Engine Shed

State Highway 73, Arthur's Pass

  • Engine Shed, Arthur's Pass.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Nicola Jackson. Date: 1/05/2001.
  • Engine Shed, Arthur's Pass. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand .

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7371 Date Entered 13th February 1997


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes part of the land described as Lot 3 DP68050 (CT CB39D/295), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Engine Shed thereon. Refer to extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 26 June 2014.

City/District Council

Selwyn District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 3 DP68050 (CT CB39D/295), Canterbury Land District


This engine shed was built to house and service locomotives for the Midland Railways. It is a long rectangular building with a row of windows down one side and a gable roof. Built of concrete blocks, it is probably the earliest example of an industrial building in New Zealand constructed from concrete blocks. (Other engine sheds built for New Zealand Rail were built with timber and corrugated iron or stone.)

The Midland line, which this engine shed serviced, runs from Christchurch to Greymouth. It began as part of Julius Vogel's public works scheme of the 1880s. The Midland Railway Company Ltd began construction in 1886 on a line which was to run from Belgrove in the Nelson area, down the West Coast and through to Canterbury via Arthur's Pass. The Otira Tunnel, which is one of the major features of this line opened on 3 August 1923 and was then the seventh longest tunnel in the world. Concrete blocks were used in its construction, and some of the blocks, intended for the tunnel, were used instead in the construction of this engine shed.

This engine shed was one of two operative in Arthur's Pass during the 1920s and was initially used for electric engines. Electric trains were, from the start, used for the section between Arthur's Pass and Otira due to the length of the tunnel and this was the first electrification of a main line in New Zealand. The other shed, built in timber, was demolished in 1930. At that time the concrete block shed was fitted with smoke chutes and thereafter used for steam engines. Railway lines run through the building and there is an engine pit in the centre of the floor.

By 1964 the building was no longer required for its original purpose and was being used to store engines from the Railway Centennial Exhibition. In 1976 it was leased to the local community for use as a squash court.

The Arthur's Pass Engine Shed is significant because of the early use of concrete blocks in its construction and for the part it played in the operation of the Canterbury/West Coast railway line.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1922 -

Original Construction
1922 - 1923

1930 -
Smoke chutes installed

1976 -
Altered for squash courts

Completion Date

23rd August 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Churchman, 1995

Geoffrey B. Churchman, The Midland Line: New Zealand's Trans-Alpine Railway, Wellington, 1995

Leitch, 1988

David Leitch and Bob Stott, New Zealand Railways: The First 125 Years, Auckland, 1988

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.