The struggle for a station at North Strathfield was very much a people’s struggle. In the early 1900s there had been a general acknowledgment of the need for a station between Strathfield and Concord West by the NSW Railway Commissioners, but an alleged shortage of money – the cost was reckoned to be about £4000 – kept the proposal in limbo for nearly ten years. A considerable volume of correspondence flowed between Concord Council and the Commissioner on the matter, until there was a promise in 1911 that a station would be built. In fact, as early as 1908 a local Raine & Horne real estate map designated an area on the west side of Queen Street as the ‘site for future railway platform’. Subsequent real estate maps of 1912 and 1913 refer to the proposed station at North Strathfield, the earlier one going so far as to name it Waratah Station. With such a prospect in mind there was a marked increase in building along Queen Street and Wellbank Street (or Alva Street, as the western end of Wellbank was known then). This, of course, had a flow-on effect to the population density of the area, and an increase in the number of people having to walk to Concord West or Homebush Station, until the proposed station was built.
By 1915 the station had still not been started. This led to an ordinary citizen of Concord, Mr. H. J. Jaffray, calling an action meeting at his home to put greater pressure on the authorities. Twelve people attended the initial meeting on 22 September 1915 . As convenor, Mr. Jaffray made a brief statement on the object of the meeting, which was to take immediate action and form a citizens’ committee, consisting of residents and other parties, with a view to the earliest possible construction of a station. The committee was to be called the Concord New Station Committee, consisting of all those present, with the power to co-opt further members as it saw fit. Jaffray was elected chairman, Mr. J. Lynch, treasurer, and Mr. A. B. Travers, secretary (replaced by Mr. S. V. Larkin, 6 October 1915). Meetings were to be held once a week for ten weeks, and subsequently once a month, at Jaffray’s house (‘Ronston’) in Nelson Street on account of lack of funds to hire an alternative meeting place.
An early spectacular demonstration of the earnestness of the campaign was a torchlight procession at 7.45 pm, Monday 29 November 1915. Headed by bands, including the Burwood Kilties Band and the Mortlake Brass Band, the procession marched from Strathfield Station to Waratah Street, where a well-attended public meeting in favour of the proposed station was held. Alderman Charles Savage, the mayor of Concord, presided and addresses were delivered by Mr. G. A. Richards, M.L.A. (who died a few days later), and other prominent local residents.
The publicity succeeded in obtaining the use of the Concord Picture Palace on Parramatta Road for a follow-up meeting open to members and the general public. This meeting was presided over by Mr. Jaffray. Among the items discussed was the support given to the project by a Mr. J. K. Greig ‘as a very warm friend and adviser’ (at the meeting of 16 November Mr. Greig donated ten guineas to cover expenses related to the demonstration of 29 November). It was decided that the names of owners of vacant lots in the vicinity of the proposed station be obtained from Concord Council for the purpose of increasing the number of signatures to yet another petition. Signatures were also to be sought from employees in local industries, such as Arnotts, Westinghouse Brake and Signal Co., and James Martin and Co. The final petition was used to show that more than one thousand adults would use the station on a regular basis.
Following this a deputation, consisting of the mayor and aldermen of Concord and residents of the district, was introduced to the Chief Commissioner for Railways (Mr. Harper) by Mr. G. A. Richards M.L.A. in order to push the claim for the long-promised railway station at North Strathfield. Before any representations could be made, however, the Chief Commissioner anticipated the request and stated that construction would commence before the end of the current financial year (30 June 1916). In the course of these proceedings a few small doubts were raised about the constitutionality of the Committee. Alderman Cumming, for example, pointed out that the Committee was not working according to a royal charter or an act of Parliament but, like the deputies of the third estate taking the Tennis Court Oath of 1789, was a self-constituted body. Moreover, rather than being elected by a majority of the residents, the Committee was composed, for the most part, of the very residents themselves. Not all residents, of course, had joined but membership remained opened to any person who wished to support the cause.
Work began in 1916 and progressed with very few interruptions throughout 1917. The principal one was the delay caused by the need to remove a 30-inch water main, over which there seems to have been a certain lack of communication between the Railways Commission and the Water and Sewerage Board.
Towards the middle of 1918 there remained the problem of choosing a permanent name for the new station and the form of celebration to take place on its completion. As to the choice of names – Concord, Strathfield North, North Strathfield, and Wellbank – North Strathfield was preferred on the grounds that it described most accurately the locality. The main objection to this name came from both the Railway Commissioner and Strathfield Council because of the possibility of confusion with the main station (Evening News, 11.9.1916). What seems more strange is that the more colourful ‘Waratah Station’ proposal of 1912 seems to have been abandoned altogether.
The Ladies Committee, which had for some time been involved in raising money for the cause, decided to hold a bazaar whose profits would go to the Concord Soldiers Aid Association. The site of the bazaar was to be the vacant land at the corner of Queen and Waratah Streets, where the first demonstration in 1915 had been held. The Commissioner was consulted on the probable date of completion of works, Mr. Bridekirke, the headmaster of Yaralla Public School (now Strathfield North Public School) gave permission for meetings to be held on the school premises, and the Repatriation Department gave permission to hold the bazaar for the Soldiers Aid provided that there were no raffles, ‘chocolate wheels’ or other gambling devices.
At last the station was opened 15 June 1918. Mr. R. B. Orchard, MP, was invited to open the bazaar, but declined. The Committee’s second nomination was Miss Eadith Walker, who consented and not only made a donation of £25 but also ‘spent money generously’ at the Bazaar (Burwood Courier, 22 June 1918). The 33rd and final meeting of the now renamed North Strathfield New Station Committee was held at Yaralla Public School 18 July 1918, its job well done, in order to wind up its affairs. Sadly the minutes of this final meeting did not make it to the minute book.
The above account is based primarily on notes prepared by Ron Ferguson for the former Concord Historical Society. Our thanks are extended to Ron for this contribution to the history of Concord. The Concord Heritage Society also possesses the Minute Books of the New Station Committee, together with a number of press clippings, financial accounts relating to its operation, and a souvenir postcard commemorating the opening of the station 15 June 1918.
Article prepared by John Walmsley, (former) Chair Archives and Local History Committee.