Wellington Railway Station
Bunny Street, Waterloo Quay And Featherston Street, Wellington
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
25th September 1986
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 1 DP 17895 and part of the land described as Pt Lot 1 DP 10550 and DP 13123 Wellington Land District and the buildings and structures known as the Wellington Railway Station thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. This includes the Main Building and 1938-39 extensions, the Garage and Social Hall, the platforms (including all canopies), the tracks and the landscaped space (Refer to map of extent in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information). It does not include the elevated walkway or ramps off platforms 3-8 which give access to the Westpac Trust Stadium.
Pt Lot 1 DP 17895 and Pt Lot 1 DP 10550 (CT WN53C/751) and DP 13123 (CT WN508/152), Wellington Land District.
Wellington Railway Station has dominated Wellington's northern gateway since 1937. It was built as the climax of an extensive governmental programme to upgrade the city's railway facilities.
Wellington's first station was built in 1874 as part of the city's first railway line, to the Hutt Valley, which opened that year. The station building burned down in 1878 and was replaced in 1880 to service the Wairarapa line. Six years later a second station was erected to service the privately-run Wellington-Manawatu line. By the early 20th century, following purchase of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway by the Government in 1908, pressure from the public began to build for a single terminal, prompting plans for a major remodelling of Wellington's railway facilities. The government finally opted for a co-ordinated development that included not only a new station building, but the reclamation of about 28 hectares [68 acres] for the construction of a new double track railway and the provision of extensive train marshalling, goods yards and sheds. The reclamation began in 1924 and was finished by 1932.
In 1933, falling construction costs caused by the Depression enabled the Government to begin work on the station. The Fletcher Construction Company was contracted to build the station to a design by a leading architectural firm Gray Young, Morton and Young for £339,137. Work commenced in July 1933. The station building was built on land reclaimed in 1876, close to the new rail yards, the wharf and the city. It was officially opened in 1937 by his Excellency, the Governor General, Viscount Galway.
The station was designed to reflect the importance of the railways in the nation's progress and development. Enclosing the platforms on three sides, the U-shaped building is 23.5 metres [77 feet] high and 105.5 metres [346 feet] long. It is constructed on reinforced concrete piles grounded on the original harbour bed and has a base of Coromandel granite. Its steel frame is encased in reinforced concrete and the dull-red bricks on the building exterior are reinforced with vertical steel rods. An example of neo-Classical architecture, the front entrance of the station building is dominated by a colonnade of eight, 13 metre [42 foot], Doric columns. Five floors of the six-storey building were used as office space by Railway Department staff who had previously been accommodated in 11 leased buildings. The ground floor was designed to have the facilities of a 'first-class modern hotel' but without accommodation and included multiple facilities and services for railway travellers.
Spacious lawns and brick-edged paved paths arranged in a herringbone pattern create a park-like atmosphere in front of the station. The station entrance opens into a large booking hall decorated with delicately mottled dados that extend to the high, vaulted ceiling. A compass design decorates the marble terrazzo floor. The booking hall opens onto the concourse, which provides access to the fully canopied platforms that initially accommodated up to 12 carriages. The concrete arches and glazed roof of the concourse were designed to give it the appearance of a 'vast sunroom'. This area originally led to waiting rooms and restrooms, a large dining room, a barbershop, book and fruit stalls and a first aid room. Inspired by a similar provision in the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, the architect also incorporated a well-equipped, spacious nursery on the top floor to allow parents to leave their children while they shopped or waited for their train.
The new railway station also provided a social hall for its staff above the garage for vehicles belonging to the Railways head office at the north-eastern side of the station. This was not uncommon for the Railways Department, which saw the value of providing facilities where employees could meet and socialise. Over the years the hall was used as a venue for staff functions, social club meetings, private parties, as well as conferences and union meetings.
Reflecting Wellington's central position within the national rail network, the Wellington Railway Station has remained New Zealand's busiest terminal. It is used daily by thousands of commuters and by sports enthusiasts travelling to the nearby Westpac Trust Stadium.
In 1982 the Railways Department was reorganised into the New Zealand Railways Corporation. Staff numbers were cut dramatically and the spare office space was leased to other organisations. In 1989, a year before New Zealand Rail was incorporated as a limited liability company, the ground floor of the station was rearranged. The barber's shop and men's toilets were converted into 'Trax Bar and Café' and the ladies' waiting rooms were converted into toilet blocks. The original dining hall and kitchen were converted to provide more office space. In 1993 a private business consortium, later named Tranz Rail Holdings Limited, purchased New Zealand Rail. In 2000, Tranz Rail transferred their head office from the station building to Auckland. In 2003 Victoria University took up a lease of three floors on the western wing of the station, which resulted in considerable changes to the lay-out of these floors. In 2004 Tranz Rail was sold to Toll NZ Ltd. They then sold the track and infrastructure back to the Railways Corporation (now known as Ontrack). The operational management of the national rail network was continually managed from the Wellington Railway Station. Other physical changes have included the construction of a supermarket in the booking hall (2007) and the removal of the kiosks from the concourse (2007).
Wellington Railway Station has national architectural significance and demonstrates the design skills of local architectural firm Gray Young, Morton and Young. Its architectural and technological value has been acclaimed since the opening of the station. The station is an important national landmark and is held in high esteem by the public. Historically, the monumental scale of the building reflects the importance of railways in New Zealand during the first half of the twentieth-century. The station is also an important symbol of governmental centralisation and consolidation of railway facilities and staff. Once acclaimed by the Dominion newspaper as the finest public building in New Zealand, the Wellington Railway Station remains in an excellent condition and is an authentic example of public architecture.
Wellington Railway Station is one of Wellington's most important historic buildings. Its monumental scale reflects the importance of railways in New Zealand during the first half of the twentieth-century. At the time it was built it was the largest building in New Zealand. The station is also an important symbol of governmental centralisation and consolidation of railway facilities and staff. When it opened, it represented the first time in the history of the Railways Department that all head office staff were brought under one roof. The management of the rail network has been continually undertaken from the building since 1937.
The construction of the Wellington Railway Station also represents the culmination of the development of the railways in the Wellington Region, combining all services - local and national - in one impressive southern terminus. There is also a certain amount of historic significance in the continued association of Fletcher Construction who built the station and is carrying out the most significance changes to the station to date.
AESTHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
Wellington Railway Station has high aesthetic value. Its monumental design fronted by a landscaped park is an impressive visual landmark at the northern end of Wellington's Central Business District.
ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The Wellington Railway Station is one of Wellington's most cherished architectural landmarks, based partly on its monumental character. The principal façade of the main building was deliberately designed to be a strong statement about the importance of the railways to Wellington and the country as a whole. The eclectic mixture of styles employed by William Gray Young, typically for the time, is skilfully blended to produce a building that is both grand and informal at the same time. The building's greatest features are its main interior spaces, which are among the finest in Wellington. The main booking hall is awe-inspiring, and still demonstrates the pre-eminent position then held by New Zealand Railways in the country's transport system.
TECHNOLOGICAL SIGNIFICNACE OR VALUE:
The Wellington Railway Station has high technical value. The Station was especially designed using the latest technology resist earthquakes. It also has technological value in that at the time it was built it was the largest building in New Zealand. The building's specific engineering significance has been recognised by IPENZ.
SOCIAL SIGNIFICNACE OR VALUE:
The Wellington Railway Station has very high social value or significance. It is place that is visited regularly by literally thousands of people daily, and many of those would visit every weekday. Wellington Railway Station has been a place of work for many thousands of people. Of particular note is the Social Hall that provided a venue for Railways Department staff (and at various times other Government Departmental staff) to socialise with work colleagues as well as a venue for private occasions.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Wellington Railway Station Building reflects the importance of the railway in the lives of New Zealanders during the twentieth century. The construction of the Wellington Railway Station remains the single biggest building project in the Railways' history and was the culmination of 65 years of the development of the railways in the Wellington Region. The combining of all services and facilities in one station was part of a development that transformed both the provision of rail services and a large part of central Wellington.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The Wellington Railway Station has been associated with a great many matters of importance in New Zealand history. Its construction and opening were significant events in themselves and showed just how pre-eminent the railway was, nearly four decades after the motor car was first used in New Zealand. The station has been used as the start or end of many important train journeys. Some, like Michael Joseph Savage's funeral cortege, are well known, others less so.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
Wellington Railway Station has high community esteem. It is listed on the Wellington City Council district plan for its heritage values. It has been recognised by IPENZ as an important part of New Zealand's engineering heritage.
(f) The potential of the place for public education:
There is a great potential public to understand the importance of the railway in the New Zealand's history. The Wellington Railway Station is a public place and many of its noted architectural features are in areas used by the public. IPENZ and the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand have interpretation in the booking hall in the form of plaques and the Wellington City Council has included the station building in a heritage trail.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The Station was especially designed using the latest technology of utilising steel and concrete with an outer coating of steel reinforced brick to resist earthquakes. At the time it was built it was the largest building in New Zealand and its size and scale and construction on reclaimed land would have represented a significant building challenge.
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICNACE OR VALUES:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, g.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
Wellington Railway Station has outstanding and special significance as the most important railway building in New Zealand. It has been the head office for the management of the national rail network since 1937 and remains so today. Many thousands of people have visited or worked in the Railway Station building throughout its existence. Its construction during the 1930s symbolises the importance of the Government owned railway network in the lives of New Zealanders. It was designed by one of Wellington's most notable architects William Gray Young, and built by Fletcher Construction, one of New Zealand longest running construction firms and a firm which continues its association with the station today.
Fletcher Construction Company
Fletcher Construction Company was founded by Scottish-born James Fletcher (1886 - 1974), the son of a builder. Six months after his arrival in Dunedin in 1908, Fletcher formed a house-building partnership with Bert Morris. They soon moved into larger-scale construction work, building the St Kilda Town Hall (1911), and the main dormitory block and Ross Chapel at Knox College (1912). Fletcher's brothers, William, Andrew and John joined the business in 1911, which then became known as Fletcher Brothers. A branch was opened in Invercargill.
While holidaying in Auckland in 1916, James tendered for the construction of the the Auckland City Markets. By 1919 the company, then known as Fletcher Construction, was firmly established in Auckland and Wellington. Notable landmarks constructed by the company during the Depression included the Auckland University College Arts Building (completed 1926); Landmark House (the former Auckland Electric Power Board Building, 1927); Auckland Civic Theatre (1929); the Chateau Tongariro (1929); and the Dominion Museum, Wellington (1934).
Prior to the election of the first Labour Government, Fletcher (a Reform supporter) had advised the Labour Party on housing policy as hbe believed in large-scale planning and in the inter-dependence of government and business. However, he declined an approach by Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage in December 1935 to sell the company to the government, when the latter wanted to ensure the large-scale production of rental state housing. Although Fletchers ultimately went on to build many of New Zealand's state houses, for several years Residential Construction Ltd (the subsidiary established to undertake their construction) sustained heavy financial losses.
Fletcher Construction became a public company, Fletcher Holdings, in 1940. Already Fletchers' interests were wide ranging: brickyards, engineering shops, joinery factories, marble quarries, structural steel plants and other enterprises had been added the original construction firm. Further expansion could only be undertaken with outside capital.
During the Second World War James Fletcher, having retired as chairman of Fletcher Holdings, was seconded to the newly created position of Commissioner of State Construction which he held during 1942 and 1943. Directly responsible to Prime Minister Peter Fraser, Fletcher had almost complete control over the deployment of workers and resources. He also became the Commissioner of the Ministry of Works, set up in 1943, a position he held until December 1945.
In 1981 Fletcher Holdings; Tasman Pulp and Paper; and Challenge Corporation amalgamated to form Fletcher Challenge Ltd, at that time New Zealand's largest company.
Williamson Construction Company - main contract
Gray Young, William
William Gray Young (1885-1962) was born in Oamaru. When he was a child his family moved to Wellington where he was educated. After leaving school he was articled to the Wellington architectural firm of Crichton and McKay. In 1906 he won a competition for the design of Knox College, Dunedin, and shortly after this he commenced practice on his own account.
He became a prominent New Zealand architect and during a career of 60 years he designed over 500 buildings. His major buildings include the Wellington and Christchurch Railway Stations (1936 and 1954 respectively), Scot's College (1919), Phoenix Assurance Building (1930) and the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP) Chambers (1950). At Victoria University College of Wellington he was responsible for the Stout (1930), Kirk (1938), and Easterfield (1957) buildings, and Weir House (1930). Gray Young also achieved recognition for his domestic work such as the Elliott House Wellington, (1913).
His design for the Wellesley Club (1925) earned him the Gold Medal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1932. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute in 1913, served on the executive committee from 1914-35 and was President from 1935-36. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and achieved prominence in public affairs.
The integrity of the three street facades
The Beaux-Arts style booking room with its coffered, arched ceiling
The concourse constructed of reinforced concrete arches
Compass design in the terrazzo floor
Boardroom designed to look like the interior of a railway carriage
Original detailing, joinery and fittings
The Wellington Railway Station was constructed on reinforced concrete piles and has a Coromandel granite base. The superstructure is steel encased in concrete. The predominant cladding is red brick, while the majority of the elevations facing the railway are faced with tinted cement render. The entrance portico is made of stone, with rendered plaster-finish columns. Under the windows on the building exterior, there are panels of purple, yellow and green ceramic tiles and Marseille tiles on the roof. Whangarei and Hanmer marbles are used extensively in the major public spaces. The platforms are made up of concrete with a sealed surface, railway irons, timber fascias, framing and steel.
The potential value of railway to New Zealand was recognised from the early days of the British Colony. Many of the new immigrants had come from Britain and Europe where the development of railway had been heralded as the vanguard of the industrial age. By 1840 Britain had 2857 kilometres (1775 miles) of track. In other places, such as the United States of America, the railway had opened the way for greater settlement of the fertile hinterland. For New Zealand with its awkward terrain, the development of a railway network was seen as a way of transporting produce from countryside to the ports and overcoming the vast distances between the newly established towns.
The first public railway was from Christchurch to the river port of Ferrymead and opened in 1863. This was soon surpassed by the building of the Christchurch to Lyttelton line, requiring the construction of the Lyttelton tunnel, which at the time of its completion in 1867 was one of the longest railway tunnels in the world. Other small provincial or private railway lines were either constructed (e.g. Invercargill to Bluff, opened 1867), or begun but failed due to the sheer cost of construction (e.g. the Waitemata Harbour to Drury, commenced 1863). The financial burden of constructing a railway proved too much for many of the Provincial Governments. The solution lay in Central Government. In 1870 Colonial Treasurer, Julius Vogel announced the ambitious scheme of a national network of light rail funded by £10 million loans to be raised over the following decade. To provide the manpower he also proposed a large-scale immigration scheme.
WELLINGTON'S EARLY RAILWAYS:
Up until the announcement of Vogel's scheme no railway had been built in Wellington. In 1872 work began on the Wellington to Lower Hutt section, with the first sod turned at Pipitea Point - at that time the only land available suitable for a station and yard. Progress was slow and it wasn't until 1876 that the line reached Upper Hutt. In 1878 the Pipitea Station burnt to the ground and in response to pressure from the public a new station was built closer to town on land recently reclaimed at the rear of Government Buildings. It opened on 1 November 1880.
Across the country the railway continued to expand. Initially the Public Works Department had managed the construction but, by 1878, two rail commissioners were overseeing the works. In 1880 a separate Railways Department was formed within Public Works. By this time there was over 1200 miles [1900 kilometres] of working railway (mostly in the South Island) carrying over 830,000 tons of freight as well as livestock and passengers. Wellington's railway system boasted two lines. The eastern line went to the Hutt Valley and would eventually extend on to the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay, while the western line would reach Johnsonville in 1885.
These achievements were somewhat curtailed as New Zealand plunged into an economic depression that would last until the early 1890s. In 1880 a Railways Commission criticised those who in the previous decade had pushed ahead with the construction of the railway at a rate that could not be sustained. As a result the construction of many lines was halted, including the western line out of Wellington. The halting of the latter was not popular with a group of Wellington businessman, farmers and newspapers. Eventually it was agreed that all work on the western line would be handed over to a private company who would continue its construction. The North Island West Coast Railway Co. (later the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Co. or WMR) was formed and, following the passing of legislation, was allowed to reclaim land in Thorndon for the construction of the company's station and yard. The new station became known as the Manawatu Station. The private line reached Otaki on 1 December 1886.
Meanwhile the building of Wellington's Railway Wharf in 1880, which linked shipping directly with the railway, resulted in the separation by rail of the wharves and commercial district. In addition, traffic had increased and it was decided to open Bunny Street through to Waterloo Quay, which would have meant crossing the railway line. To avoid this the government railway station was shifted on rollers to a new site at the intersection of Lambton and Thorndon Quay. Originally known as Government Station, following the public purchase of the WMR this station would eventually become known as Lambton Station. A third station and line south was built by the Government at Te Aro in 1893. This line was closed in 1917.
During the 1880s and 1890s construction of the national rail network did continue albeit at a slower rate, and it was not until November 1908 that the last spike for the North Island Main Trunk Line was driven at Manganuioteao (Last Spike Memorial, Register No.7575). With the imminent completion of the North Island Main Trunk line, in 1907 the government gave notice to the WMR that it was going to invoke its right to compulsory purchase, and in 1908 the line became part of the government rail network. Although it had always been intended that the formerly private Thorndon Station (previously known as the Manawatu Station) and the Lambton Station would be combined, this never happened. This meant that until the building of the new station building in 1937 Wellington had two terminals for trains travelling north, one for the western line and one for the eastern line.
A NEW YARD AND STATION:
In the early decades of the twentieth century, increasing pressure from the public for a single terminal prompted plans for a major remodelling of Wellington's railway facilities. For the development to happen more land was required. In 1922 the Wellington Harbour Board and the Railways Department came to an agreement to reclaim about 28 hectares [68 acres] from the harbour. This was to be the largest single reclamation of land in the port's history. The work began in 1923 and was completed in 1932. The newly reclaimed land allowed for the construction of a new double track railway and the provision of extensive train marshalling, goods yards and sheds. In the following year work began on the new railway station.
The commission for designing the new station had been awarded to the noted architectural firm of Gray Young, Morton and Young, which had formed in 1923 and was composed of William Gray Young (1885-1962), Hubert Morton and Gray Young's brother Jack. The firm had recently finished large commissions for Victoria University, designing Stout (1930) and Weir House (1930) and would design Kirk Building (1938) before the end of the decade. Initially William Gray Young's design included a much larger Featherston Street wing, housing a mailroom, but this was removed from the final blueprint to cut building costs.
In 1933, the Depression had reduced construction costs sufficiently that the Government was able to begin work. The Fletcher Construction Company was contracted to build the station for £339,137. Work on the new station commenced in July 1933 and was constructed on land reclaimed in 1876 by the Wellington Provincial Government, close to the new rail yards, the wharf and the city. By October 1934, a sufficient number of piles had been driven to begin main construction of the superstructure and less than two months later, on 17 December 1934, large crowds gathered to watch the Duke of Gloucester lay the foundation stone amidst much pomp and ceremony.
During the construction economic conditions began to improve. This allowed for several variations in the plan to be made. These variations included four storeys to the Featherston Street wing and another floor added to the northern wing, or the addition of the 6th-floor penthouse on the southern part of the building.
The new Wellington Railway Station was officially opened on 19 June 1937 by his Excellency, the Governor General, Viscount Galway. According to newspaper accounts of the time, the Station's design was intended to reflect the importance of the railways in the nation's progress and development. Enclosing the platforms on three sides, the U-shaped building was built of steel and concrete with an outer coating of steel reinforced brick on the street facades, and was especially designed using the latest technology to resist earthquakes. The outer cladding on the street facades consisted of bricks designed with slots to accommodate vertical steel rods. Over 1.75 million bricks and 1500 tonnes of granite and marble were used in the construction of the station. At the time of it opening it was the largest building in New Zealand, covering 0.6 hectares, and with a combined floor area of two hectares.
Outside, spacious lawns and paths of paving stones with brick edging were arranged in a herringbone pattern to create a park in front of the station. The somewhat imposing station entrance, made up of a colonnade of eight, 13 metre [42 foot], Doric columns opened into a large booking hall decorated with delicately mottled dados that extended to a high, vaulted ceiling. From the booking hall was the entrance to the concourse where concrete arches and a glazed roof were designed to give it the appearance of a 'vast sunroom'. Beyond the concourse were the newly constructed fully canopied platforms that initially accommodated up to 12 carriages
Much thought was given to the public facilities. The large concourse contained waiting rooms and restrooms, a large dining room, a barbershop, book and fruit stalls and a first aid room. The idea was that the railway station would have all the facilities of a 'first-class' modern hotel for railway travellers, but without the accommodation. Inspired by a similar provision in the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, the architects also incorporated a well-equipped, spacious nursery on the top floor to allow parents to leave their children while they shopped or waited for their train. This was the first such facility to be provided at a New Zealand station.
Five of the six floors were used as office space by the Railway Department staff who had previously been accommodated in 11 leased buildings. The new Railway Station also provided a social hall for its staff. This was not uncommon for the Railways Department, which saw the value of providing facilities where employees could meet and socialise. The social hall was located apart from the main station building at the north end of the eastern wing of the station. Most of the ground floor of this building was operated as a garage for vehicles belonging to the Railways head office, and included rooms for the General Manager's chauffeur. The access to the social hall was from a separate entrance on Waterloo Quay. On the ground floor was a meeting room and cloakrooms. On the first floor were more social areas, including a large hall with a small stage. In years to come this building would be used for staff functions including Christmas parties, dances and retirement celebrations. It was also used by clubs - such as railway sporting teams and hobby groups, as well as a venue for staff to hire for weddings, birthday parties etc. In a more formal capacity it was used for such things as conferences, inquiries and union meetings.
Late in 1938 work commenced on extending the Featherston Street wing to accommodate increasing staff numbers. This work included the construction of another two levels and a single storey wing further along Featherston Street. It is most likely that these changes were completed in 1939. The land on which the single storey wing was constructed was once the location of the Lambton Station. However it is not known whether the Lambton Station was specifically demolished at this time to make way for the new extension or it had been removed following the opening of the station in 1937.
At the same time as the construction of the Featherston Street wings the main offices were reorganised - perhaps mostly notably was the movement of the General Manager's office from the third floor to the fourth floor where the east wing became a senior management suite. The area included a boardroom that has a ceiling with the profile of a railway carriage.
Also at about this time the area of lawns and paths in front of the station were transferred by statute from designated Railway land to the Wellington City Corporation for street purposes. However, the Railways Department retained the right to refuse any changes to the layout (including the building of structures) and maintenance of the area was to be shared between the two organisations.
During World War II the Railway Station experienced a dramatic increase in rail passengers and goods. The railway network was the main way troops were moved around the country. One notable event to occur during these years was the funeral of Prime Minister Michael Savage. Following a requiem mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Thorndon (Register No.214), Savage's body was transported to the Wellington Railway Station where thousands of people gathered to farewell him. A special train then carried his coffin to Auckland where to be buried on Bastion Point.
The 1950s were the zenith of New Zealand railways. During these years the government department employed 24,686 employees and utilised over 5689 kilometres of track - the greatest extent of the railway. As well as providing a rail service, over the next two decades the Railways Department also expanded its feeder services such as passenger bus services, road transport, airfreight, and ferry operations. At Wellington Railway Station extra platform space was provided when what is now known today as platform 2 was extended and allowed for the installation of platform 1. A new canopy was constructed to extend the coverage of the original platform 2 canopy and service both platforms. With increased business, accommodation within the Railway Station became an issue, forcing some staff to move to other premises. By the 1960s it was estimated that over 42,000 people used the station each day, nearly triple the number that used the station in 1937. Throughout the following two decades plans were drawn up to improve the office accommodation, but nothing came of it.
It is suggested that by the 1980s, the competition from road and air transport meant that the railways were no longer making a profit. In 1982 the New Zealand Railways Corporation replaced the Railways Department. It was hoped that the newly created organisation, based on a more commercial model, would lift railway revenue. Over the next few years staff numbers were reduced by a quarter. At Wellington Railway Station the reduction in staff numbers resulted in office space becoming available for lease.
In 1988 commercial activity such as the bookstall and cafeteria, which had been run by railways staff since the construction of the station, were closed with the intention of leasing the spaces to private retailers/businesses. In 1989, the ground floor of the station was rearranged. The barber's shop and men's toilets were converted into 'Trax Bar and Café' and the ladies' waiting rooms were converted into toilet blocks. The original dining hall and kitchen were converted to provide more office space. At about this time platforms 2-7 were shortened at the building's (south) end to increase circulation space. The large concrete planter boxes were installed at the same time.
In 1990 as part of the Sesquicentennial celebrations the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) officially recognised the importance of the Wellington Railway Station in New Zealand's engineering history with the erection of a plaque in the Booking Hall. The plaque reads:
'IPENZ recognises this building as an important part of N.Z.'s Engineering Heritage. Once N.Z.'s largest public building, it was also the first major structure incorporating a significant measure of resistance to earthquakes'.
In more recent years it has been included in Wellington City Council heritage trails as a place to visit.
In 1991 there was a major restructuring of New Zealand Railways. The Railways Corporation retained ownership of the land and buildings. A new organisation known as New Zealand Rail Ltd. took over rail operations including freight distribution, commuter and long-distance passenger services, as well as the Interisland Ferry. Both organisations retained offices in the Wellington Railway Station Building. In 1993, New Zealand Rail was sold to a business consortium, and was renamed Tranz Rail in 1995.
During the 1990s the Westpac Trust Stadium was constructed on surplus railway land to the north of the platforms (completed November 1999). As part of the development, access to the stadium elevated walkway was provided via ramps from the station platforms 3-8. This required the canopies of platforms 7-8 to be shortened to the same length as platforms 3-6, and the canopy on platform 9 was also shortened. The fibrolite canopy roofs for platforms 3-9 were replaced at this time with steel, with concrete supports constructed around the base of the original canopy supports, renewing the foundations. A pedestrian bridge was constructed from Thorndon Quay over the top of the platforms to connect with the main stadium concourse. The construction of the stadium has led to an increase in demand for the suburban railway network, as the trains carry thousands of people to and from the stadium to attend sporting events, concerts and 'expos'.
In 2000 Tranz Rail moved to its head office (corporate management) to Auckland, but retained use of some of the main station building for running the local suburban network. Operational management of the whole national railway network also remained in Wellington. Three years later the western side of the building was leased to Victoria University as part of its city campus. Major refurbishment, designed by Athfield Architects and carried out primarily by Fletcher Construction, has been undertaken to provide suitable accommodation for the university. These changes (beginning in August 2003) have included the construction of six concrete shear walls in the east and west wings and the centre part of the building, requiring the demolition of existing walls and finishes and rerouting services away from the shear walls. Extensive saw-cutting into walls and columns was also required to make way for the massive structures. A dedicated access to the university wing from the concourse was constructed requiring the installation of three new lifts and associated shafts. The internal walls of the area occupied by the university have been reorganised with provision of large spaces for student study and gathering areas. In addition the 24-hour-a-day train control centre was relocated from the western wing to the eastern side of the southern part of the building. Floors 1-4 have been completed. This work is ongoing and at the time of writing this report (January 2008) the 5th floor of the western wing was in the process of being converted for university occupation.
One other major change to the Wellington Railway Station was the construction of the Railway Metro New World supermarket. This was completed in December 2006 and was intended to cater to commuters, nearby apartment dwellers and workers in the station area. The supermarket is located partly in the booking hall (and adjacent vacant space) and partly in the concourse. In 2007 the last remaining kiosk was removed from the concourse (it is not known when the other was removed).
With regard to the occupancy of the building, in 2004 Tranz Rail was sold to the Australian-based Toll Holdings. In a subsequent deal the New Zealand Government repurchased the rail network, and in return Toll was allowed principal commercial use of that network. The ownership and management of the rail network were vested in the New Zealand Railway Corporation (now known as Ontrack). Thus management of the national rail network has continually been run from the Wellington Railway Station.
10th June 2008
Report Written By
Neil Atkinson, Trainland, How New Zealand Railways made New Zealand, Random House, Auckland, 2007
Greg Bowron, 'Wellington Railway Station Conservation Management Plan', Athfield Architects Ltd, Wellington, December 2004
J. D. Mahoney, Down at the Station: A Study of the New Zealand Railway Station, Palmerston North, 1987
L. Ward, Early Wellington, Wellington, 1928
Wellington City Council
Wellington City Council
Art Deco in the Capital, Wellington's 1930 Buildings, Heritage Trail, Wellington City Council, 2001 (Second edition 2004)
'Bunny Street; Wellington Railway Station', Wellington City Council Heritage Building Inventory 2001, Wellington, 2001
NZIA Local Architecture Award Winners 2005, Education/Heritage
NZIA Local Architecture Award Winners 2009, Category: Heritage (Railway Social Hall)
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central region office