The board provided information, particularly the departure time, platform number and station names at which trains would call. It is entirely mechanically operated from floor level and can be divided into three areas for description: the panels, clock faces and platform numbers.

Each of the 22 panels is divided into 30 horizontal pivoting slats, which feature the station name in white letters on a matt black background. Each slat is triangular in cross-section, lettered on one side only and turned by hand via a vertical rod, about 5 mm in diameter, attached at the rear of each slat. The rods attached to slats from the lowest to the highest progressively increase in length and form an arrangement like a series of miniature organ pipes. Station names on one panel are selected by unlocking the small-hinged hatch cover immediately below the slats. When opened, this hatch cover allows all 30 rods to fall simultaneously under their own weight and turns all the slats to the blank position. An adjustable and removable brass template is positioned under the ends of the 30 rods. The template has 30 holes that align with the rod-ends. Each hole may be covered or revealed by a hinged brass flap, one for each hole. Each pair of rod-end and flap represents a station on the line featured on the panel. When the flap is positioned to cover its adjacent hole and the hatch cover is closed, the flap engages its matching rod-end, the rod is raised and the attached slat turns down on the panel, revealing the station name as a stop on the line for that service. When the flap is positioned to expose its adjacent hole and the hatch cover is closed, the matching rod is permitted to pass through the hole in the template and the slat attached to that rod representing a different station remains undisturbed. This means that the station name on this slat is not revealed, indicating that the train will not be stopping there.

The indicator board is divided horizontally and vertically throughout by timber strips decorated with fluting and recessed roundels. At various intervals up the vertical strips between the panels, hooks have been inserted on which extra 'hang on' boards are displayed.

Above the station slats in each panel is a clock face, which features black Roman numerals and hands on a white enamelled background. Each clock face can be set to indicate a train departure time with a key that is inserted into a hole above the station selector tray behind each hatch cover at the base of the slats. The key engages 12 to 1 reduction gears and the movement is taken up to the clock via a rod and worm and worm wheel.

The platform numbers appear in a window set at a slight angle downwards off the vertical and above the clocks on each of the 22 panels. The numbers, finished in white on a black background, are painted onto a continuous roll of canvas that is wound on and off rollers by means of a crank. This is operated from the front of the board at floor level through a hole in the lower panel between the station selector hatch cover and the floor. The cranking movement is taken up to the rollers by a worm and worm wheel at the back of the board and by various gears. The tension is kept on the roll by a suspended counterweight on a separate roller close to each platform roll. Access to the platform roll box is through a removable timber door at the back of each panel.

The main clock at the top of the indicator board is an impulse clock originally operated by an external drive in common with all the other clocks at Central Station to ensure they all kept identical time. It features black Roman numerals and hands set on a white background in a circular brass frame with glass insert.

Towards the end of its working life, four panels were added to the right hand side of the indicator board to provide information on the arrival of trains. Various hang-on boards announced 'Trains From', two rows of clock faces captioned 'Due At' and 'Will Arrive' showed the time, and a last panel signified the platform by means of hang-on boards. The 'arrivals' section of the board was probably added after the previous separate arrivals board was removed.

On either side of the indicator board, supported by decorative wrought iron brackets, are signs giving directions to platforms and electric trains, and a blackboard was available for further notices.

A cast iron barricade with two horizontal rails was erected in front of the board to stop the public from interfering with its operation. Over the years a number of telephones were attached to the lower section of the board. Further objects relating to the board but not attached to it included a set of keys for operating the board, two timber stepladders and a 'Special Notice Board'.



6200 mm


12375 mm


360 mm



The indicator board was designed in Sydney by the Interlocking Engineers Office of the NSW Government Railways. It was built in Redfern at the Signal Interlocking Shop of the NSW Government Railways.

The sheet metal pediment was designed and constructed by G E Crane and Sons.

The board was made in 1906.



The indicator board was built for the main assembly platform of Sydney Terminal Station (Central Station) which is a huge area of some 2/3 of an acre (0.27 ha) or 3 000 square yards (2 500 sq m). Sydney Terminal Station is Sydney's third terminal station, for which the foundation stone was laid in April 1902. The building was officially opened at 11 am on Saturday 4 August 1906. The indicator board was described in the 'Sydney Morning Herald ' of the day as "a thoroughly modern train indicator board. It is manipulated ingeniously, curiously contrasting with the clumsy method in vogue at the present station and besides giving the lists of departures indicates the arrival of all the principal main line trains".

When first erected, 20 panels were devoted to station names and the centre two panels under the clock were for arrival information. Once a new arrival board was built in about 1910, the centre two panels, which are slightly narrower than the others, were converted to take 30 slats each for departure information.

The narrow vertical and horizontal timber strips between the panels, clocks and platform rolls were originally stained and lacquered. The style of decoration can be described as classical revival. On either side of the main clock was decorative scrollwork, inserted with floreate motifs. The clock was capped with a pediment broken by an arch, and there were raised terminals at each end.

Some time before 1937 the stained timberwork on the board was painted. The base and vertical and horizontal strips around the panels were finished in cream, while various other details were picked out in brown and caramel. Around 1945 the board was severely modified and all its neo-classical ornamentation was removed to make it appear modern with Art Deco style embellishments. The graceful scrolled supports, pediment and end terminals were removed and replaced with vertical stepped slats beside the clock. During this modernisation fluorescent lights were added to the top of the board on a canopy.

In the 1940 a new arrivals board, very similar to the destination board, was installed on the assembly platform, replacing the 1910 arrivals board. The new board consisted of 15 panels, each with two clock faces. This board appears to have been removed during the 1960s or 1970s.

In 1982, with considerable reluctance, the State Rail Authority of NSW replaced the indicator board, which had been a landmark at Central Station for 76 years. It was of particular sentimental value to thousands of New South Wales residents and visitors and was a popular meeting spot. The Chief Executive of the SRA, David Hill, said: 'We regret that this piece of history has to be replaced. We have examined a number of options to retain it. In the end it was just too big to retain'. The official replacement took place at 11 pm on Monday 28 June 1982 when the board was replaced by a new passenger display system supplied by the G.E.C. Projects Company using computer technology combined with closed circuit television. This comprises twenty 26 inch (66 cm) television monitors combined in pairs to display 10 train departures complete with stopping patterns, departure times and platform numbers.

In order to preserve the indicator board the State Rail Authority of NSW presented it to the Museum. The dismantling and removal of the board from Sydney Terminal Station took place on the night of Monday 28 June and the early morning of Tuesday 29 June 1982. Eight Museum staff members worked throughout the night to dismantle the board. Because of its enormous length, it was cut into five manageable pieces for transport and was taken to the Museum's store at Arncliffe.

During 1984 the board was re-erected in the Museum's Stage 1 workshop, where repairs to the timberwork were undertaken. Considerable research was carried out and it was decided to restore the board as close as possible to its appearance in 1937. Photographs show that at that time the board was painted in cream, chocolate and caramel, yet it still retained its decorative late Victorian embellishments around the clock and at the top of each end. Timetables and platform listings for 1937 were borrowed from the State Rail Authority Archives, and train departures for a Sunday in 1937 were drawn up.

It should be noted that the board represents an entire day from mid-morning to late evening in order to show the optimum number of panels and stations, rather that as it would have exactly appeared at any particular time.

Because the board has evolved over time and changed considerably in response to electrification, extension and closure of lines and stations, a large number of station name slats had to be added or removed. Colour samples were taken and analysed from all over the board, and it was repainted in the appropriate colours. The decorative metal work was reproduced from enlarged photographs and plans and replaced next to the clock and on the board ends. Since 1988 the indicator board has been displayed in the Transport exhibition of the Museum.


Credit Line

Gift of State Rail Authority of New South Wales, 1982

Acquisition Date

5 July 1982

Cite this Object


Sydney's Central Station indicator board 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 May 2022, <>


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