Heritage Railway Stations & Associated Buildings

New Zealand’s Heritage of 1,400 Railway Stations:

from Simple Timber and Corrugated Iron to those of Considerable Architectural Merit

Nearly 1400 railway stations have existed on the New Zealand rail network. Most were simple buildings, constructed mainly from timber and corrugated iron. Modernisation and the drive to achieve greater efficiency in the operating system resulted in the widespread removal of these relatively plain and utilitarian structures.

Consequently, there are now only isolated survivors of particular building types that once could have been counted in the hundreds. This rationalisation has added greatly to the significance of the handful of survivors as representatives of once-common building types that have now all but disappeared.

Standard designs were the basis of railway station construction in the period 1872-1945. Most station buildings had a simple rectangular form, with either a pitched or gable roof, and had little architectural decoration. The size chosen for a particular station depended on the size of the community and on railway operating requirements, and occasionally on political influences.

New Zealand has a small number of individually-designed main centre railway stations built in permanent materials that are widely acknowledged as being of considerable architectural merit in their own right. This applies in particular to Dunedin Station, built between 1904 and 1907 in Flemish Renaissance style – a building that helped earn the nickname “Gingerbread George” and eventually a knighthood for its architect, George Troup.

Vogel Period (1872-1903) : Establishing a National Railway System

Julius Vogel, New Zealand’s Colonial Treasurer, was the driving force behind early railway expansion, using funds borrowed overseas to establish a national railway system. A few modest standardised designs, the source of which is unknown, were adopted for buildings, and low-cost materials were used. Many of these buildings were subsequently modified to cope with increased business, additions commonly being made to provide extra office space, fireplaces and verandahs. Other common alterations were the enclosing of open lobbies and alterations to ladies’ toilets.

Troup Period (1904-1944) : Railways’ Chief Draughtsman “Gingerbread” George Troup

By the turn of the twentieth century New Zealand was recovering from economic depression and railway passenger and freight traffic increased greatly, resulting in a major capital works and upgrading programme being undertaken. The transition to the Troup period was marked by the production of a plan book of revised standard station types in 1903-1904. Standard plans continued to be used in order to lower costs, and some new stations replaced earlier ones that were now inadequate.

Finest and Notable Building Survivors

Buildings in the Register are classified A for the finest survivor in each grouping, B for other notable survivors.

1872-1903: Vogel and after

Class 1
Top-rank stations, not built to a standard design.
No examples survive

Class 2
Larger gable-roofed stations with little architectural embellishment, common features being the use of similar joinery components.
Category A: Greymouth (1897)
Category B: Carterton (1879), Little River (1886), Middlemarch (1891),Reefton (2/3, 1892), Seddon (2/3, 1902).

Class 3
Similar to class 2, but smaller.
Category B: Onehunga (1873)

Class 4
The largest of the lean-to designs, 14 ft (4.27 m) wide by 40 ft (12.19 m) long, with a slightly recessed central open lobby, and (looking from the front (track) elevation) an office to the left and a ladies’ waiting room to the right. The interior walls were clad with horizontal matched lining. Outside, they were capped all round with substantial fascia and barge boards. All Railways examples were built before 1890.
The only survivors have been modified so extensively they are now identified as a separate category (see below).

Modified Class 4
Essentially similar modifications as at Class 5 Ormondville (see below) were made to class 4 stations.
Category A: Waverley (1881);
Category B: Inglewood (1876), Shannon (1893 – Mahoney P says 1886 – Station Archive entry for 28/2/1895 says “Passenger station and stationmaster’s house erected at Shannon. Stationmaster now in charge”).

Class 5
The smallest standard design for a staffed station, 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m) wide by 34 ft 6 in (10.52 m) long, and very similar in layout to class 4. The central lobby was not recessed and, as an economy measure, the rear wall was not lined. Many have been extensively modified and are now identified as a separate category (see below). The sole survivor in reasonably original condition is at Wedderburn.
Category B: Wedderburn (1900). Inangahua (1914)

Modified Class 5
Ormondville illustrates the way in which increased business necessitated alterations and enlargements, including extra office space, fireplaces and verandahs. The central lobby was enclosed and the ladies’ toilet altered to a more discreet design.
Category A: Ormondville (c1883).

Class 6
Larger gable-roofed stations with little architectural embellishment, common features being the use of similar joinery components.
Category A: Greymouth (1897);
Category B: Carterton (1879), Little River (1886), Middlemarch (1891) [Mahoney J says cl.3, Mahoney P says Gable], Reefton (2/3, 1892), Seddon (2/3, 1902).

Class 7
A scaled-down version of class 6, with the same features. The only known unmodified survivor on site is Ruru.
Category A: Ruru (by 1920);
Category B: Otikerama (1877), Matamau (Tablet/Class 7, 1884).
The introduction of train control led to the modification of some class 6 and 7 shelter sheds to tablet stations. A new shed was added as an office, and a stove was fitted for heating. Where passenger traffic justified it, a ladies’ room was added. Less common additions were a parcels room and toilets. The additions formed a continuous unit up to four rooms long, and were generally in a style compatible with the original.
Category A: Pukerangi (1891);
Category B: Matamau (Tablet/Class 7, 1884).

1904-1944: Troup

Class A
An upgrading and enlargement of the old lean-to class 5 station, 13 ft (3.5 m) wide and 34 ft (10.4 m) to 69 ft (21.0 m) long. The simplest floor plan provided a lobby and ladies’ waiting room and toilet, while more elaborate versions added an office and luggage room. Larger versions had one fireplace, in the office on the back (road) elevation. These stations gained a substantial appearance from the heavy facing board on the fascia and eaves. The only decoration was a flared wooden bracket at each end of the front soffit. The lobby entrance had a double door, with a window above and narrow windows either side.
Category A: Moana (1926);
Category B: Rotowaro (1918), Hundalee (1939).

Classes B and C
The new standard designs for gable-roof stations, these were almost identical in style and layout but varied in width, class B being 17 ft (5.2 m) wide and 44 ft-103 ft (13.4 m- 31.4 m) long, class C 20 ft (6.10 m) wide and 44 ft-108 ft (13.4 m – 32.9 m) long. The basic floor plan had a lobby, ladies’ waiting room and ladies’ toilet, and larger stations could include a ticket office and lobby, parcels room, lamp room, stationmaster’s office, porters’ room, and postal room and lobby. Most rooms had fireplaces on the centre-line of the building. On the rear (road) elevation there were windows but no door. Variations on the standard design were common, though similar joinery components were always used.
Category A: Te Kuiti (Class B, 1908);
Category B: Waihi (Class B, 1905), Otaki (1911 – Mahoney P says 1908), Rangiora (1908/9), Kawakawa (Class B, 1911), Glenhope (Class B, 1912), Pukekohe (modified Class B/Island, 1912), Whangarei (Class C, 1925), Kaikoura (1944).

Notable for their lavish decoration and their impressive street aspect (conventionally the station’s rear), the 16 Vintage stations, built between 1900 and 1908, were the ultimate development of wooden railway station refinement and elegance. Distinctive features of their elevations were Tudor-style half-timbering, lattice windows, eave bracketing, bay windows, porticos, turrets and towers, with entrances from the street elevation. They had generous verandahs, elegantly decorated with cast-iron lattice or wrought-iron hoops, and the roofs were finely finished with Marseilles tiles, crenelated ridging and terracotta finials.
Category A: Blenheim (1906);
Category B: Thames (1898), Oamaru (1900), Gisborne (1902), Kaiapoi (1904), Lower Hutt (1905), Picton (1914), Ashburton (1917), Mataura (1921).

Island Platform
Island-platform stations had track on both sides of the building. They were either suburban stations built as a consequence of track duplication, or junction stations enlarged to accommodate the growth in traffic. Where a lean-to station had been on the site it was usually replaced. Gable-roofed, they had a verandah cantilevered out on each side, and the arrangement of doors and windows on each elevation was usually identical. Many had decorative features like shaped braces supporting the verandahs, Marseilles-tile roofing and elegant chimneys. Access was from an overbridge or a subway. Semaphore signals and tablet control were usually introduced as part of track duplication, so signal boxes were often associated with these stations.
Category A: Remuera (1907);
Category B: Paekakariki (1909), Plimmerton (1940), Pukekohe (modified Class B/Island, 1912), Wingatui (1914).

1945-1978: Post War

Category B
Arthur’s Pass (1966), Springfield (1966), Pahiatua (1971), Invercargill (1978)