Updated: Mar 30, 2021
During infamous Covid-19 year 2020 and into 2021 a group of us decided to establish Synergy Pty Ltd focusing on Art, Science and Engineering. Based in Newcastle, Australia, a positive location for a wide-ranging visual and plastic arts company, the ‘reach’ of the company is nonetheless intentionally global.
Close by, our mission is to reflect upon, encourage cultural and scientific arts enterprise in, and communicate aspects of the city, its intellectual topography, its geographical location, its ancient context. All of us at Synergy Pty Ltd have benefited from Newcastle owing to its historic character and its determined contribution to the social and economic development of contemporary Australia.
Internationally, our mission is to communicate directly from the ‘Creatives’ of the Hunter region to interested ‘Creatives’, admirers and collectors globally.
Newcastle’s coastal region was first examined in 1797, 9 years after British settlement in Sydney, the permanent town subsequently established in 1804. Brisbane was founded in 1824, Perth 1829, Melbourne 1835, Adelaide 1836; Newcastle’s ‘seniority’ is beyond question.
Initially a regional ‘convict centre’ like Norfolk Island, from the first day of recognition Newcastle enjoyed industrial with industrious purposes.
Coal to supply Sydney with energy and fire-side warmth was the initial motivation for sending military and convicts to the newly named Newcastle town. In later years agriculture, grazing industries, new regional Hunter Valley towns sprang up. By 1915 Newcastle was the premier steel-making city of Australia, BHP having built along parts of the Hunter River near the coal-fields and admirably suitable harbour. Commerce flourished in and through what other commentators have called this ‘hardscrabble’ city. (1999)
Consequently the first railway in Australia was made south to north from Merewether to the foreshore of the harbour. It was part of the ‘AA Company’ development of vast holdings of Australian land. Constructed of wood the entire purpose of this rail line was to transport coal to coastal shipping. A more formal state-endorsed ‘classic’ line from Newcastle Station subsequently developed tracking west into the Hunter Valley and south to Sydney. Expansion was rapid.
In keeping with 19th century development elsewhere, in particular in the United Kingdom from the first commercial rail services in the 1820s, rail was crucial to both Australian passenger and commercial transport. Central Station Sydney was built to 1855, Newcastle Station to 1858 with enhancements following to the end of the century. In the very heart of the CBD, only some metres from the harbour and its enhanced entrance known as ‘Nobby’s Lighthouse’, the Newcastle line had to be very close to wharves and shipping services. Early photographs identify the cluttered intensity of industry and trade resulting. All this was happening just 57 years after the first purposeful foraging Sydney expedition landed near the current site of Fort Scratchley.
Notably, still in 2021 the rail, station and wharves united exemplify historic youthful energy, maturing engineering, the sheer industrious character of place and people developing a ‘new world’. Nowadays old wharves, power stations and rail yards have been replaced, their contribution relocated. However commemoration of convict arduous presence remains. New foreshore development with recent expanded residential amenity have beautified the working harbour. Residential life, individual industry, shipping and recreation co-exist in a single topographic plane. City and harbour glow.
Improved over the next half-century, The Station became a famous emblem of the connected life of the city. Linked as it was to suburbs by tramways then buses, situated a stone’s throw from the harbour, within sight of Nobby’s Lighthouse and Fort Scratchley, Newcastle Station became admired, even affectionately revered for its purpose, its architecture, its support of Newcastle life, and also for its ‘steam age’ reputation.
Not by accident are the main CBD streets near The Station named Watt, Bo(u)lton, Newcomen, Steel and Brown.
Especially, in 1943 the first‘38’class steam locomotive was built by Clyde Industries, Sydney. With 3801 came the first fast-speed Newcastle Flyer service from The Station to Sydney, providing comfortable ‘commutes’ between cities. Over so many years for millions of people, to arrive at The Station to catch ‘The Flyer’ was one of Newcastle life’s elegant experiences.
The final ‘Flyer’ left Newcastle Station on 29 December 1970.
Subsequently diesel and electric services continued, until The Station was closed in 2012. Refurbishment followed until 2018.
In 2020, CStudios in Newcastle West decided to re-locate. Like enterprises across the world the Covid-19 pandemic caused deep financial and operational concern to CStudios, but the gallery continued to operate and exhibit through the time. Active support of the many artists associated with the gallery continued to be a prime aim.
Towards the end of 2020 it became possible to decide that the emerging artists element of the gallery and also its ‘arts training’ Workshops would move to The Station at 110 Scott Street. This new venue provides spacious Workshop and special exhibition areas assisted by the amenity of an historic, internationally iconic context. Classic railway stations world-wide in past decades have become deeply interesting to historians, as to railway enthusiasts globally. The art of the railway has become focused; though historic it is still relevant to the future. There is a unity of sentiment, nostalgia and continued utility underpinning the attraction.
Settling in to prepare for the first Workshops in February 2021, the Directors of Synergy Pty Ltd could not ignore the ‘splendid ghosts’ of The Station. Generations of Novacastrians were delighted to board The Flyer, preferably First Class if possible, to the tuneful pumping of the 38 Class steam pistons of power. Some must have had occasional thoughts about superlative enabling engineering during the industrial revolution centuries.
Not only inter-city trains worked from The Station. Local trains started there, and the ‘presence’ of commuters leaving to go to various Hunter Valley towns at the end of the day’s work in the CBD, pervades. Despite all the works completed in the current ‘renewal’ of Newcastle East, the building of sleek light rail, visual attractiveness of the Foreshore, enchanting proximity of shipping, ferries and golden beaches, the refurbished Station remains, welcomes. The Station has been a ‘destination’ for millions, in peace and wartime, for work and for recreation. So pleasantly it remains.
In 2021 CStudios, Workshops and emerging artists’ gallery occupy a large portion of the ground floor of Newcastle Station, looking out on the extensive work and landscaping planned from 2012 onwards. Above all however The Station architecture is its own art work – as even public architecture even today can be – generous, decorated, redolent of an era when trains, particularly steam, powered every economy, much travel, surprising adventure, artistic inspiration and even the ‘romance’ of ‘the tracks’.
We are excited to have brought the Workshops and Gallery to The Station, to encourage actively art, with science, with engineering in as yet undiscovered synergy each with the other. A better ‘heritage’ presence, in the Station within the City within the industrious Hunter Valley could not occur.
Our intention is to inspire through that ‘presence’.