Early Henderson and the First Railway Station
The area now known as Henderson was named after Thomas Henderson who acquired a large tract of land in the area and established a sawmill in the late 1840s. Henderson developed as a small isolated settlement linked to the timber trade, but with the closure of the mill in the 1860s many former mill workers left the area while others turned to gum digging.
In 1872 construction began on the first part of the railway that would eventually link Auckland with Helensville, a larger timber and farming centre on the Kaipara Harbour. This followed numerous petitions by a large number of Kaipara settlers, concerned by the two month time period it generally took for goods and produce to travel to and from the provincial capital. Progress was slow, however, and the Kaipara-Auckland connection was not completed for several years. It was not until 21 December 1880 that the railway line to Henderson was opened.
Just prior to the opening of this section of the line, tenders were called:
'[for] the erection of a Passenger Station, Goods Shed, Stationmaster's House, and other works at Henderson, Swanson, Waitakerei, Murewai [sic] and Kumeu Stations on the Kaipara-Waikato Railway.'
A tender by Scott and Coombe was accepted the following month, and by 18 July 1881 the construction work had been completed. On this date the line was opened as far as Helensville, completing the Auckland-Kaipara railway. The station built at Henderson appears to have consisted of a wooden building containing a shelter shed, ladies waiting room and toilet. From the outset it may have been located in the centre of a long platform with a separate siding running up the southern end of the building. The core of the present platform is likely to date to this period.
The completion of the railway line to Henderson had a significant impact on the area. Within a few months business and residential sites were laid out and offered at auction. With regular, reliable land transport secured the district gradually developed.
New Zealand Railways in the Nineteenth Century
New Zealand's first railway stations date to 1863. The railways of this decade suffered from a lack any organised plan for a national rail system. They were constructed by provincial governments using three different track gauges. However, the following decade brought with it an era of central government control, coherent planning and a large financial investment in railways. The driving force behind this expansion in rail was Julius Vogel.
Born in London in February 1835, Vogel was the son of a Jewish mother and a Dutch Christian father. After leaving school at the age of fifteen, he developed an interest in the mining industry and spent a year attending the Government School of Mines. In 1852, Vogel made his way to Melbourne following the discovery of gold in Victoria. He worked as an assayer and merchant before becoming a journalist. He was critical of the local political system and a strong supporter of regional development. After a failed election bid for the Victorian General Assembly Vogel decided to leave Australia. In 1861 he arrived in Dunedin, continuing his career in journalism and later becoming editor of the Otago Daily Times. In 1863 he entered New Zealand politics, being elected to both the House of Representatives and the Otago Provincial Council. He quickly gained posts of importance, becoming leader of the provincial executive and Provincial Treasurer in 1866. Two years later he left Dunedin for Auckland, where he became editor of the Daily Southern Cross. He also joined William Fox in opposing Edward Stafford's government. In 1869 the government was toppled and Fox became Premier with Vogel as Colonial Treasurer.
In the late 1860s the economy was stagnant but soon all of this was to change. Vogel spearheaded an ambitious programme of public works, funded by overseas loans and encouraging a vast increase in immigration. Vogel would remain in government almost continuously until August 1876. He held numerous posts including Minister of Immigration, Postmaster General, and Premier. He spent the late 1870s in London as Agent General and then worked as a business promoter before returning to New Zealand, and politics, in 1884. Vogel served as Colonial Treasurer under Premier Robert Stout in the mid 1880s.
Though the government borrowed £20 million for public works and immigration over the decade of the 1870s, the large scale of the railways programme meant that funds had to be spread thinly. In the seven years to 1879 a third of the country's current railway lines were built. Apart from the lines themselves and the rolling stock, a large number of station buildings needed to be constructed. Low cost materials were used and station designs of the era were modest. An unknown designer drew up standard plans, and these were adapted to suit local needs. These standard plans would remain in use until the early twentieth century.
The Railways Department in the Early Twentieth Century
Development of the railways slowed in the 1880s due to a downturn in the colonial economy, but revived during the early twentieth century. The years before the First World War (1914-1918) were a time of particular expansion. At this time, the railways were unrivalled by any other form of transport. Rail was faster and more efficient than horse transport, and could carry larger quantities of passengers and freight over longer distances than the recently-introduced - and still-unreliable - motor vehicles. The economy had recovered from the long depression of the late 1880s and 1890s and public money was being spent on extending the rail network, renewing rolling stock and improving station facilities.
The driving force behind the station improvements of the era was George Troup, a draughtsman and engineer with the Railways Department, who would have a key role in the design of the country's railway stations until 1925. During his time with the department, Troup designed numerous important district and provincial stations as well as some major city stations. These works were individually-designed stations with a refined and elegant style about them. However, much railway station architecture in smaller centres was more modest and was generally based on standard plans.
In 1904 a standard plan book was produced and this was updated in 1914. The classification of station types dated back to the Vogel era, and this was upgraded in the new classification system. There were three primary building types with Type A having a monopitch roof, and Types B and C having a gabled roof. The B type stations were 17 feet wide, while type C measured 20 feet in width. Under each of these types there were several standard variants, differing in length and planning. Standard plans were adapted to meet the specific requirements of the location.
The New Railway Station at Henderson, 1912
Before the new station was erected at Henderson in 1912, earlier additions to the 1881 structure had occurred. By 1904 Henderson had grown to the point where an extension of railway services was warranted, and additions to the station building were consequently designed. A stationmaster was soon to be appointed and postal facilities were required. By September 1905, the additions had been completed, incorporating a stationmaster's office and a post office. At this time, the Henderson Station was open 14 hours a day and was staffed by two employees. In 1909 further additions were made, when an office from the Te Aroha railway station was relocated to serve as a store room.
Business at the station increased, and by July 1911 provision of a new station building was being investigated. While Henderson remained a comparatively small settlement, its population expanded from 40 in 1881 to 583 in 1911. Plans for a new building were subsequently drawn up and in April 1912 the sum of £500 was approved. The new station was to be located a short distance to the north of the 1881 building, and was designed to be significantly larger in size. It was to sit in a more prominent position opposite the western end of Edsel Street, in the centre of a longer platform. The platform was to be extended 30.5 m. (100 feet) further north.
Adapted from a standard pattern, the building was a Number 4 Class B station with a verandah and post office. It was completed in December 1912, and the staff relocated to the new structure just a few days before Christmas. The new building contained a postal lobby with telephone bureau, telephone box and private box room attached; a large postal and stationmasters office; a luggage room; lobby; ladies waiting room and a ladies toilet in a lean-to. Part of the earlier station was moved to the north of the new building to form a lamp room and porters room, while the remaining portion was shifted to Penrose to form an office. A wide cart dock was also created between the two structures at this time, with a wicket gate between the dock and northern end of the new post office. The station now operated for 20 hours a day and employed 7 railway workers.
Changes at the station occurred in 1919 when the postal services were discontinued. Having served as Henderson's main post office, this function was transferred to a new purpose-built post office in Henderson, constructed in 1919. During the mid 1920s, the former post office was converted into a porters room and the detached store room (former porters and guards room) was rotated and extended. The verandah was lengthened by 15 m. (49 feet) to reach the end of the store room, and also covered the western part of the cart dock. Minor alterations were carried out at the station over the coming years with several of the rooms in the station building changing their function. A separate Ladies Waiting Room was retained into the 1950s, indicating ongoing attitudes towards women, and particularly the accommodation of gender segregation in public places. A small addition in 1968 consisted of a communications room at the southern end of the building . This was placed on the site of a former enclosed yard.
The station was one of a number of railway buildings at the site, but many of these have not survived. A two-storey signal box once stood immediately to the south of the building, but was removed in 1970. A goods shed has also disappeared.
Although Henderson had by this time become a conjoined suburb of Auckland, construction of the Northwestern Motorway and other arterial roads encouraged car use rather than rail. During the mid 1980s, New Zealand Rail planned to divest itself of the station prior to privatisation. The Henderson Borough Council and the West Auckland Historical Society feared that the station would be demolished. Both the council and the historical society felt that the station was an important part of Henderson's heritage and favoured the retention of the station on its original site. In September 1987 tickets were sold for the last time at the station and it became an unstaffed facility. Trains still stop at Henderson, but at separate platforms to the north and south of the earlier station.
During the 1990s the station building was leased and housed a cafe and furniture shop. By 1994 community groups including the Keep Waitakere Beautiful Committee were hoping to restore the station and use it for community purposes. They planned to restore the Henderson, Glen Eden, Ranui and Swanson stations. More recently, the Henderson Heritage Trust has sought to have the station restored and to this end, they commissioned a heritage assessment of the building, which was completed in July 1999. The Henderson Heritage Trust recently acquired the station building, and have rented out part of the building for the accommodation of a live-in caretaker.
The former Henderson Railway Station and platform is located in a mixed industrial/commercial area on a flat site in central Henderson, bounded on one side by the North Island Main Trunk Railway and on the other by Railside Avenue a busy local feeder street. Once a separate township, Henderson is now a suburb in the western part of the Auckland conurbation, though technically lying in Waitakere City. To the north and south of the original platform are located the new MAXX rail platforms and shelters. The old rail yards are located immediately opposite the station to the west, and contain a relatively recently-built goods shed of tanalised pole construction.
The single-storey timber station building consists of three parts. These comprise a remnant of the 1881 station (modified in 1925) at the northern end of the building, a semi-open cart dock in the centre, and the 1912 structure to the south. All sit on a low platform that extends for 46.5 m to the north of the building, 40 m. in front of the building, and 13.5 m. to the south, comprising 100 m. in total. The platform appears to be made of concrete and is approximately 7 m. to 8 m. wide.
The platform is accessed from Railside Avenue by a sloping ramp located between the cart dock and the northern end of the 1912 building. The cart dock itself is open on the Railside Avenue frontage and lies next to an entrance into the 1881/1925 part of the structure to the north. A pair of paneled doors front an original main entrance into the 1912 building, halfway along the Railside Avenue elevation. A significantly larger number of doors provide access into the 1912 building on the platform side.
In the northern part of the 1912 building were located the railways administration: a locker room, Station Master's office and general office with a safe and an open fireplace, and a ticket window opening onto the platform. The former postal operation was located in this northern section of the station. The centre of the building contained the parcels office (the former lobby) and the southern section the Ladies Waiting Room and toilets. Arriving passengers would obtain their tickets on the platform and proceed to the general waiting area (former lobby) or to the Ladies Waiting Room, both heated by back-to-back fireplaces.
The building is substantially intact but shows the neglect typical of redundant timber railway stations on the Auckland suburban network.
The 1881/1925 station building is a shallow-gabled weatherboard building with boxed corners and a corrugated steel roof. It is lit with 9 light pivoting sash on the Railside Avenue elevation and a large sliding door opens onto the platform. Separated from the main station by the goods dock and entry ramp, it is linked to the main building by the main station awning (supported on typical NZR recycled rail supports) that extends the full length of the complex. The use of cut nails and the treatment of weatherboard and architraves identify it as a building of late Victorian origin.
The later enlarged station shows little evidence of its evolution. It has a shallow gable roof terminating in a wide spreading platform awning the ends of which are clad in fretted vertical boarding. The station is clad in rusticated weatherboard, painted in light cream with dark green trim and grey doors. Two small monopitch service buildings are located at the south end of the building. The ticket window hatch survives, as does one of two original 'Henderson' station signs. A redundant iron catch and gate gudgeons provide evidence of a long-lost gate on the entry ramp.
The interior is fitted throughout with vertical reeded tongue-and-groove linings on walls and ceilings, painted two shades of turquoise, with rooms lit by four-light sliding sashes. A moulded picture rail extends around the rooms approximately 600mm below ceiling height. Decorative circular pressed zinc ceiling ventilators provide evidence of earlier non-electric (acetylene gas or oil) lighting. Fireplaces have exposed brick faces and wings up to mantelshelf height and are then cased in tongue-and-groove. The mantelshelves are constructed of wire-reinforced stucco, possibly pre-cast. Floors are standard six-inch tongue-and-groove. Door and window architraves are of a standard ogee type, painted salmon.
The recent café use has involved removal of two partitions at the north end of the building to create a café kitchen, with the attendant hygienic lining attached over the original linings. These are trimmed with non-matching mouldings. The balance of the interior has survived reasonably well apart from some isolated damage to mantelshelves. Several doors appear to have been lost during the café conversion.
Henderson Railway Station and platform is essentially a pattern book design. It is a Type B No.4 station, one of three standard station designs to be found in the 1904 NZR Engineer's Pocket Book, teamed up with a No.3 platform verandah on the west elevation.
The early section of the station to the north has been integrated with the later building and linked with the platform verandah. Despite this, the early origins are evident in the treatment of the weatherboard and the use of multi-paned windows.
Unlike the 'Victorian Jacobean' stations that earned Troup the title 'Gingerbread George' the Henderson station is a conservative and utilitarian design, employing readily available standard joinery factory components such as two-light counterweighted sliding sashes, and tall panelled doors on the exterior with domestic scale four panels. Stations such as the Type B were a 'refinement and upgrading' by Troup of the old Vogel era stations, and utilised elements of late Victorian domestic architecture such as rusticated weatherboard, ornamental chimney caps, turned finials and exposed ties on gable ends, bracketed eaves and standard Victorian ogee-moulded architraves. The concession to the early twentieth-century bungalow style can be seen in the relatively shallow roof gable.
Although many Troup Type B stations are believed to survive, they are diminishing in number, particularly on their original sites.
Station building, incorporating relocated 1881 station
Women's WC facilities improved
Private postal boxes removed
Modifications, including reorientation and extension of storeroom (1881 station), extension of verandah, and conversion of former post office to a guards room
Wall between parcels office and waiting room removed
Small room added at south end of station building for use as a communications room
Signal box removed
Building: timber construction with weatherboard cladding and a corrugated iron roof.
Platform: concrete, with tar seal.
30th August 2004
Report Written By
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives
1881, 1882, 1905, 1913, 1919, 1920
Archives New Zealand (Auck)
Archives New Zealand (Auckland)
Henderson Platform 1898-1971, BAEI 10003 53d; Henderson Station 1911-1971, BAEI 10003 164a.
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Raewyn Dalziel, 'Vogel, Julius, 1835-1899', W.H. Oliver, (ed.), Vol. I, 1769-1869, Wellington, 1990, pp.563-566.URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/; Veitch, James, 'Troup, George Alexander 1863-1914', in Claudia Orange (ed.), Vol. II, 1870-1900, Wellington, 1993, pp.549-550
Anthony G Flude, Henderson's Mill: A History of Henderson 1849-1939, Auckland, 1977
14 July 1977, 13 March 1986, 3 September 1987 and 25 February 1994
J. D. Mahoney, Down at the Station: A Study of the New Zealand Railway Station, Palmerston North, 1987
Mahoney, P. J., 'New Zealand Railway Station Buildings: A Heritage in Timber and Tin', Proceedings of the First ICOMOS New Zealand Conference, 1990
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
19 July 1881 and 22 December 1980
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office
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.