The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 2 (May 1, 1937)
The Gateway to the Capital — Wellington's New Railway Station
For half a century the city of Wellington has had no single station serving all railway lines converging on the Capital. Although it has had, at various times, no less than five stations, the last remaining two will, early next month, give place for the first time to one combined station. Wellington railway history goes back sixty-three years to the opening of the first line from Pipitea Point to Lower Hutt, a distance of eight miles 2 chains, on the 14th April, 1874. At that time for the full distance from Pipitea Point to Mills Foundry on the North side of Waring Taylor Street (the northern limit of an earlier reclamation), the hills met the sea on the line of Lambton Quay and Thorndon Quay. The same year saw the completed reclamation on the site on which the Government Buildings stand.
From Pipitea Point just south of Davis Street the beach reached halfway across the present Thorndon Quay to as far as the foot of Tina-kori Road, from whence a narrow strip of land uplifted in the most recent earth movement on the great fault line marking the north western margin of Wellington Harbour extended as far as Petone. On this strip a narrow road and a single line of railway were constructed, following every indentation of the coast line until the Hutt Valley was reached.
During the next three years reclamation of the area of 49 acres between Lambton Quay and the seaward side of Waterloo Quay was completed for the full distance from the foundry to Pipitea Point making possible the extension of the railway a further 47 chains to Ballance Street. On the site of the existing Railway Head Offices fronting Featherston Street between Whitmore Street and Bunny Street a new station, known as Wellington Station, was opened on the 1st November, 1880, and on the same day the Railway was opened to Masterton, 66 miles away. The station building was 150 feet long and cost £2,294. The export goods shed occupied the site of what was later Cable's Foundry, and just across Waterloo Quay was the Railway Wharf completed in April of the same year, forming with the Queen's Wharf at the end of Grey Street, the total shipping accommodation for the city. Pipitea station remained in the meantime as a stopping place. Three years later proposals were advanced to shift Wellington station northwards to the site of the present Lambton Station, enabling Bunny Street to be carried through to the waterfront at Waterloo Quay. Pipitea Station was closed on September 30th, 1884, and the following year Lambton Station was opened for passengers.
An important work in connection with the Wellington-Manawatu Railway Company's enterprise was the first Thorndon reclamation of 30 acres completed in 1884. Of this area approximately two acres were taken up in widening Thorndon Quay to its present width, two acres remained for the Government railway reserve, and an area of 19 acres was vested in the Company under the Thorndon Reclamation Act of 1882 and its 1888 amendment. The remaining area along page 18 the sea front was by the Thorndon Esplanade Act, 1891, declared to be vested in the Crown, and the control and management were vested in the City Council as a place of public recreation, subject to certain requirements as to forming and maintaining streets. The old Thorndon Esplanade, now demolished, was the result. The completion of the reclamation also enabled the Government railway, by an exchange of land with the Company, to be removed to the eastward side of the reclamation, adjoining the esplanade, towards the end of 1884.
For many years the Wellington-Napier-New Plymouth section was separate from the Auckland system, but the approaching completion of the main trunk line connecting the two systems at last necessitated the taking over by the Government of the Mana-watu Company's line on the 7th December, 1908. The opening of the line from Wellington to Auckland on 15th February, 1909, and the transfer of the Napier traffic from the Wai-rarapa to the Manawatu line to take advantage of the easier grades on the latter route, transferred the greater portion of the traffic from the Lambton Station to the Thorndon Station, further accentuating the disability of having two stations that could not be connected up for passenger traffic. Before a combined station could even be considered, however, the reclamation of further land from the harbour on a larger scale than ever had to be considered in conjunction with the requirements of the Harbour Board. Several years had to be passed in negotiations before the larger reclamation could be instituted by the letting of the contract for the Thorndon wall.
Before passing to a description of the present station it will be well to notice the causes leading to the necessity for further expansion. It seems a great leap from the £2,294 Whitmore Street station of fifty-six years ago to the new Bunny Street station costing one hundred and fifty times as much. Everywhere increased population and increased production followed close upon each successive extension of the railway system throughout the country. Even the most far-seeing statesmen of the early days could not foresee the rapid development of the colony. At wayside stations it was possible almost imperceptibly to increase the railway facilities as required, with stockyards here, passenger accommodation there, siding extension elsewhere, additions to goods sheds somewhere else, each in turn doing its part in increasing production and consequently increasing railway traffic. Early lines constructed for cheapness with sharp curves and steep grades as single lines with crossing stations far apart, quickly became inadequate.
From time to time longer crossing loops, more frequent stations, improved signalling systems, greater locomotive power, easier grades, local duplications of the line and relocation of the worst sections with easier curves suitable for higher speeds increased the carrying capacity of the lines. The principal terminals, too, already extended over page 19 and over again (until the arrangement bore very little resemblance to the original layout) laboured more and more under the necessity of handling heavier traffic more expeditiously under more cramped conditions. Sidings had to be placed where there was room to lay them rather than where they would be most convenient. When buildings could no longer be added to, small buildings began to be dotted all over the yards. As the staff steadily increased the administrative buildings could no longer accommodate all Departments, until whole branches had to find new offices all over the town.
Meanwhile city streets with warehouse buildings had tended to limit the room available for station yard expansion on the landward side, while further reclamation involving new seawalls each time in deeper water than the last made it more than ever necessary to avoid hand-to-mouth projects and consider not only present but future needs in any new proposal. Harbour developments and road access had also to be considered in conjunction with railway facilities.
As early as 1887 the question of straightening the Hutt Railway and widening the road came before the Government, and it continued to be brought up during the next twelve years. On 28th July, 1899, a deputation waited on the Government, following a public meeting at Petone, and on 5th May, 1900, the Wellington Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Minister of Railways urging that the improvements be carried out.
The Hutt Railway and Road Improvement Act, 1903, authorised the further reclamation necessary for the straightening and duplicating of the Wellington-Lower Hutt railway and the construction of a road 80 feet wide alongside. This work was completed in March, 1911, giving an excellent approach both by road and rail from the Wairarapa route. The Manawatu line, however, at this time carrying much the heavier traffic, continued to enter Wellington by the old route. The grade of 1 in 40 uncompensated for curvature, with sharp reverse curves, rising to an elevation of 518 feet between Khandallah and Johnson-ville, rendered the haulage of goods trains slow and costly, while the numerous tunnels made the route uncomfortable for passengers. The location of the line was such that it would not be possible in the event of further yard extension to bring goods trains into the new goods yard without unduly cramping the accommodation available.
These considerations led to the commencement in June, 1927, of the Tawa Flat deviation, bringing the line by a new route on a grade of 1 in 100, compensated for curvature, reduced to 1 in 110 in the shorter tunnel and 1 in 122 in the longer tunnel, with curves of not less than 20 chains radius. The new line was laid out to cross the Hutt Road and railway just south of Nga-hauranga, descending to the Wellington yard level just north of Kaiwarra, thence continuing on the seaward side to Wellington, giving easy access to any new goods yards that might be constructed anywhere between Wellington and Kaiwarra.
It was later decided to electrify this line so as to minimise possible discomfort from smoke in the tunnels which are 61 chains and 2 miles 54 chains long respectively, and provide a fast suburban service to Paekakariki and intermediate stations. This deviation, 8 miles 30 chains long in double track, shortens the distance by two and a half miles, and reduces the climb to 195 feet above sea level. A single track was brought into use for goods purposes on July 22, 1935, and the double track will be brought into operation for all purposes when the new station is opened on the 19th of June this year. It will not be possible, however, to operate the new line immediately by electric traction, as trains will have to enter by a temporary route, not suitable for electrification, until the existing Thorndon Station can be demolished. This cannot be done until the new station is in use.page 20 page 21
After the completion of the Wellington-Lower Hutt line in 1911, Railway development at Wellington became dependent on further reclamation in the Thorndon area. A comprehensive reclamation scheme had been prepared in 1908, covering the future needs of both the Harbour Board and the Railway Department. A proposal for a new station combining Lambton and Thorndon was formulated in 1912, but it was not until 24th January, 1922, that an agreement was entered into between the Minister of Railways and the Harbour Board under which an area of 68 1/2 acres was to be reclaimed, the cost of the sea wall to be divided according to the areas to be reclaimed for each party of the agreement, approximately 11 1/2 acres for the Board and 57 acres for the Department. Each party was to pay the cost of its own filling behind the wall. The Department was to meet any claim enforceable by the City Council on account of the closing of Thorndon Esplanade up to the cost of reclaiming an equal area on the seaward side, anything in excess of this to be met by the Harbour Board. By a later agreement after the completion of this work the Department paid the City Council £20,000 and formed a waterfront roadway 60 ft. wide with a level crossing over the new railway tracks—now known as Aotea Quay. As the result of strong representations from various local bodies, however, it was decided to erect an overbridge instead of the level crossing, the Railway Department to contribute £12,000 including the value of land given up, the City Council and other local bodies, £11,000, the Unemployment Fund £10,000, and the Public Works Department £1,000 if required. The bridge and ramps are now under construction.
The Thorndon sea wall was commenced in March, 1923, and finished in September, 1927. A start was made with the filling on 1st August, 1924, the Harbour Board's Dredge, “Whaka-rire,” pumping dredgings from the harbour into the area behind the wall. Two years later the dredge “Kaione,” was hired from the Wanganui Harbour Board to expedite the work. When the filling reached the limit to which silt could be pumped from the sea wall, the filling was completed with material excavated from the tunnels on the Tawa Flat deviation and elsewhere. The reclamation affected the drainage of the Thorndon Quay area necessitating the construction of two large culverts extending from near Thorndon Quay and the Hutt Road respectively to the line of the sea wall.
On the 23rd October, 1929, a contract was let for the goods shed on the older filling and the shed was brought into use on the 13th August, 1931, having previously served as a depot for the reception of refugees from the Hawke's Bay earthquake area. The contract for the erection of the station building was let on the 7th November, 1933, the work to take 3 1/4 years. The foundation stone was laid by his Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester on the 17th December, 1934, and the completed building is to be opened by His Excellency the Governor-General, Viscount Galway, on 19th June, 1937.
For the purposes of description the station may be divided into the approach lines, goods yard, locomotive depot, passenger yard and station building. On the reduced plan of the general layout it will be seen that Davis Street marks the natural boundary between the goods and passenger yards. Running northwards there are three main lines, one being the Johnsonville line, the other two the up and down main lines. Westward of the main lines provision is made for private siding facilities to business sites fronting Thorndon Quay and Hutt Road and for future car sidings. Three quarters of a mile further north, just south of the new water front road crossing where an overbridge is under construction, the arrival and departure lines to and from the goods yard join the main lines. Immediately beyond this point the two main lines separate into five tracks, a goods line to Kaiwarra yard and the various private sidings on the west or Hutt Road side, an “up” and a “down” Wai-rarapa line in the centre, and an “up” and a “down” Auckland line by way of the new Tawa Flat, deviation on the east or seaward side.
On passing Kaiwarra the Auckland line begins to rise until it crosses the Wairarapa lines and the Hutt Road at an oblique angle by a steel plate girder bridge and enters the first tunnel. The distant junction at the north entrance to the goods yard from the main lines is worked from the main signal box in the passenger yard a few chains south of Davis Street. The junction between the Kaiwarra, Auckland and Wairarapa lines will also be so worked from the day of the opening of the new station and the Tawa Flat deviation.
The goods yard extends along the whole of the seaward side from the distant junction to Davis Street, bounded on the east by Aotea Quay. Along the western side of the goods yard are four arrival roads page 22 and four departure roads, each holding about 70 wagons, and connected to the main shunting and marshalling grids at the north end, where two shunting legs facilitate simultaneous sorting of inward trains and marshalling of outward trains. Each grid consists of a group of sidings joined up at both ends, connected at the north end to the shunting leg and at the south end to the goods shed, local delivery and wharf sidings. Run-round roads are provided for engine movements from end to end of the yard, and there are also exchange sidings for wharf and goods shed, special roads for vans, for “cripples” or wagons in need of repairs and storage sidings for empty wagons. Provision is made for private siding access for warehouse sites along the western side of Aotea Quay and to the Stores Shippers' building and garage, still to be erected just south of the overbridge.
In a central position in the goods yard is a shunters' building with lunch room and locker rooms for the shunters, while in a story above, overlooking the whole yard is the Yard Foreman's office. An interlocking frame in this office controls the movements of all trains in the goods yard clear of the main lines. Two wagon weighbridges are provided, one in the sorting and one in the marshalling yard. The goods shed, completed in 1931, close to the junction of Davis Street and Waterloo Quay, is a solid structure of steel and concrete, 500 feet long, with three sidings under cover served by two platforms at floor level of wagons and a covered roadway at rail level. An electric overhead crane of the under-hung jib type runs the full length of the shed and a light mobile crane runs on the platforms and roadway. Lorries can pass through the full length of the shed on the “inward” side, or back up to doors along the full length of the “outwards” side. Immediately to the east is the local delivery yard with six loading and unloading sidings in pairs with wide roadways between. On the west side of the goods shed there is space available for a further shed or covered siding when required. The Goods Office is inside the goods shed at the Davis Street end.
The Locomotive Depot lies between the main lines and the goods yard. Until after the removal of the present Thorndon Station it will not be possible to complete the layout of the locomotive yard, and temporary coaling and sanding facilities have to be used until the site is clear. Separate “in” and “out” roads are provided for steam locomotives, with 70 feet turntable, mechanical ash-handling plant, and water columns between the two roads. The coaling plant, an elevated bin with a coaling chute on each side, will also be erected between the two roads, the wagons of coal being hauled up singly by an electric winch. Eastward of the steam locomotive roads are an “in” and an “out” electric road. Between the coal bin and the shed the sand-drying shed will be located, the sand being elevated by compressed air into over-head bins. Ample inspection pits are provided on all engine roads.
A two storey building just south of the shed has the locomotive store on the ground floor and the Locomotive Foreman's office and bath and locker rooms for the running and repair staff on the upper floor. The engine shed, over an acre in area, is erected in five bays for steam locomotives, electric locomotives, engine repairs, machine shop, and car and wagon repairs. There is access to the shed from both ends. Owing to delays in the arrival of the electric equipment arising out of conditions on the other side of the world, steam traction will have to be retained for longer than was originally intended, so temporary smoke troughs and smoke stacks are being erected in the electric bay.
Southwards from Davis Street the passenger yard extends the full distance to the station building at Bunny Street. The three main lines continue right up to the platforms, but two converging roads crossing them obliquely also connect all platforms to all main lines. The line from the western or suburban platform passes all platform roads, then the main lines, the locomotive roads, the express car shunting road, goods exchange wharf siding, goods yard, and finally the road to rail car shed and turntable. Crossing the yard in the other direction a line meets the arrival platform on the east, then the departure, general, and suburban platform approaches, and crossing the main line continues to a short spur siding for holding and watering engines, and finally to the suburban car shunting road and private sidings on the Thorndon Quay side.
The arrival platform is 20 feet 10 inches wide and 900 feet long; the departure platform is 29 feet 2 inches wide and 900 feet in length. The remaining platforms are 20 feet 10 inches wide and 640 feet long. All platforms are completely roofed over. On either side of the express car sidings are buildings for the use of the sleeping-car staff and the car-cleaning and car-shunting staff respectively. Each building contains suitable meal rooms, bath and locker rooms for the staff, as well as the necessary stores and work-rooms. A steam boiler with a reticulation through the car yard and extending to the platforms provides steam for car heating as well as for cleaning and drying purposes. A siding is provided handy to the arrival platform with covered loading bank for loading and discharging mail vans.
The number of lines crossing Davis Street, together with their spacing and the number of train movements, render it impossible to retain Davis Street for road traffic. A foot-bridge is being constructed, however, giving access by ramps from Thorndon Quay to Waterloo Quay. Davis Street was originally the access to the old Thorndon Esplanade. As the wharves gradually extended northwards from the original railway wharf at Bunny Street, the Bunny Street access became less convenient for road traffic crossing from the Hutt Road, and Davis Street came into use as a more direct access to the wharves by this route. With the completion of the road overbridge on Aotea Quay an even more direct route will be available, and Davis Street will be finally closed except for pedestrian traffic over the new footbridge.
A two-story brick building, facing Waterloo Quay, just north of the main building, contains the Head Office garage, and also a social hall, committee room and library for the various Railway Societies.
Most interesting of all is the station building itself; the situation is ideal, set back from Bunny Street, its two sides fronting Featherston Street and Waterloo Quay. Tramway access is available on Featherston Street, and here is the main suburban entrance. On Waterloo Quay, handy to the wharves and the main entrance road to the city, but clear of passenger traffic, are the entrances for parcel and luggage business.
The building is of attractive design with base of coloured granite, exterior walls of brick and roof of Spanish mission tiles. Eight massive columns reaching to four stories high support the portico protecting the main entrance from the weather, while bronze cantilevered verandahs over each entrance enable taxis to be reached without discomfort in all weathers. The frontage extends for the full distance from Featherston Street to Waterloo Quay, with the station entrance at the centre and office entrances towards each end. The building is five stories high on the three main fronts, with two extra stories along the north wall facing the platforms. The foreground on all three streets is laid out in lawns and shrubberies, harmonising with the architecture of the building.
The whole of the ground floor is used for station purposes, and the whole of the upper floors, except part of the first and the sixth, for office purposes. The lay-out of the station may be followed with the aid of the plan. Taxi roads lead to the covered main entrance, where rooms for the use of “red-cap” porters and taximen are located on either side. Within is a spacious and lofty booking hall. The floor is of terrazzo, with brass edgings, the lower walls of Whangarei marble, the upper walls of tinted plaster work. The arched roof is of fibrous plaster in deep panels of pleasing colours. Immediately on the right on entering are the ticket windows, on the extreme right is the reservations and inquiry counter, and opposite the ticket windows is the checked luggage counter. On the left centre is the train directory, while the stationmaster's office is immediately to the left of the entrance. At the extreme left is the dining room, the walls of marble brightened with numerous mirrors, the pillars of marble with bronze bases and capitals. Beyond is the kitchen, replete with all modern equipment for expeditious service.
Opposite the main entrance of the booking hall is the lobby leading to the concourse which runs parallel with the main front and opens on to all platforms. Excellent lighting is provided from the arched roof. At the Feathers-ton Street end is the suburban entrance, with the emergency booking office for race traffic on the one side and newspaper stall, barber's saloon and baths on the other. Fronting on a short platform opening on the north wall are public and staff lavatories, traffic stores and lamp room. Along the north wall on each side of the entrance to the suburban platforms are a group of telephone booths and a Post Office. On each side of the entrance to the main departure platform are the fruitstall and bookstall. The luggage room is at the extreme end of the concourse and extends through to Waterloo Quay where lorries may load and unload. On the side of the concourse adjacent to the main building are placed the Coaching Foreman's office and guards' and porters' rooms and the staff entrance to the kitchen. Next come the cafeteria, the general waiting room, the concourse entrance to the dining room and the ladies' waiting room with hospital, lavatories and bathrooms upstairs.
On either side of the lobby connecting the main booking hall with the concourse are a stairway to the upper office floors and a lift to the offices, staff rest rooms and children's nursery on the roof. Beyond the lobby the checked luggage office also opens on the concourse. Outside the concourse on the northern side a covered truck-way facilitates the carriage of luggage to and from all platforms without disturbing passengers waiting in the concourse.
The concourse is neatly finished in tiles and tinted plaster. A train directory is placed near the Featherston Street entrance. There is also an electric “informator” in the concourse and in the booking hall, supplying information as to railway matters, while loud-speakers suitably placed, will convey announcements as to trains and entertain waiting passengers with radio programmes between whiles.
Along the Featherston Street frontage there is an office and waiting room for the Road Motor Service. There is also an ambulance room with all necessary appliances for use in dealing with casualties.
A feature new to railway stations in this country is the provision of a crÁche and playroom for children, enabling mothers from suburban stations to come to town to do their shopping and for a small charge leave their children under proper care at the station. The elevator in the booking hall leads to the fifth floor and from thence a single flight of stairs leads to the roof where a sleeping room for babies, a playroom for older children and an outdoor playground are provided. The walls have friezes of attractive designs and the rooms are provided with toys of all kinds. A kindergarten nurse is in attendance and a kitchen is equipped for the preparation of simple meals. The nursery should prove a decided boon to mothers who would like to come to town but find young children too much of a problem.
Entering by the office entrance near the Featherston Street corner, a lift and stairway lead to the offices above. The Traffic Manager's staff occupy the whole of this end of the first floor, the Traffic Manager in the corner, with the Assistant Traffic Manager, inquiries and traffic clerks along the Bunny Street frontage, and the Business Agent, staff room, telegraph operators and telephone exchange, wagon supply, train control and train running offices extending along the Featherston Street frontage. In the exchange the operators connect all offices with the public exchange and the principal offices with the railway wires connecting all stations in the North Island. The train control office, equipped with loudspeaker instead of the usual telephones, is in touch by an independent wire with all stations from Wellington to Marton.
Knowing exactly at all times the whereabouts of all trains on this length of line, marking them on a chart before him as they move from station to station, the Train Control Officer is able, whenever for any reason a train cannot keep its schedule times, to rearrange its crossings with other trains to the best advantage. On reaching Marton trains on the Main Trunk line come under the control of the operator at Ohakune who in turn directs them as far as Frankton where they come under the control of the Auckland office. In the train running office the permanent time-tables are prepared and special trains planned as required, with the aid of large diagrams on which trains are represented by lines intersecting at points corresponding to stations and times. The work to be done by trains at stations is also planned in this office.
On the second floor the Signal and Electrical Engineer is located, his Assistant Engineers and draftsmen, facing Bunny Street, the chief clerk, clerks and records, the electrical gear for the exchange below, technical and inspecting officers, and laboratories and test room extending northwards. At the end of the Featherston Street frontage are the Manager of the Outdoor Advertising Branch with offices for his salesmen, clerks and artists.
The third floor contains the library at the corner, and eastwards the Law Officer and his assistant, a conference room and various stores. On this floor (and the one above) the southern corridor leads above the main entrance, reaching to the Suggestions and Inventions Committee room and Refreshment Branch at the Waterloo Quay end. By gangways over the roof of the booking hall communication is also established with the corridor serving the offices fronting the north wall.
Northwards from the library are the offices of the Commercial Manager and his staff. Central on this wing, and extending half-way along the north wall are the staff division, divided into employment, staff and section clerks, and Staff Superintendent and his assistants. At the extreme north end are the mechanician's workshop and the head office of the Road Motor Services.
The whole of this end of the fourth floor is taken up by the Chief Accountant, Assistant Chief Accountant, and their staff and records. In a large room on the north side are the Power's machines used for freight accounting, checking of returns from stations and the compilation of various statistics dealing with such matters as classes of goods conveyed, average haul, and revenue per ton mile.
(Continued on page 97.)page 26