Sydney’s Eveleigh railway workshops operated for just over a century between the 1880s and the late 1980s when their railway operations were terminated. Since then Eveleigh has been recognised as one of Australia’s important sites of industrial heritage. This paper examines the political, legal and administrative conditions that have shaped Eveleigh’s adaptive re-use and heritage management. In doing so it highlights the processes by which industrial heritage is reduced to a narrow association with factory buildings, mechanical relics and technological history. At Eveleigh, I argue, this process is evident in the adoption of conservation strategies for its ‘tangible’ heritage and the failure to formulate and implement a comprehensive interpretation strategy, which could enhance popular understandings of the context in which Eveleigh’s material culture was created and used, and also of its rich history of working life.