Relic dug up in rail work

A heritage specialisthasbeen enlisted to look at more relics unearthed on Newcastle’s old heavy rail corridor.
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Discovery: National Trust Hunter Region chair Keith Parsons at the Steel Street site, where more brickwork has been uncovered. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Several experts The Herald spoke to this week believed the brickwork uncovered near Steel Streetwas part of the former Honeysuckle railway station –which was built in 1872. Part of the platform was uncovered only a few metres down the rail corridor last July.

Transport for NSW announced on Wednesday that it planned to connect Steel Street, between Hunter Street and Honeysuckle Drive, next year.

The newly exposed brickwork is in the path of the road, on the proposed light rail corridor.

Hunter archaeologist Paul Rheinberger said the remnants were likely to be part of the old station, which was “unique” in NSW.

“It was a split station –the platforms were not opposite one another,” he said.

“The southern platform extended west of the beautiful wrought and cast iron foot bridge, the northern platform extended from at least the same place.

Unique: Honeysuckle station, built in 1872, was one of the oldest in the Hunter. Picture: The University of Newcastle

“I would say there was never a set of platforms, elsewhere in NSWat least, that was set up that way.”

Mr Rheinberger said the find should, at the very least, be archaeologically recorded –photographed, planned, drawn andput in a spacial position.

He said it would be suitable to re-bury the relics if they were properly documented.

“I don’t think they’re going to get away with not recognising its significance,” he said. “They are essentially just footings, so what certainly needs to be done is that they be archaeologicallyrecorded.”

The National Trust’s Hunter Region chairKeith Parsons said the remnants should not be moved.

At work: Honeysuckle Railway Station, pictured in 1908. Picture: The University of Newcastle

“I think our preference would be to try to keep them where they are,” he said.

“Even if it’s going tohave a road going over them, at least bury them so they can be perhaps, at some future time, interpreted.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson saidNewcastle light rail manager Downer EDI had engaged a heritage specialist to assess the brickwork and determine its significance.

“Proper processes are in place to formally record all finds and manage them as work continues,” the spokesperson said.

“Given Newcastle’s rich history, it is not unexpected to uncover items like these during construction.

“Heritage finds are either re-buried where they were found, placed on display for the public to enjoy, or, where appropriate, respectfully re-purposed.

“In the case of sandstone blocks unearthed from the former Honeysuckle Station, work is ongoing to look to integrate them into an urban design element for light rail.”

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