Charles N. J. OliverPrint Page Print this page

The plaque commemorates Charles Oliver (1848-1920), the first Australian-born Railway Commissioner who was dismissed in 1906 following a Royal Commission into railway administration that reported adversely on him.

The plaque was unveiled at the station's centenary celebrations in 2006 by Vince Graham, the then Chief Executive Officer of RailCorp, who felt Oliver had been unfairly treated.

When Sir Henry Parkes handed over day to day control of the colony's railways to a commission of three in 1888, it was considered that a proven senior civil servant was needed. A somewhat reluctant Oliver was appointed third commissioner under Chief Commissioner E.M.G. Eddy and W.M.Fehon. A heavy programme of upgrading facilities and rolling stock was undertaken and the expansion of the system continued. Oliver's administrative abilities and wide experience of the colony contributed to the commissioners' achievements, made in the face of considerable hostility and obstruction, much of it directed against Eddy. It was Oliver who persuaded him not to resign in January 1895.

Upon Eddy's death in 1897 Oliver, with the concurrence of Fehon, became chief commissioner and David Kirkcaldie was appointed third commissioner. In April-December 1900 Oliver visited North America and Europe to negotiate the supply of electrical appliances and attended the International Railway Congress. In Sydney, meeting the same animosity as Eddy, he allowed himself to become isolated and 'impatient of opposition'. The picture of the chief commissioner eating his sandwiches at his desk, as he had done throughout his career, while his two colleagues lunched at their club, is illuminating, while his desire to have the same informal power as Eddy aggravated matters.

The growing difficulties resulted in the 1906 royal commission on railway administration. E.W. Knox, in his minority report before resigning, vindicated Oliver's opposition to the Western Collieries' Association contracts, and described as 'fatal to all rule, to all authority' the provision in the Railways Act that allowed two commissioners to set aside the opinion of the chief commissioner. However the other royal commissioners made Oliver the scapegoat for 'the inharmonious relations' between the railway commissioners. Next April the three-man commission was abolished and Oliver's long public service ended: both his 'opponents' Fehon and Kirkcaldie expressed disapproval of his going, and its manner.


Address:Eddy Avenue, Central Station, Haymarket, 2000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.882222
Long: 151.206667
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Government - State


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 4th August, 2006
Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au