Railway House (Former)

4 Railway Terrace, Morningside, Whangarei

  • Railway House (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Stuart Park. Date: 1/12/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7744 Date Entered 14th May 2008


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes all the land described as Lot 16 DP 135362 (CT NA79D/559) North Auckland Land District and the house thereon.

City/District Council

Whangarei District


Northland Region

Legal description

Lot 16 DP 135362 (CT NA79D/559), North Auckland Land District.


The house at 4 Railway Terrace, Morningside, Whangarei is a former railway house built to the standard A pattern known as No.2 Class B Plans AB296 and produced at the Frankton Railway House Factory. It is a five room family cottage built for the families of men working for New Zealand Railways and is one in a group of five built in 1928 in the railway housing development at Morningside, Whangarei. The standard design has the roof variant A and porch variant B. Facing northeast, the front of the house is elevated to accommodate the slope. The original toilet and coal shed is in the back yard.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This house is significant as one example of the houses built under the Railway Housing Scheme, which was the first and largest government programme to provide housing for state workers. It brought uniformity and rationalization to the housing of railway workers in New Zealand. Ten main settlements were created, of which Whangarei was one of the smaller ones. It is significant as a representative link in the chain of this nation-wide scheme to provide simple sanitary and economical housing for the lower paid work force. It is also considered historically significant for its association with the development of New Zealand's railway network, particularly its extension to major provincial centres. Railway development was closely linked with Whangarei's development as a major economic centre in Northland, which was facilitated by improved communications with the rest of New Zealand.


Railway houses are a significant element in the history of New Zealand architecture, yet surprisingly few have been registered by NZHPT. No 4 Railway Terrace is an excellent example of the commonest first form of house in the simpler 'English' design, in contrast to the larger more elaborate 'American' design, built for more senior staff, like its neighbour number 6 (the subject of a separate registration proposal). This house was built as a kitset to George Troup's design in the Frankton factory he designed, built and established. It was then transported by rail to Whangarei, and erected on site. No 4 Railway Terrace also illustrates several of the 'variations on a theme' that the kitset construction method allowed, having roof A and porch B.


The railway settlements contributed to the 'community' ethos of railway workers and their families. Working for the Railways was secure employment during times of economic hardship, and men considered themselves fortunate to have homes provided by their employer at cheap, non-fluctuating rents. There was enough land to put in a vegetable garden, run hens and graze a milk cow. Rarely was an ornamental garden planted as the residents were always aware that they would be moved on. With the regularity of transfers, the advantages of identical houses spread throughout the country was welcomed and the transition was easy as the family moved into a similar community as the one they had left.

The settlements were close-knit communities whose whole life revolved around the Railways. The men worked for the Department, the focus of their social life was the railway hall where regular Saturday night dances were held, and most shared the transient lifestyle. Friendships made in other communities were maintained by frequent visits by train at little charge. These settlements were close to general amenities as a small town nucleus grew up around the railway station.

Hundreds of children grew up in these homes which in their uniformity and consistency provided familiar surroundings for the families as they were moved around the country. When the worker was re-assigned to another centre the families followed, and the transition into the new community was made easier by the identical housing and environment.

Section 23 (2) Assessment

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The New Zealand railway house, of which this is a well preserved example, is indicative of a form and scale of state sector employment which is now obsolete. As part of George Troup's grand scheme the Planned Settlements were intended to be special kinds of early suburbs - garden communities of group housing and social facilities. The garden suburb idea was only partially put into practice in New Zealand.

The development of the railway system was an enormously important factor in the social and economic growth of New Zealand, and the provision of housing for workers was an important component of that development.

The provision of affordable housing is still an issue today as it was in the years of recovery after World War I. Decent housing is perceived as a foundation of a good society - it provides stability and responsibility. The post war concern with the physical and moral health of the nation led to the Public Health Act of 1918 which gave health inspectors power to authorize demolition and the 1919 Housing Act provided loans for local authorities to borrow to build new workers' housing. In 1925 the State Advances scheme provided 95% of the cost of a house to anyone who could afford it. Workers' suburbs were envisaged as garden mews to provide healthy open living spaces to uplift the moral tenor and provide stability through affordable home ownership.

The Railway Housing Scheme was modelled on these principles and was in the forefront of employer-provided housing. Similar housing projects were developed by the Ministry of Works at sites of road building, timber industry and electricity generation. The Annual Report of the Government Architect records that the Public Works Department built houses for Education, Agriculture, Army Air, Navy, Police, and Health but not Railways.

It could also be considered the forerunner of the Department of Housing Construction created in 1936 by John A Lee to provide affordable well built housing. Houses were designed for different sized families, to be roomy and pleasant and of a high standard. Each street was to have several different designs at different elevations. Development of community was a primary consideration with the provision of public facilities, shops, schools, recreation and transport. The old grid layout was to be avoided and extensive use of loop roads and cul-de-sacs. The houses were to remain the property of the State and rented for a sum that covered costs and provided a small surplus for replacement sixty years hence.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Railway Housing scheme was the first and largest workers' housing scheme ever to have been undertaken in New Zealand. From the milling of the timber in its own forests to the extensive Housing Factory in Frankton and the railing of the pre-cut house 'kits' to the sites - it was the largest enterprise in the country at the time. As such it represents a considerable technical achievement.

No 4 Railway Terrace was a pre-cut kitset, one of the original house designs developed by architect George Troup and built using his principles of standardisation. This approach to the prefabrication and mass production of housing was very innovative, and although it followed overseas examples, was a significant first for New Zealand.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The pre-cut railway house made a strong visual impact on many towns in New Zealand, with uniform houses on uniform plots in a regular pattern like the British terrace house, an image the planners had sought to avoid. Although the 1920 AB 296 railway house is dominant in the places they were built because of their uniformity, the variations in design deliberately attempted to break up this uniformity, with later houses like No 6 Railway Terrace adding to the diversity.

The Morningside railway settlement still exists to a substantial degree in Whangarei, but many of its houses have been considerably modified. Number 4 Railway Terrace, and its younger neighbour Number 6 that is the subject of a separate registration proposal, have been selected for registration as representative examples of the wider railway settlement of Morningside, and of railway houses nationwide, because they have remained substantially intact in appearance. Both houses should be seen as part of that wider local and national cultural landscape.


This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, g, k.


In several respects, this house has been demonstrated to have historical and cultural significance, both locally in the history of Whangarei and Northland and nationally as a typical example of a significant national housing scheme. It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Troup, George Alexander

G A Troup (1863-1941) was born in London in 1863 and educated in Scotland. He trained as an architect and engineer under C E Calvert of Edinburgh and came to New Zealand in 1884. After a short time with the Survey Department in Otago he became a draughtsman for New Zealand Railways in Dunedin and then, from 1888, in Wellington. Troup became Chief Draughtsman in 1894. He designed many station buildings throughout the county, some of which are still in use today; these buildings form an important part of New Zealand's landscape. His best known building is the Dunedin Railway Station (1904-07). He also designed the head office building in Wellington for Railways (1901, now demolished).

Troup became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1907. After World War I he was promoted to head the newly established Architectural Branch of New Zealand Railways. On retirement from Railways in 1925 he entered local body politics and was Mayor of Wellington from 1927 to 1931. Troup was prominent in the Presbyterian Church and founded the Presbyterian Young Men's Bible Class Union. He was an elder of the church for 47 years and also served on the governing bodies of several Wellington secondary schools. Education was a life-long interest and he was keenly involved in the training of engineering cadets in New Zealand Railways. Troup was knighted in 1937 and died in 1941.

Last updated 1 October 2014

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative



In New Zealand the Railways Department had provided accommodation for employees from as early as 1885, usually by purchasing existing buildings. Transfers from railway centre to centre were a condition of employment and so cheap housing was an attraction to staying in the service. However, the acute housing shortage after World War I prompted the Department to look for other ways to fill this need.

The construction of planned towns to house the workforce of a particular industry was a result of the Industrial Revolution. In Britain from the mid nineteenth century private enterprises including railway companies, built housing in planned settlements for employees. They were usually well built, solid and very plain terrace houses of regular plan. Companies also provided community facilities such as markets, shops, assembly rooms and schools.

The philosophy of garden suburbs to provide sanitary, simple and affordable housing had been promoted in Britain and America since the end of the nineteenth century. The concept was that the community would be self contained and provide easy connection between public facilities - parks, halls, churches and the houses - and the work place. In New Zealand railway housing had previously been built along the railway line without consideration to conveniences. In the planned communities houses were located away from noise and smoke yet close enough for the men to walk to work at the railway yards. Often the land was marginal and therefore cheaper, as was the case in Whangarei. Frankton Junction, which by 1928 comprised of 133 houses, and had a hall and library but never really fulfilled the garden suburb ideal.

The Architectural Branch of Government Railways Department was created in 1920 to supervise the large scale construction programme. George Troup was appointed architect to the Railway Housing Scheme in 1919. Besides having trained as an architect he also had qualifications in engineering and surveying. Troup undertook study tours to America to observe the concept of garden cities and he became enthusiastic about the contemporary concepts of prefabrication. Emphasis of production was on pre-cutting, standardization and quantity. He proposed to establish a house factory in Frankton near Hamilton that would be based on contemporary American housing factories.


As the railway network expanded the solution to housing requirements was mass production of standardised cut-to-fit cottages to be railed to and erected in planned settlements. This was made possible by the use of modern specialized technology and efficient use of materials and labour. Emphasis was placed on the speed of production hand in hand with economies achieved by process organisation.

The Railways Department's Housing Scheme had three purposes:- to set up a modern and mechanized prefabrication factory; to produce architecturally designed, mass produced houses for both urban and rural New Zealand for rental to railway employees; and to provide 'garden suburbs' for railway families complete with recreational and social facilities. It was the first large scale state housing policy in the country.

The scheme was to provide single family units of one storey on a plot of land - a concept that was a long standing tradition and an expectation in New Zealand. The houses were based on two styles, one English and the other American in design. The English style house had a standard floor plan with a variety of four roof forms and four different porches and is referred to as AB296. The ordinary worker was assigned an AB296 house while the larger houses such as AB 1123 were for more senior employees, regardless of family size. After the Housing factory closed in 1928 other designs including AB 326 and B class 50974 and 16908 were used.

The provision of housing contributed to staff mobility and retention of employees. The standardization of housing had the advantage that when families relocated they moved into a house of exactly the same floor plan and the furniture fitted in the same room and the curtains on the windows.

The House Factory in Frankton , the first in the Southern Hemisphere, was designed to eliminate manpower and mechanise the construction industry. It was deemed at the time to be the most complete layout of a prefabrication factory. The automatic factory process was designed to save materials by 18%, labour by 33% and time with a total financial saving of 20%.

Rationalisation of production and erection were the key to economising. Elements such as doors and window frames and furniture joinery were standardized. The process was so organized that each piece of cut timber was numbered as recorded in the pattern books for the different types of standard house. Even the separate slats for the trellis work on the front porch were cut to a specified length in the factory. The complete house 'bundles' were sent by rail to the building sites. Construction gangs could erect a standard cut-to-fit cottage in two to three weeks.

Ten major railway housing settlements were planned in the North Island; eventually railway houses were erected in 170 locations throughout the country.

The annual report of the Railways Department in 1928 recorded:

These houses have all the usual modern conveniences, such as electric lighting, hot-and cold water service, sewerage, high-pressure water, etc., where such are available. In the case of the larger settlements attention has been paid to the provision of reasonable reservations for recreation purposes, and the Department has aided tenants of such settlements in providing well-equipped sports-grounds.

The Frankton house-factory was closed at the end of 1928 as the housing programme was deemed to have been completed.

Since the inauguration of the housing scheme the total number of houses erected is Departmental, 1,277; non-departmental, 314: total 1,591.

The Housing Construction Department took over providing housing for NZR employees, contracting out the building work to be undertaken by local builders to standard designs.


Established as a colonial township in the 1860s, Whangarei's earliest railway line was constructed in 1879-80 to allow the export of coal from mines at nearby Kamo via the Whangarei wharf. The Kamo-Whangarei line remained isolated from the rest of New Zealand's rail network until the main trunk route between Auckland and Wellington was completed in 1908, allowing resources to be spent on connecting outlying provincial centres. In 1911 Whangarei was linked to the Kawakawa-Opua line further north, and by 1925 its connection to Auckland was complete. As a major focus for the rail network in the region, a large station complex was erected at Whangarei on a new site to the south of the town centre. The Station was opened by the Minister for Railways and future premier, Gordon Coates (1878-1943), on 11 March 1925.

The building of the main trunk line to Whangarei necessitated a large building programme. Plans were drawn up for the new station, workshops and employee housing. Towards the end of 1923 an area of nearly 50 acres in Raumanga No. 1 block was surveyed and Gazetted in March 1924, being 'Taken for sites for dwellings for employees of Govt. Railways Dept.' Bounded by Limeburner's Creek to the east and Raumanga Road (the name was subsequently changed to Morningside Road) to the east, the site was mostly hilly scrub country. Ten houses of the AB 296 pattern were built in this initial phase of the scheme in 1924-25 by Mr N Cooksey .

According to George Troup's draft programme, 20 houses of the AB 296 pattern for Whangarei were planned in the 4th group of fifty. The initial ten Whangarei houses (Nos. A328 - A337) were erected on the south side of Morningside Road in 1924-1925, facing north.

An article in the Whangarei newspaper in July 1924, entitled ‘Housing the Employees: Village in the Making' praised the site and the views.

Ten houses are currently under construction fronting the roadway running by an easy grade from the railway cutting towards the crest of lookout hill...

The view from the site of the buildings facing northwards is glorious, and from the elevated position Whangarei and the country towards Kamo and Huanui is a really beautiful sight...

In 1928 five more houses of the AB 296 pattern were built in the settlement. Railway Terrace was formed and house numbers 2 and 4 were constructed. On Morningside Road numbers 97a, and 95 and 115 were built. With the ten built in 1924, these comprise the fifteen A class houses built in Whangarei.

In the late 1930s older housing stock close to the station built before the scheme was demolished or sold. The larger B house pattern was introduced in 1938 and Nos. 6 and 8 Railway Terrace were built that year to the B Class pattern. One of these, No. 6 Railway Terrace, is the subject of a separate registration proposal.

During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s additional B houses were built in Morningside Road and neighbouring streets such as William Jones Drive, Matai Street, Anzac Road, Ormond Road, and Arthur Street.

A major survey of the Railways Department's housing stock was undertaken in 1962. In Whangarei the Railways Department had forty houses: 15 of the first A class houses, 21 of the later B class designs and 4 of class M which were bought from private builders. The housing stock was rationalized and houses were sold throughout the country. The Morningside settlement, however, remained intact.

In 1988 New Zealand Railways became Railcorp and as a commercially orientated State Owned Enterprise, it had no interest in owning rental housing. Proclamation 5908 was cancelled in February 1990 and the individual houses put up for sale.


This house was a kitset, produced at Frankton and sent to Whangarei by rail, where it was erected on site. It was one of 5 built at the same time and completed in 1928. 4 Railway Terrace was bought, along with many others by Horseback Holdings Ltd and Stone Key Trading Ltd. in June 1990. It was sold to private owners in January 1993 and to the present owners three years later. The original toilet and coal shed is in the back yard.

Physical Description


The A house No.2 Class B dwelling AB296 was the first and most common house designed for the railway worker and his family. The modest five roomed plan was used with four variant roof lines and porch details. Combination A was a simple pitched roof with the ridge parallel to the front facade, with a small gable over the porch. The D roof variant was placed with the ridge at right angles to the front with a porch lean-to. The gable ends of both were sheathed in the new building material, asbestos panels with vertical battens as a feature. The detailing of Porch A and D both showed belated reference to Art Nouveau in the triangular decoration. Roof B was a more intricate hip and gable form. The more solid appearance of the Roof C was due to the traditional villa roof form. Rafters supported the purlins to which the timber sarking was nailed. The roofing was the standard galvanized corrugated iron.

Sometimes window hoods were of lapped weatherboards but never the popular timber shingles. Trellis work of different specified patterns contributed to the distinctive railway house porch, which was always orientated towards the street irrespective of sunlight, wind or privacy.

Troup's designs of the 1920s Railway house retained the formal, symmetrical villa plan with the central front door, the formal living room across from the main bedroom and the straight hall leading to the service areas. This layout was not entirely suitable for working people who had little leisure or money for the social niceties of formal entertainment. The parlour was often used as a fourth bedroom. If family size allowed, the small bedroom opening off the kitchen was used as an extension of the general living space for a piano an easy chair in a quiet corner or a space to sew. The kitchen was the hub of family life. Dominating the room was the huge multi purpose table, with enough room for a sofa, two fireside chairs and a sideboard. The only built-in fittings were a cupboard in the parlour and kitchen.

Interior linings were of tongue and groove jointed boards for both walls and ceilings in the kitchen, bathroom, scullery and washhouse. The bedrooms, hall and parlour had wallpaper pasted to the scrim tacked onto rough timber linings and board and batten ceilings. The nine foot stud of the Railway house was high compared with the seven or eight foot common at the time. The front door had three moulded panels below and a small divided window above. Although the traditional double-hung windows were retained, the sashes divided by timber mullions were a small concession to the contemporary style of casement windows with leaded fanlights.

The houses were sound and well maintained. Travelling Railways painters and paperhangers, visited at regular five to seven year intervals. The initial exterior colour scheme was cream with brown facings, but later, the policy was to paint the houses in varying colours as in the private sector.

4 Railway Terrace is an example of Plan AB296 with Roof A and Porch B. The trellis between the porch posts has been removed and the front balustraded. steps come from the left side to accommodate the elevation of the house from the front of the section. These are now concrete, with a wrought iron railing, but would probably originally have been built in timber.

4 Railway Terrace substantially retains its original exterior appearance. All the windows are original, with most having six lights in the top sash and two in the lower. The rear bedroom windows have been modified to replace the original nine lights in the top sash with a single pane of glass. In the rear, an additional window has been inserted in the original bathroom / washhouse in a sympathetic style. Both the front and rear doors are the originals. The interior has been altered for modern living but many of the original finishes and floors remain, as well as the chimneys.

The original toilet and coal shed is in the back yard. This is a simple rectangular shed with an internal partition dividing the w.c. space from the coal shed. The rear wall has been replaced due to rot, and the w.c. has been removed but much of the original structure and its match lining remains intact.

Construction Dates

1919 -
George Troup appointed Architect to Government Railways Housing Scheme

1922 -
Railway house factory in Frankton opened

1923 -
Plans developed for railway development in Whangarei

Original Construction
1924 - 1925
First ten railway houses erected in Whangarei

1925 -
Whangarei Railway Station opened

1928 -
Railway Terrace created as a cul-de-sac off Morningside Drive

1928 -
Railway house factory in Frankton closed

1938 -
No's 6 and 8 Railway Terrace constructed

1990 -
Railcorp sells No. 4 Railway Terrace to private interests

2003 -
Present owners purchase No. 4 Railway Terrace

Construction Details

BUILDER: The kitset house was produced at the Frankton Railway House Factory. Construction was undertaken by building staff of NZ Railways; their identity is not known.

CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS: Timber, weatherboard, corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

21st December 2007

Report Written By

Stuart Park

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Auck)

Archives New Zealand (Auckland)

BABJ 14526/1a, /1b, /2a, /2b.

BABJ 14527/1a, Railnet Files, National Archives, Auckland.

BABJ 14528/1a

BABJ 1529/1a

Ferguson, 1994

Gael Ferguson, Building the New Zealand Dream, Palmerston North, 1994

Firth, 1949

Cedric Firth, State Housing in New Zealand Ministry of Works 1949.

Kellaway, 1988

Laura Kellaway, Frankton Junction & the Railway House B.Arch. Thesis, University of Auckland 1988

Kellaway, 1994

Laura Kellaway, The Railway House in New Zealand - a Study of the 1920s New Zealand Railway Housing Scheme. M.Arch. Thesis, University of Auckland 1994

Roche, 2006

Michael Roche 'Garden Suburbs and New Zealand Railways 1922-1929' in Planning History, September 2006. pp12-16.

Urlich, 1981

Robyn Urlich, The Railway House in Context. B.Arch. Thesis, University of Auckland 1981

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northland Area Office.


There are surprisingly few railway houses on the Register of NZHPT, given the significance of this housing scheme locally and nationally. There are no other registered railway houses in Northland, though the neighbouring house No. 6 Railway Terrace is being proposed for registration. A related Northland registration is the former Whangarei Railway Station 7646 Category II.

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.