“You were just a cog in the wheel there. You just had to make your own way. I never had anybody really who took you under their wing. Because they were like everybody else, they were part of a big cog in a big wheel and they had their work to do.” Bob Matthews, former Eveleigh worker

Loyalist Eveleigh apprentices during the 197 Great Strike

Traditionally, there were four main pathways to gain qualifications to work in NSW Railways: a graduate degree; a technical college diploma; as clerical staff; and as a trade-level apprentice. An apprenticeship with NSW Railways generally took five years and was the starting point for many workers, with young men often starting their apprenticeships at Eveleigh before they finished school. 

Railway apprentices received both practical and technical training, initially learning basic skills such as tool identification through classes at the NSW Railway Institute, as well as practical training in the railway workshops, attendance at technical colleges and undertaking trade certificate exams. Classes were conducted during work hours and apprenticeships were paid. Apprentices were often moved between several NSW railway workshops during their apprenticeship.

“I used to get in trouble by the foreman because I used to be down [at] the Tech in fifth year… and I’d be late back to start my work. He didn’t seem to realised that I’d been down at Tech… you were still flat out to get your work done, that’s the trouble.  Whereas the others, during the day, they’d be working eight hours and we’d be trying to do the same amount of work in six and a half” Keith Johnson, former Eveleigh worker

Eveleigh apprentices were apprenticed to a specific trade (e.g., boilermaker, blacksmith, machinist, fitter, mechanic etc) and assigned to a particular tradesman within that trade. As well as training in specialised trades, an NSW Railways apprentice also received comprehensive general training across a wide range of industrial activities, skills and tasks. This training provided graduate railway apprentices with skills and knowledge that put them in good stead for a career in industrial fields outside the railways as well as within.


Otto Cserhalmi + Partners. (2002). Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops: Conservation Management Plan- Volume 1. Prepared for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA)