Call for some TLC at Oamaru Railway Station building

Helen Stead wants to see more care and attention given to the Category 2 listed Oamaru Railway Station so that it can be restored to its former glory. 

Oamaru station under blue skies
Call goes out to improve the state of the Railway Stationexpand/collapse
A former Waitaki District Councillor, member of the Historic Places Trust board, and now owner of Oamaru Heritage Tours Limited, Helen Stead is in a good position to raise concerns about the state of Oamaru’s historic railway station building, which today operates as a restaurant.  

Helen, who has a huge love for rail tourism and the history of Oamaru is pushing the Waitaki District Council and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust to realise the greater potential for the Railway Station to attract more people by rail to this South Island town. With a population of 13,700, Oamaru is the 28th largest urban area in New Zealand and the 3rd largest in Otago behind Dunedin and Queenstown. 

“I want to see the railway station restored back to its great past as a welcoming place for people to this district. Covid restrictions have changed air travel and made cruise ship travel to our shores obsolete for now. I can see huge potential resurrecting railway passenger transport. Oamaru has one of the most historic railway stations in New Zealand,” says Helen. 

Rail heritage enthusiasts called this station ‘Vintage Troup’ after the Railways Department architect George Troup, who designed it. The station opened in 1900. It is a long slender building. With the expansion of rail transport in New Zealand in earlier decades Oamaru saw a huge amount of rail passenger and freight traffic between Dunedin, Christchurch and Marlborough. Until the mid 1980s Oamaru was an important division point for train crews, but changes in operating methods and a reduction in local traffic led to the withdrawal of station staff in 1990.  

The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust bought the building in the 1990s but it is now in private ownership and has operated as the Station Wok restaurant for the past four years. 

Helen Stead acknowledges that it has been hard going for the owner of the station business, especially during Covid restrictions, which has caused a huge drop in revenue. “The station is currently between a rock and a hard place. We have to think of ways to maintain the business but also to look at its past and possible future to help bring the station back as a special place in our district.”

David Watt