John Whitton Acknowledged As Father Of The New South Wales Railways

John Whitton Acknowledged As Father Of The New South Wales Railways

Two Great Railway Men Who Are Still Ahead Of Their Time

Victor P Taffa

The first railway line that operated in New South Wales (NSW) ran from Sydney to Parramatta on 26 September 1855. Services reached Albury on 3 February 1881.

Other lines extended to Broken Hill on 15 July 1919 and Murwillumbah on 24 December 1894. The first electric train to operate in New South Wales ran from Sydney to Oatley on 1 March 1926.

Who was responsible for this development?



John Whitton

Mr. John Whitton arrived in Sydney in December 1856. He was appointed Engineer-in-Chief of the New South Wales Railways and at the time there was only 37 Km of completed railway. Upon retirement in 1890 there was 3,538 Km of completed railway. He is acknowledged as the ‘Father of the NSW Railways’.

Whitton found in New South Wales 23 miles (37 km) of 4 ft 8½ ins (144 cm) gauge railway, 4 locomotives, 12 passenger carriages and 40 trucks. He reorganized accounting and costing and took charge of the rolling stock, line maintenance and workshop departments.

John Whitton Pllaque at Sydney Central Railway Station








He resisted Governor Denison’s proposal to construct 4,000 miles (6,437 km) of light, narrow-gauge tramways to be worked by horses and in the 1860’s was constantly hampered by the government’s uncritical acceptance of the lowest tenders for railway construction.

John Whitton had to resolve a number of issues in order to construct the railways. The Governor Sir William Denison supported horse drawn tramways and Whitton argued that only a railway could work the volume of freight envisaged. Whitton was a strong supporter of a uniform rail gauge, coal fired locomotives and bridges and rails made of iron. Governments were loathe in spending more than the minimum required and over time Whitton won the day to expand the railways and needless to say he went onto win the arguments.

John Whitton was born in 1819 and died on 20 February 1898.


Dr. John Jacob ‘Job’ Bradfield CMG

Australia and New South Wales has a history of drought, bushfires and floods. New regional and rural railway lines can and should have irrigation pipelines placed alongside the lines. In the 1920’s Dr. J. J. Bradfield proposed a series of inland pipelines to irrigate Queensland. The Queensland Government ignored his plans and consequently he came to New South Wales.

Dr. John Bradfield









Dr. J. J. Bradfield Was Responsible For:

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Sydney Central Railway Station
  • City Circle Railway Line
  • Metropolitan Railways
  • Goods Railways
  • Designed Northern Beaches Railway Line yet to be built,
  • Designed South Eastern Suburbs Railway Line yet to be built,
  • Designed Inner City Circle line South East-Western Suburbs via City yet to be built.

John Whitton Bridge on Northern Line across Parramatta River with Piers for 4 Tracks and Spans for 2 Tracks











If Dr. J.J Bradfield and John Whitton could see the benefits of railway over horse drawn tramways and metro rail why can’t we ‘see the wood for the trees’ in a modern twenty-first century?

John Bradfield was born on 26 December 1867 in Brisbane and died on 23 September 1943 in Sydney.