The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 8 (December 1, 1929)
Wellington's New Railway Station — Layout and Architectural Features
In the following article, Mr. W. R. Davidson gives some interesting particulars of the layout and architectural features of Wellington's new railway station. A point of special interest to Wellington citizens is that both engineers and the architect responsible for the work are representatives of old Wellington families. The new station will, therefore, be the work of her own sons. All three have toured the world in recent years, so that their local knowledge is supplemented by a personal study of what has been done in other lands.
When Nature with a mighty seismic impulse formed a site for Wellington she left much for its future inhabitants to do, and for well nigh a century they have been doing it with a dogged determination.
She lured the first settlers into a magnificent harbour, but gave them only a meagre foothold between the hills and the sea. Three generations have now been consolidating and expanding that foothold. They have forced the ocean back foot by foot until several hundred acres have been reclaimed, and what was once sea and sandy beach is now great city blocks and streets teeming with traffic.
Nature, too, had ringed them in with a solid rampart of hills that had to be surmounted before the rich lands beyond could be reached. Thus to the westward one line of railway climbs by a steep sinuous track up a grade of 1 in 40 through a series of seven tunnels. To the eastward the other railway, after winding tortuously for six miles along the narrow shore of the harbour, and traversing a rich, populous river valley, climbs the Rimutaka Range and descends into the wide and fertile Wairarapa Plains by a centre-rail track on a grade of 1 in 15.
Up to 1908 the West Coast railway, to Longburn (83 miles) was owned and operated by the Wellington-Manawatu Railway Company, the East Coast line to Napier being part of the Government system.
With the opening of the Main Trunk railway to Auckland (426 miles) in 1908, the Government took over the Manawatu line. With the unification of ownership in 1908 the separate passenger terminals at Thorndon and Lambton, three-quarters of a mile apart, were retained, and though schemes were immediately formulated for combining the two terminals they still remain separate entities in this year, 1929.
The Thorndon Reclamation.
Much planning has been done in the intervening years, and but for the Great War, Wellington might now have had a central railway station in keeping with the growth and business of the city. Still, the wheels of progress have not been altogether idle, and Father Neptune has been robbed of another 70 acres of his domain and held at bay with a sea-wall nearly a mile in length and costing a quarter of a million sterling.
The natural barriers already mentioned rendered such reclamation necessary for the provision of an adequate railway terminal in Wellington, a terminal that would efficiently serve both East and West Coast railways, and, most important of all, would handle expeditiously the heavy overseas and inter-island freight passing over Wellington's wharves.
Wellington has long been distinguished by a fine outer portal in its splendidly equipped wharves and waterfront stores, berths for the largest ships at any state of the tide, and lifting and transporting gear equal to anything in the world. In strong contrast the inner portal of the city has been shabby and inadequate to the last degree. It has been a poor introduction to the rich lands and scenic wonders that lie beyond it.
Now the plans for a large up-to-date railway terminal at Wellington are practically complete, and Cabinet has given authority for the work to proceed forthwith.
The New Station Plans.
The plans are the outcome of a long and patient study of the railway transport conditions obtaining in Wellington. Past statistics have been searched and tabulated with a view to forecasting future requirements, but even then the seer is needed as much as the statistician. Transportation is so much in a state of flux that the imagination must be brought into play in making provision on broad lines for future possibilities that are outside the range of present figures.
It is well, at this point, to remember that the railway terminal in Wellington has a function quite apart from service to the city. It handles great quantities of produce and merchandise direct between the country districts of the North Island and overseas, and inter-island shipping, necessitating the very closest contact with the wharves.
Planning for this has been comparatively easy. In the development of its other function, service to the local community, the weaving of the railway transportation system into the city transportation system, and thereby into the life of the city has been a much more difficult problem.
It would do much to disarm hasty criticism if it could be known how many channels were patiently explored, how many interests studied, how many opinions obtained, how many parallels sought before final decisions were arrived at, and what were the limitations imposed upon the designer by the awkward boundaries of the site.
The passenger station itself must necessarily be the chief point of interest for the man in the street, for here he makes personal contact with organised transportation, and in just so far as his comfort and convenience are met does he approve.
The main intention of this article is a brief description of the passenger terminal as finally planned.
The New Passenger Terminal.
The site of the station building was the first consideration. The position was influenced by the necessity for keeping all passenger platforms and the trackwork serving them, to the south of Davis Street. This brought the building into the position shown on the plan. Fortunately this position fitted in with some other important considerations. There was room here, between Featherston Street and Waterloo Quay, to develop an adequate layout fronting towards Bunny Street and at such distance from that street as to provide a broad plaza for the circulation of city traffic making contact with the station—trams, buses, motors and pedestrians.
The station building will present a perfectly symmetrical front to this plaza, with a central doorway giving entrance to the main booking hall.
Planned On Approved Modern Lines.
Railway Station Wellington
Plan Of Ground Floor & Platforms
Ground floor plan of the new station building shewing the arrangement of the platforms and station facilities.
The central feature of the station layout is the large concourse which provides an internal circulating area, and which has direct access to Featherston Street. A subsidiary concourse also with access to this street will deal with the suburban passengers, so that they will not hamper the movements of long distance travellers within the station.
The arrival platforms will be served by a wide carriage road from Waterloo Quay. Passengers will be able to step direct from train to motor car, and so reach the city with the briefest delay possible.
A large mailroom with rail access is provided for dealing with bulk mails.
A study of the plans will show that the station offers to the traveller all the amenities of a first-class hotel, except sleeping accommodation. Several beds will be provided in conjunction with the women's rest room for those overcome by the stress of travelling, particularly those coming off the South Island ferry after a rough night and wishing to proceed by train.
The new station block will make close contact with the inter-island ferry wharf, and it is expected that, in the future, when inter-island and inter-colonial traffic further develop, additional facilities in this direction will be provided.
The site of the station having been definitely settled, it now remains to finalise the arrangement of street and traffic approaches; in other words, the welding of railway transportation to city transportation. This has been fraught with page 30 many difficulties, but a solution appears to offer itself in the tentative layout shown on the plan. This provides for a general circulation of traffic in the wide plaza in front of the station, the main feature being a double-balloon loop for the reversal of tram movements. Within the tramway loop a bus depot is suggested. A clear thoroughfare for through traffic is provided. Pedestrian movements between trams and station will be made without interference from vehicles of any kind. It is also proposed to eliminate trams from Featherston Street. These are matters for the civic authorities to decide.
It is unfortunate that Featherston Street, one of the principle arterial roadways should pass the station, but this is offset by the fact that Lambton Quay will carry a very large proportion of the northern road traffic entirely clear of the station.
The building will rise to a height of five storeys, in order to accommodate all railway staffs in Wellington, including the chief executive offices, the result being a very impressive structure. Its site is not without æEsthetic features. The main facade of the building, with its pillared entrance, will show to great advantage across the wide plaza, particularly to those approaching from the wharves and from Stout Street. From the plaza itself will be obtained a view of the Government Buildings, destined in the future to be a monumental structure. Up the wide vista of Bunny Street will be seen the Houses of Parliament, with trees, green lawns and gay flower beds surrounding them.
If in the future it be decided to remove the Government Printing Office and remodel the Hotel Cecil block then the stage is set for a splendid entrance to the capital city. The Featherston Street facade of the railway station will certainly be an outstanding part of that setting.
The Men Who Planned the Work.
A brief mention of the men most directly concerned in the technical development of the scheme may not be out of place. The name most closely associated with the investigation and planning of Wellington's railway requirements is that of Mr. F. C. Widdop, M.Inst.C.E., Chief Engineer, New Zealand Railways. His investigations have extended over the past twenty years. It has, however, been the duty of the writer to handle the planning of details in their later stages. Transportation conditions have changed greatly in recent years, and some of the old ideas have had to be recast. The final consolidation and harmonising of the functions of a railway station bring out numerous difficulties, and many new possibilities have had to be explored before reaching an ultimate decision.
The station building itself must necessarily lie outside the scope of the engineer. He may map out its ground plan in relation to his platforms and sidings, but to translate that ground plan into a worthy structure requires the architect.
It was wisely decided by the Government that the best architectural ability in Wellington should be made available to the engineers, and so for the past two years Mr. W. Gray Young, F.R.I.B.A., has been in close collaboration with them. He is directly responsible for the plans now presented to the public and will handle the job to completion.page 31
A Racing Holiday in New Zealand
The Iron Horse helps the public to enjoy the Sport of Kings
Busy scenes outside Lambton Station, Wellington.
A race train arrives at Trentham.
“They're off!” The start of the Harcourt Cup.
“Pink Coat” winning the Harcourt Cup, with “Seatown” second.
Her Excellency Lady Alice Fergusson presents the Harcourt Cup to Mr. Morrison.
Iron steeds waiting in the Railway Yard at Trentham to haul the race trains back to Wellington.