The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 8 (February 1, 1931)
Auckland's New Station — A Modern and Stately Railway Terminal
The official opening, on 24th November, of Auckland's new railway station by the Hon. W. A. Veitch, Minister of Railways, marked the culmination of the scheme to provide Auckland with modern terminal facilities in keeping with its importance as the chief northern headquarters of the Dominion's railways. The station (built mostly of New Zealand materials) embodies the very latest features in design and equipment, and is a most imposing edifice, destined to serve the growing needs of Auckland for many years to come. The interesting history of this great station project is told in the following article.
The Originating Minds of the Station Scheme.
Mr. H. H. Sterling, General Manager of the New Zealand Railways, in his association with the later stages of the new Auckland station project, has been fully seized of the present-day necessity for the best terminal facilities at our larger centres, not only to facilitate the rapid and economical transport of goods, but to meet the public demand for comfort and convenience as afforded by fully equipped modern station buildings.
While many minds have been at work on the problems in the past it has fallen to the lot of the present engineers to revise, consolidate and complete the scheme on the lines of modern practice. Special reference should, however, be made to the late Mr. D. T. McIntosh who, in his capacity as District Engineer at Auckland, carried out the preliminary investigations in connection with the scheme. For the last six years the work has been under the control of Mr. F. C. Widdop, M.Inst.C.E., as Chief Engineer. Associated with him in the matter of designing the sheds, bridges and trackwork has been the Designing Engineer, Mr. A. S. Wansbrough, M.Inst. C.E. Mr. J. K. Lowe, as District Engineer, Auckland, exercised general supervision over the construction operations, but their immediate oversight was delegated to a New Works Engineer. There have been several occupants of this position from the time the work started, but to Mr. J. Dow, Assoc. M.Inst. C.E., has fallen the heavy task of carrying out the new construction and merging it into the old yard, and also changing over to the new arrangements without serious interruption to traffic operations.
A large staff of workmen has been employed, and the efficient work done by them, under very exacting circumstances, is worthy of commendation. The construction of the intricate trackwork in the yard and its approaches—work done with safety and despatch, often under severe traffic conditions—has been in the capable hands of Mr. G. McLeod, Inspector of Permanent Way.
An important feature of the new work has been the installation (for the safety of train operations) of the very latest power signalling and interlocking throughout the yard, and also the erection of powerful floodlights for the benefit of the staff at night. This work has been under the direction of Mr. G. W. Wyles, A.M.Inst. E.E., Signal and Electrical Engineer.
The Westfield Deviation.
The deviation of the Main South line to a low level route 9 ¼ miles in length between Auckland and Westfield has page 26 been closely associated with the work in Auckland yard, and has a very important bearing on the general layout.
While this new loop line is somewhat longer than the old route via Newmarket and Remuera, it has great advantages in the matter of elevation and grades. Whereas the highest point in the new line is only 78ft., and the limiting grade 1 in 132, the highest point in the old line is 265ft., with approaching grades in each direction of 1 in 41. The new low level line comes into full use with the opening of the new station. It not only provides an improved rail outlet from Auckland, but makes contact with some fine residential areas capable of carrying a large suburban population in the future.
Another project also closely associated with the work under review was the construction of a northern outlet under the city, making connection with the North Auckland line at Morningside.
Present traffic conditions, however, do not justify this proposal, which would involve heavy expenditure.
A Modern Station Building.
The remaining item, and one that must make the greatest appeal, not only to the citizens of Auckland, but to the travelling public generally, is the erection of a modern station building.
The traveller takes but little cognisance of that labyrinth of steel tracks which forms the vast and intricate transportation machine known as a railway yard. His interests lean more towards convenience and creature comfort, and these he will find in Auckland's fine new station.
No pains have been spared in providing Auckland with a station building in full keeping with her pride and prestige, both now and in the future when she has achieved her manifest destiny.
The building as it now stands embodies a recognition not only of the status of Auckland as a city, but of the importance of our national railways in the life of the page 27 community. The railway stations at Wellington and Auckland must be regarded as gateways to our country, gateways through which not only our own people pass, but at which visitors from overseas must be received and impressed with our national status, our civic pride and our sense of service.
The outstanding feature of the new Auckland Station building is that it is built of the simplest materials, steel, concrete, brick, timber, granite and marble. These have been so disposed by the art of the architect and the skill of the craftsman that a structure of great beauty and durability is available. Auckland may well have a deep local pride in the building. The architects whose master minds shaped the structure were born and bred within her gates. The builders and artisans are also of her citizens, and have reared an enduring monument to honest service and skilful craftsmanship.
The building materials, too, have been drawn largely from the Auckland Province—granite from Coromandel, marble from Whangarei, bricks from New Lynn, cement from Portland, shingle and broken metal from neighbouring bays and quarries, roofing tiles from Taumarunui, and timber from her forests. The comparatively small proportion of imported materials are of the best British manufacture.
We see but part of the structure as it stands to-day. Hidden beneath the building, the retaining walls and the verandahs, and reaching down through the silt to solid rock, is a vast forest of concrete piles up to 70ft. in length.
Provision has been made in the upper floors of the building for housing in commodious offices, the Divisional and District staffs of the Railway Department.
Collaboration of Engineers and Architects.
The architectural development of the building and its precincts, also the supervision page 28 page 29 vision of its construction, has been in the hands of the well-known firm of architects, Messrs. Gummer and Ford. The basis of their work, however, has been the plans of the railway engineers for a railway station is in reality an intricate machine with very special and varying functions which require experience and expert knowledge of railway operations.
In common with the other important railway works in Auckland, the construction of the new station premises has been under the control of the Chief Engineer, Mr. F. C. Widdop, M.Inst. C.E., who recently made an extensive investigation of railway systems throughout the world.
Associated with the architects in the planning of the new station, and collaborating with them throughout the work of construction and equipment, has been the Assistant Chief Engineer, Mr. W. R. Davidson, M.Inst. C.E., who also has had the advantage of an intimate study of many modern railway stations abroad.
This very necessary collaboration between engineer and architect precluded the submission of the station plans for competition, and led to the direct selection of a firm of architects of proved ability, whose work speaks for them so impressively to-day, and will continue so to speak in the years to come.
Messrs. Gummer and Ford and their staff have every reason to be proud of their work. The station with its precincts, as designed by them, is a wonderful embodiment of simplicity, utility and beauty, and forms a splendid addition to the architecture of Auckland.
Architectural Features of the Building.
The station embraces features which are novelties in this country, but which conform to the most up-to-date practices in other lands. To place the matter in a nutshell, the premises while giving efficient railway service to the traveller, offer him all the amenities and conveniences of a high-class hotel, except sleeping accommodation. We find here shops, dining and luncheon rooms, lounges and rest rooms, bath and dressing rooms, and a barber's saloon, so that patrons may have every bodily need satisfied without leaving the station precincts. In designing these services regard has been had, not only for beauty, but for the most scrupulous cleanliness and sanitary efficiency. These amenities have been provided at considerable cost, in the confident hope that they will be largely self-supporting. To achieve this hope the public must show the interest and give the patronage which these excellent services will deserve.
While dealing kindly with its clients, the Railway Department has shown also a commendable civic spirit. A valuable block of land lying between the station and Beach Road might readily have been put to very remunerative commercial purposes. Instead, it has been left as a forecourt to be beautified with gardens, lawns and ornamental masonry, and maintained as a public park at the cost of the Department.
Criticism may be levelled against the location of the station and the relative positions of building and platforms, but these have been enforced by circumstances which have had the fullest investigation.
The station has been closely linked with the tramway system of Auckland (by means of a loop line to the main entrance) and, by broad carriageways, taxis and other vehicles have ready access to the various parts of the building and to the arrival platform.
Messrs. J. T. Julian and Son, Limited, have been the contractors for the construction of the main building, together with the forecourt, the retaining walls, the passenger subway and ramps and the platform verandahs. Their operations throughout have been marked by fine generalship, a ready adaptability and a high sense of service which have helped greatly in the successful prosecution of the work.
A Triumph of Supreme Craftsmanship.
Under the main contractors a small army of sub-contractors (representative of all trades) have given their quota to this embodiment of the finest craftsmanship in this building, which is the creation of so many hands both skilled and unskilled.page 30
The work of Messrs. Hansford and Mills, Limited, as sub-contractors for the stone work in the building, requires special mention. It was their efficient methods and up-to-date equipment which made the extensive use of Coromandel granite in the building at all possible. The beauty of this masonry work is one of the outstanding features of the station.
Watching over every detail of workmanship and material with a keen, impartial eye has been that important functionary, the Clerk of Works. In this exacting task Mr. H. W. Chant has held the high esteem of all parties, and by his intimate knowledge, tireless energy and unfailing courtesy helped materially in the satisfactory progress of the work. Many others might be mentioned who have given of their best in this great project. To them remains the satisfaction of a task well and truly done, and in every fibre of the structure their record is written.
Some of the leading items in this sum are: Station building, including platform verandahs, passenger subway, retaining walls and forecourt, £365,000; engine depot, £96,000; new outward goods shed, £46,000; new inward goods shed, £22,000; signalling, interlocking and floodlighting, £75,000.
A very substantial offset to the cost of the project is the value of the old station site which is being abandoned. The railway land actually extends from Queen Street to Breakwater Road, and its situation in the business centre of Auckland gives it a very high commercial value.
Tribute To Our Magazine.
It is good news to know that the Railways Magazine is to be given a further lease of life on condition that it can prove itself a sound financial proposition. Having already proved itself a brilliant literary success, there is no reason why it should not pay its way—From the December issue of Aussie.