Greymouth Railway Station Footbridge [Relocated]

156 Mackay Street (Relocated To Shantytown Heritage Park, 310 Rutherglen Rd, Rutherglen), Greymouth

  • Greymouth Railway Station Footbridge [Reocated].
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Melanie McLovell-Smith.
  • Greymouth Railway Station Footbridge [Reocated].
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Melanie McLovell-Smith.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5014 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

The footbridge was dismantled in 2002. In circa 2010 the central span bowstring truss was removed to a ‘temporary’ location for display at Shantytown Heritage Park, with the potential for it to be returned to Greymouth at a future date.

City/District Council

Grey District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Ppty ID 81182 LO 2313/2 L 48570


The footbridge at Greymouth Railway Station was situated at the west end of the station and ran from the station platform on Mackay Street over three railway lines and the station yard to Smith Street. The idea for such a footbridge arose as part of the plans to rearrange the station in order to cope with the potential increase in passengers expected as a result of the Otira Tunnel opening.

The opening of the Otira Tunnel in August 1923 was significant in the history of the South Island as for the first time the east and west coasts were linked by a direct rail line. It was expected that this would substantially increase the rail traffic that Greymouth Station would handle. The Railways Department therefore decided that part of a neighbouring street would be taken as railway land so the station could expand. While plans to close off Alexander Street and erect a footbridge to run between Alexander and Mackay Streets had been proposed by 1917, it was not until 1920 that the design to re-arrange the station yard was formally approved. By 1922 the District Engineer believed that, while it was unlikely all the improvements to the station would be carried out soon, some aspects, such as the footbridge, were going to be essential once the Otira Tunnel opened.

In 1923 the local council was formally notified that New Zealand Railways intended to close the Alexander Street railway crossing and replace it with a foot overbridge with ramped approaches. The Public Works Department was contacted about these jobs in the same year. Plans were drawn up for the footbridge in 1924. It was to be 97 feet (approximately 30 metres) in length and similar in appearance to the one then under construction at Hokitika. (The footbridge at Hokitika has since been demolished). At Greymouth two ramps were constructed on the south side of the railway line, one leading directly onto the platform and the other to Mackay Street. The central span was a steel bowstring truss with diagonal bracing. Such a truss was often used for pedestrian overbridges at New Zealand railway stations, albeit with variations in the style of bracing and number of trusses. The footbridge was designed under the aegis of George Alexander Troup (1863 - 1941), who worked his way up through the New Zealand Railway Department to become officer in charge of the newly established architectural branch in 1919. He was a distinguished architect and engineer and was responsible for a revised book of standard plans and designs for railway structures, published in 1903-1904. By 1925 he had retired from the railway service but the Greymouth footbridge, designed the year before his retirement, is believed to have been designed based on one of his standard plans.

Work, however, does not appear to have started on the footbridge before March 1925. By October 1925 the ramps leading to the footbridge were almost complete and awaiting the arrival of the central bowstring arch, which was being constructed at the New Zealand Rail workshops at Addington, Christchurch.

In 1926 the local community asked New Zealand Railways to shorten the footbridge by eight feet (almost two and a half metres) to improve the visibility and safety of the intersection at Alexander and Smith Streets. In June 1926 work was begun to shorten the bridge as requested. It is unclear whether the bridge had been completed before this work started. The overall project of station improvements, including the footbridge, was completed by early 1927, slightly over budget.

The Greymouth footbridge served the local community, providing access to the central business district and the railway station, from 1927 until 2002. It was sold to Mawhera Corporation in 2001 and in October that year the new owners applied to demolish the bridge as part of a new supermarket development. The local community reacted to this announcement with anger, concerned with the potential loss of part of its heritage and safe pedestrian access to the centre of town. The community, Greymouth Heritage Trust and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga tried to reach a compromise with the developers. Unfortunately the bridge was dismantled in March 2002. The bowstring arch and other parts of the span are currently in storage. The ramps, which until recently led up to the footbridge, had been excluded from the original demolition consent, as they were included within the Greymouth Station Historic Area in the district plan. However, the Environment Court decided that they could be taken down. Nine parties opposed this decision and consequently the owners offered the ramps to the District Council. The Council accepted responsibility for the ramps in October 2002.

The footbridge at Greymouth represents a structure once common throughout New Zealand. Around seven such footbridges remain and these all differ slightly in the number of spans used and the design of the bracing. The design of the footbridge is thought to be based on one of noted railway engineer and architect George Troup's standard plans. It was an important part of the entire Greymouth railway complex and was built as part of a major re-arrangement of the Greymouth Railway Station to cope with the increase in rail traffic once the Otira Tunnel was completed. The footbridge provided the Greymouth community with pedestrian access over the railway lines for 75 years and the community feeling for the bridge was publicly demonstrated during its dismantling in 2002. It is hoped the footbridge will be re-erected.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Before the Otira Tunnel opened in 1923 Greymouth was unique as the hub of a self-contained railway complex of some magnitude, both in the number of lines and their volume of traffic. All the West Coast railway operations were formerly supervised from the district headquarters at Greymouth and in recent times the station has regained some of its importance with the introduction of the Trans-Alpine Scenic railway.


The architectural significance of the footbridge lies in its representative value, as it is a good example of what was once a common feature of large railway stations throughout New Zealand.


Viewed from Smith Street the footbridge is a distinctive landmark because of its size and construction.


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

See also: James Veitch. 'Troup, George Alexander', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


The first railway station in Greymouth was erected in 1876 to serve the first railway line on the West Coast which ran from Greymouth to the Brunner coal mine. This was replaced by the present station building in 1897 and the footbridge was built at some time between 1910 and 1934, probably in 1929 when the new locomotive depot was built and the turntable moved as part of the redevelopment of the station.

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the Board.


The pedestrian footbridge west of the Greymouth Railway Station building runs from Mackay Street and the station platform to Smith Street over three railway lines and the station yard. A single steel truss, similar to the Whipple bowstring truss patented in the United States in 1841, spans the lines between trestle approaches which take the form of dual ramps at the Mackay Street end of the bridge. The steel trestles are made up of four lengths of steel which form a rectangular support with diagonal bracing and each one rests upon a concrete pad. These vary in size depending on the contour of the earth beneath. Wooden railings extend along both sides of the bridge and approach ramps.



[The footbridge was dismantled in 2002. In circa 2010 the central span bowstring truss was removed to a ‘temporary’ location for display at Shantytown Heritage Park, with the potential for it to be returned to Greymouth at a future date.]

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1925 - 1927

1926 -
June 1926 work began to shorten the overhead bridge by 10 ft

2002 -
Bowstring arch and span of bridge dismantled

2010 - 2010
The central span bowstring truss was removed to a ‘temporary’ location for display at Shantytown Heritage Park, with the potential for it to be returned to Greymouth at a future date.

Construction Details

Steel truss and trestles, the latter support wooden approach spans and bridge decking. Concrete pads beneath the trestles.

Completion Date

29th October 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Chch)

Archives New Zealand (Christchurch)

Greymouth Station contract plans, n.d., CABA CH 86 GR 502; New Zealand Railways Corporation, Greymouth District Engineer's Office, CAHL CH9 280 pt 1; 'Greymouth Passenger Yard and Sidings 1917-1940', CAHV CH21 1929/976/35; 'Overhead bridge across Pass Yard Greymouth 1924-1974', CAHV CH77 29/976/36 Box 45; File 267, CH9, N.Z.R.

Mahoney, 1987

J. D. Mahoney, Down at the Station: A Study of the New Zealand Railway Station, Palmerston North, 1987

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Research material compiled by P. Mahoney

Noonan, 1975

Rosslyn J. Noonan, By Design: A Brief History of the Public Works Department Ministry of Works 1870-1970, Wellington, 1975

Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand Register

Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand Register

Roberts, 1998

F.K. Roberts, A Compendium of Railway Construction: a summary of the Public Works statements from 1889-1941. Part Three, Nelson and West Coast Region, Wellington, 1998

Thornton, 2001

Geoffrey Thornton, Bridging the Gap, Early Bridges in New Zealand 1830-1939, Auckland, 2001

Troup, 1982

G. Troup, George Troup: Architect and Engineer, Palmerston North, 1982

University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury

New Zealand Architects File, School of Fine Arts Reference Room

Research material provided by Dr G Mullenger, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury

West Coast Scrapbook

West Coast Scrapbook

compiled by J.D. Mahoney, Christchurch

New Zealand Railways

New Zealand Railways

(Publicity and Advertising Branch), History of Addington railway workshops, Wellington, 1979

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.