Ohakune Railway Station

1/27, 29 Thames Street, Ohakune

  • Ohakune Railway Station.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 8/08/2008.
  • Ohakune Railway Station, platform.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 2/12/2003.
  • Ohakune Railway Station. Ex. Paekakariki Signal Box relocated in 1991 to Ohakune. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Hugh McCall. Taken By: Hugh McCall – Braxholm. Date: 13/04/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7790 Date Entered 20th February 2009 Date of Effect 20th February 2009


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 3 DP 73843 (RT WN40C/469), Lot 4 DP 73843 (RT WN40C/470), Pt Legal Road, Wellington Land District, and the buildings known as the Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box thereon, and their fittings and fixtures including the Ohakune Railway Station canopy and its platform abutments. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Ruapehu District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 73843 (RT WN40C/469), Lot 4 DP 73843 (RT WN40C/470), Pt Legal Road, Wellington Land District

Location description

Enter Ohakune Township (SH49), then turn into Goldfinch Street and follow until the intersection of Mountain Rd and Thames Street, then turn into Thames Street. The Railway Station is on the left slightly above normal road level. Access is by way of a through drive.


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. 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 NZHPT Board.

Brief Description:

The Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box form the centrepiece of the rail heritage precinct at Ohakune Junction and are physical reminders of the central historical importance of rail to the town and region. The Station itself is one of the oldest buildings in Ohakune, and the relocated Signal Box is contemporaneous with those which were originally at the Junction.

Prior to the construction of the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) railway, the Central Plateau was relatively untouched. This changed when preparation for the NIMT began in earnest in the 1880s. As well as surveying for potential rail routes, townships were scoped out and settlements established. In 1905 Ohakune was a NIMT construction headquarters and then became the southern railhead in 1906. During this period the population grew exponentially due to the sudden influx of construction workers, support staff and businesses. People were also drawn by the promise of Ohakune maintaining its status as an important strategic rail destination and that of a lucrative timber industry once construction was complete. Rail was an essential communications link and means of distribution for Ohakune and other towns in the region. When the timber industry began to decline in the late 1920s, its centrality to the local economy was superseded by market gardening and tourism, both of which were still heavily dependant on rail transportation.

Ohakune Railway Station was built [circa 1908] to correspond with the railhead reaching Ohakune. The relative importance of the Station was represented by it being one of the larger station buildings on the NIMT. It is a 'Class B,' timber, Troup era station, which was extended soon after its construction, and it features an open ended platform canopy. The Station's interior has been renovated a number of times to allow for the establishment and continuance of passenger services, such as the Refreshment Rooms, as well as when operational functions and fire damage required. In the late 20th century a downgrading of operations at the Junction saw further interior changes made and a reduction of size of the Station. More recently, a fire in 2003 necessitated the repair and renovation of the Station.

The heritage value of the Station and surrounding area was recognized locally in the 1990s. As such, the Signal Box was relocated to the Junction[, and although its new positioning does not accurately reflect its historical operational relationship with a station or railway line, the building adds to the rail heritage of the precinct]. The Signal Box, formerly the Ex-Paekakariki North-End Signal Box, is largely unchanged from when it was built in 1909.

Ohakune Railway Station is one of only two remaining NIMT construction era stations in the Central Plateau still fulfilling its original function and it therefore provides a direct link to the history of the railway and Ohakune's development. The pairing of the Station and Signal Box forms [an architecturally] representative set of early 20th century railway buildings.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Ohakune Railway Station has considerable local historical, and some national importance. Ohakune was the southern base of operations for the 'final push' to complete the NIMT after 23 years of construction and the Station was built to house the administrative and operational services that were required to support this construction effort. The size of the Station is indicative of its initial, and anticipated strategic importance by the Public Works Department. Because of Ohakune's pivotal role in the realization of the NIMT, the Station and its services can be seen as key facilitators of settlement in the central North Island, and the development of trade and industry locally and throughout the North Island.

Until rail's transportation pre-eminence was overtaken by road in the mid to late 20th century, the Station was an essential portal for the economy of the region which relied on the rail links to support the timber, market garden, and tourist industries. The central role of the Station in the rescue effort during the Raetihi Fire and subsequent accidents and emergencies in the district also makes it historically noteworthy in the area.

Architectural Significance or Value:

Ohakune Railway Station is fine example of a diminishing group of railway stations built to designs by George Troup; the Railways Department's first architect who had a major influence on station building design over a long period. Because the Junction area was systematically cleared and developed first, the Station is one of Ohakune's oldest remaining buildings.

Although renovated and repaired on numerous occasions, the remaining external fabric is mostly original and some interior fabric remains including notable fittings such as the twisted chimney fireplace. The changes to the building over time document how the building has been adapted to meet the shifting status of the station, as well as to maintain its viability after various fires.

The Signal Box also has architectural significance because it is an excellent example of the standard design used throughout New Zealand in the early 1900s. Despite not being one of the original Ohakune signal boxes or in an operational position, the scarcity of remaining examples imbues it with significance.

Together, the Station and Signal Box forms [an architecturally representative] set of representative early 20th century railways buildings which is exceptional locally, and uncommon nationally.

Social Significance or Value:

The advent of rail was the impetus behind Ohakune's establishment and in the early to mid-20th century Ohakune Railway Station was expanded and frequently renovated because it was a socially vital point of communications, travel, and recreation.

The Station is of further consequence because in the early to mid-20th century it was able to cater for passengers and locals with its Railways Department Refreshment Rooms, which in themselves were a cultural phenomenon of travel in New Zealand. The 'refresh' provided efficient distribution of food to hundreds of passengers and railway staff each day, as well as being a popular meeting place for the local community.

Despite a major reduction of services at the station during the late 20th century, from the 1990s the Junction underwent a renaissance with its rail heritage value being recognized and promoted. This recognition prompted the relocation of the Signal Box and is representative of a greater appreciation for rail heritage and, heritage in general, from this period. As such, Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box are part of the larger history of the rise and decline of rail transport in New Zealand and how this affected the towns which the NIMT created. The support for the maintenance of the Station and Signal Box, and the rail heritage they represent, indicates that the buildings are held in high esteem by the Ohakune's community and that they are of local social significance.

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

Ohakune Railway Station is a physical remnant of the enormous engineering feat which was the construction of the NIMT, and this railways importance as the main arterial transport route for freight and passenger traffic for most of the 20th century.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

Because Ohakune was the southern base for 'final push' to complete of the NIMT, the Station is directly linked with this event. Likewise, it also has an association with important engineers such as Furkert, J.J Hay, and P.S. Hay.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

Because of the centrality of the NIMT to the foundation and growth of Ohakune, the Junction has become a symbol of the town's history. As such, heritage groups, the Ruapehu District Council, and the local community have all supported the development of a rail heritage precinct at the Junction and there was considerable public concern shown for the Station in the wake of the 2003 fire. These factors demonstrate a close community association with the Station in particular.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

The Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box are externally accessible to the public, with some internal access to the Station during business hours of the cafe and tourism office, and there is potential for public education as to the NIMT's role in the development of Ohakune and interpreting it within a larger regional and national context. The Signal Box in particular could also be used to explain pre-CTC signalling and rail technology.

The Station and Signal Box can also be linked to other recognised NIMT heritage in the area, such as the Horopito to Ohakune Coach Road, which begins close by, and the Old Hapuawhenua and other viaducts in immediate vicinity. This grouping of a series of important structures in a small area could form the basis of a local rail heritage trail.

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

The Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box are integral components of the historical and cultural landscape of Ohakune, the Central Plateau, and the North Island because of their association with history of NIMT which was the basis of settlement in the area. Ohakune is of particular significance to the NIMT because it was the work from its railhead, including the numerous viaducts in the area and the Horopito to Ohakune Coach Road, which enabled the completion of the line. Because Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box are now rare remaining examples of NIMT construction era railway buildings set within an original railway site in the Central Plateau, they are important to the wider heritage landscape of the region and the NIMT.

Summary of Significance or Values:

These places were assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, and k.


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

See also: James Veitch. 'Troup, George Alexander', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2t49/troup-george-alexander

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Historical Description and Analysis:

The Ohakune Railway Station was [built circa 1908] when the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) [was likewise completed]. In the early 20th century the Station provided the impetus for the settlement and development of the North Island's Central Plateau. Together with the Signal Box, built at Paekakariki Station in 1909 and relocated to Ohakune Junction in 1991, these structures are integral components and the centrepieces of the rail heritage precinct at Ohakune Junction.

Ohakune and the NIMT:

The origin of Ohakune's place name is uncertain, but it is believed to have been derived from the personal name, Hakune, which means be deliberate or careful. Despite the name being of Maori origin there is little evidence of pre-European settlement at Ohakune, although it is recorded that in the mid-1600s there was a small pa on the site of present day Ohakune Village. Although this settlement no longer existed, several iwi and hapu used the area as a hunting ground until European settlement began at Ohakune in the late 19th century. At this time Ohakune was an area of pristine sub-alpine native bush, criss-crossed by a complex web of walking paths. What would become the location of the Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box was a fairly open and level area of land on the western side of Mt Ruapehu.

The relatively untouched nature of the Central Plateau, with its timber resources and land for settlement, were significant motivators for the connecting of North Island's two main cities, Auckland and Wellington, by rail. The concept of the NIMT was promoted by Julius Vogel (1835-1899), then the Colonial Treasurer in William Fox's government, as part of his bold expansionist policy which was adopted by the House in 1870. This policy planned to purchase Maori land for European settlement, and to bring thousands of assisted immigrants to New Zealand, to construct roads, railways, bridges, and telegraph lines.

From the mid-1860s Maori in the central North Island had repelled European encroachment by establishing, and staunchly upholding, the restricted area known as the Rohe Potae, and the governments of the late 19th century saw the construction of the NIMT as a tool for gaining access to the King Country. In 1883, after a decade of persistent approaches from the government regarding the area, talks between officials and some King Country chiefs regarding the establishment of the railway through their land began in earnest. A series of rigorous negotiations was then initiated with two Ngati Maniapoto leaders, Wahanui Hautare and Rewi Maniapoto.

There seems to have been a feeling that the railway and European incursion into the King Country was inevitable, but these chiefs wanted to make sure that it was on their terms. In late 1884 Wahanui announced his intention to cooperate with the government over the railway, and he laid out a set of conditions before the House of Representatives on 1 November 1884. The conditions included the right of the King movement to manage their own affairs, the banning of liquor from Waikato-Ngati Maniapoto territory, the right of his people to have sole responsibility for administering their ancestral lands, and that they were compensated for the land which was used. Following this, in early 1885 surveyors were allowed into the Rohe Potae to locate possible railway routes. Because of the tenuous relationship between the Crown and King Country iwi it was felt that the negotiation process was essential. However, by only consulting with Wahanui and Maniapoto the government purposely side-stepped King Tawhiao and other leaders who opposed the railway. Therefore, this initial agreement was not universal and accordingly there were instances of resistance, such as the destruction of surveying marks.

Despite some opposition, surveying and construction plans continued and on 15 April 1885 it was Wahanui who wielded the shovel that turned the NIMT's first sod, which was then ceremonially wheeled away by Premier Robert Stout. Prior to the chiefs allowing surveyors into the Rohe Potae, possible railway corridors through the King Country were only speculative because there had not been any previous opportunity to map it in detail. There were several proposed routes for the NIMT and John Rochfort (1832-1893) surveyed for a possible corridor through the Central Plateau between 1883 and 1887 and he based himself at Ohakune. This was said to be his tour de force because he had to start from scratch and cover a large and topographically complex area. After much debate and delay it was Rochfort's route that NIMT eventually followed. The Maori land that this route required progressively passed into Crown ownership under the Public Works Acts of 1882 and 1894. This legislation stipulated that construction could not begin until the governor issued a proclamation detailing the middle-line that each successive section would take.

As the railway was designed to facilitate settlement in the Central Plateau, the government also began surveying townships with the plan that these towns would exploit the Plateau's rich timber resources. The timber would be milled for housing and other uses until the land was cleared, at which time it could be utilised for agricultural or horticultural purposes. People then began settling in the Ohakune area on the understanding that the construction of the railway, essential for the transport of timber, was imminent. As the railhead got closer the population of the township increased, and in the two years before the railway was officially completed in 1908, Ohakune's population rose exponentially from under 100 to 600 residents. A significant contributor to this was the fact that the railway was directly responsible for creating and maintaining employment opportunities in the area.

Ohakune Railway Station:

In 1905 Ohakune became a centre of operations for the 'final push' to complete the NIMT. With this came important engineers such as F.W. Furkert, J.J. Hay, and P.S. Hay, the workforce for the construction of the track, viaducts, buildings, and residences, as well as operating staff and support businesses. With the approach of the southern railhead Ohakune required [temporary] station [buildings] and [work on the permanent railway station only began in 1907]. The Ohakune [station yard and buildings were] constructed away from the township, adjacent to the tracks on Urunga Street, now known as Thames Street. At the time [that buildings first started being erected] the [yard] was the centre of activity at the southern end of the railway and between 1906 and the NIMT's completion, the Raurimu and Waimarino coaches ferried passengers from the railhead at Ohakune to its northern counterpart over the 'cobbled' Horopito to Ohakune Coach Road. Therefore, during this period Ohakune was not only the railhead, but the area's transport hub as well.

Ohakune Railway Station is a representative Troup era, medium-sized 'Class B' station, typical of those constructed at the larger central North Island stations along the NIMT. The Station was described as [an 'imposing' and] 'semi-palatial structure' [with] its size [indicating] the relative importance of the destination. Ohakune Railway Station also features a large, open-end, wooden canopy with decorative scalloped ends which shelters the platform. Constructed from timber, most likely from one of the Railways Department's, or another, local mill, the building featured a manager's office, ticket office, and passenger and public conveniences such as ladies waiting rooms connecting to the female toilet block. For years the Station was the travel headquarters and vital communications link for the town, as well as one of Ohakune's principal buildings.

The completion of the NIMT is said to be 'one of the pivotal moments in New Zealand history' because ‘...it ended the South Island's 30-year lead in rail development and confirmed the North's growing economic and demographic supremacy.' Therefore, the Junction and Station were also of vital importance to Ohakune's post-railway construction economy. From 1908 Ohakune's economy was dominated by the sawmilling industry which used the NIMT to transport its product around the North Island. The industry began declining in the late 1920s, however, the quality of the land which had been cleared allowed for the growth of Ohakune as a market garden centre from the 1930s. In the absence of good roads, rail was the essential means of distributing this produce around the North Island.

With the influx of passengers and freight, the Station required permanent administration and service staff. Ohakune's first station master was Mr P. Cooney who was appointed in 1908. Other staff included two clerks, one cadet, four guards, one acting guard, and three porters. By 1909 the staff employed at the station had increased to about 40, including locomotive drivers and firemen. Therefore, the facilities, services, and staffing at the station are all indicative of the significance of the stop in the early 20th century. These were expanded further when the branch line to Raetihi was begun in 1912. From this time the station area was distinguished from the township, or Village, by being referred to as the Junction. By 1917 operational and passenger needs had outgrown the space available in the Station and it was therefore extended and altered to compensate.

Ohakune was an important strategic stop for passengers and from 1908 the services available at the station were gradually expanded to meet passenger demand. Initially the management of station services, such as the Bookstall, and the Refreshment Rooms which were built in the station in 1909, were leased out. In 1917 railcar dinning facilities were removed and the Railways Department established it's sometimes maligned Railway Refreshment Rooms. The Department did not take over control of the Ohakune Refreshment Rooms until the lease expired in March 1926. This was part of their programme to assume responsibility for ‘all the important Refreshment Rooms,' and because it was believed that the acquisition of Ohakune's would ‘prove to be a quite profitable one.' The Department made immediate costly alterations and extensions to the existing Refreshment Rooms to bring it up to ‘a suitable standard of convenience and cleanliness.' These renovations included building a store-room and office behind the counter area, a cool room and pantry, additional lighting, and a telephone connection between the kitchen and signal box, presumably to allow the signalman to notify the kitchen staff when the train was approaching. With its Railway Refreshment Rooms, Ohakune Railway Station became part of a ritual central to travel in New Zealand during the mid-20th century; people scurrying to obtain scones, fruitcake, and tea or coffee during the 10 minute scheduled train stops. From 1909 Ohakune had one of the longest scheduled stops on the NIMT, only surpassed by the much larger stations of Frankton and Palmerston North, and this continued until the mid-20th century.

Ohakune's ‘refresh' was open day and night, with staff working a day shift one week and late the next. The Ohakune ‘refresh' was generally popular and busy, but this was increased during special events such as the Centennial Exhibition. Between 1944 and 1948 it is estimated that each of the four trains which stopped at the Station every night contained 300 to 400 passengers, many of whom were hungry for the sandwiches and other goods made by the ‘refresh girls.' However, in amongst this hustle and bustle, other patrons had time to relax. The warmth of the fireplace in the Refreshment Rooms was reportedly legendary, and people enjoyed having their cup of tea in front of it while soaking up the picturesque surroundings. This suggests that the rooms were a well-known stop, not just with the hurried express train passengers, but with local people, who used it as a meeting place and for refreshments before and after going to the pictures. ‘Picture trains' were particularly popular in the 1940s and they transported patrons from outlying areas into Ohakune on weekend evenings to go shopping, or to the cinema, and dances. It was a consequence of this continued popularity, as well as the belief that traffic at the Junction was likely to increase with the need for the distribution of local vegetable produce, that it was viable to renovate and expand the ‘refresh' in 1948, as well as provide extra office spaces for clerical staff in the Station.

In contrast to the levity which would have been present in and around the Station on these occasions, the building was sometimes the scene of gravity and despair. The most significant occurrence of this was when it was the centre of relief efforts during the devastating Raetihi Fire of 1918. High winds and dry late summer conditions meant that on 18 and 19 March bush fires sprung up throughout the Waimarino area and as far away as Mangaweka and Taumarunui. The fires were so severe that smoke could be seen from Wellington, and Feilding was shrouded in an ‘uncanny darkness' for most of the day. As a result of the fires, farms and residential buildings in the Raetihi district and township suffered significant damage and it was fortunate that the branch line had been completed the previous year because this enabled relief trains to be sent to the town. Over 300 refugees were transported to Ohakune Railway Station where it was then organised for them to be billeted among local residents.

In the late 1920s the Railways Department offered employees first aid and ambulance training. This initiative came about because of the hazardous nature of rail work and also because rail was the most efficient means of transporting patients. The staff at Ohakune seem to have been enthusiastic, because in 1927 they had the seventh highest uptake for the training in New Zealand, behind the much larger stations of the main centres, and others such as Frankton and Wanganui. Even later, when the Ohakune branch of St John's Ambulance was established in 1937, patients were brought to the Station and then transferred to the hospital. In this way, Ohakune Railway Station was literally a life-line to many people in the district in the early to mid-20th century.

However, by the 1960s improvements to roads meant that rail operations changed dramatically. Initially passenger and then freight returns declined and non-essential services at stations like Ohakune were closed, such as the Refreshment Rooms in 1960. In 1964 Ohakune Railway Station became the base of CTC operations in the area. As such the system was installed in the building, but to minimise the risk of fire damaging the system and thereby jeopardizing the safe operating of the rail traffic, other services were moved out of the Station. The building was significantly reduced in length at the southern end and the c.1914-17 extensions to the Station, including areas such as the ‘refresh' kitchen, battery room, and utility spaces, were also demolished around this time. It was also because of the installation of the CTC system that Ohakune Junction's signal boxes were removed, as well as the water tanks, and other structures at the Junction. However, the lean-to at the northern end of the Station which housed the female toilets was extended slightly with the addition of male public toilets 1965.

The role of the Station continued to diminish throughout the 1960 and 1970s. When the branch line to Raetihi was closed in 1968 Ohakune's status as a junction went with it, although the name has persisted when referring to the station area of the town. In 1977 the signalling system was centralised to Taumarunui and all of the associated staff based at Ohakune were either transferred or made redundant, and when combined with the move from rail to road freight, Ohakune suffered. This was compounded by some passenger services, such as the Silver Star, not scheduling stops at Ohakune, and the reduction in numbers of track gang staff because of the mechanisation of a lot of their work.

The physical downsizing and rearranging of the Station in this period is reflective of its reduced status and changing function. However, the fortunes of the Junction were partially reversed with the opening of Turoa Ski field in 1979 which attracted tourists and visitors to the area, with many travelling by train. This revitalised the Village and the importance of the Junction to its survival was reaffirmed, although this was again threatened in 1989 with the proposed demolition of the Ohakune Railway Station. This was the catalyst for the creation of the rail heritage society which became Main Trunk Rail Ohakune Inc. (MTRO), and this group and others in the community worked to make sure the Station was retained. Tourist access to Ohakune was also imperilled in late 2006 with the announcement that the Overlander service was to be cancelled. The resulting public outcry pressured Toll to continue the service albeit with a reduced off-season schedule.

From the early 1990s, the Junction was leased from the Ruapehu District Council by MTRO. Their aim, after their successful efforts to retain the Station, was to restore the Junction to its former glory, which was given further impetus and publicity by the threatened Overlander service stoppage. The society gathered railway memorabilia and local artefacts for display in their museum and reception room in the Junction's Way and Works office. This group were also responsible for the retrieval from New Plymouth of the c.1934 turntable which had been installed at Ohakune Junction when the larger K-class locomotives came into operation, as well as the Ex-Paekakariki North End Signal Box.

However, the MTRO's plans to restore the Station suffered a serious setback after an early morning arson attack on 2 December 2003 left the northern end and south side of the Station with fire, smoke, and water damage. This was not the first fire at the station with previously recorded fires in 1928 and 1935. However, this fire seems to have caused more destruction than previous ones with a regrettable result being that one of the two original ‘Ohakune' name panels was lost. However, the damage which occurred was not comprehensive, meaning that the majority of the heritage fabric and values of the building were not seriously undermined.

Plans to restore and repair damaged areas were underway soon after the event and were spurred on by enormous community support for the project as well as that of MTRO, Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand, and the Ruapehu District Council. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust was consulted throughout the process and supported the plans. By December 2006 the majority of the structural repairs and restoration was completed with the toilet block being demolished and a new one added which adhered to the original [circa 1908] footprint of the building. The new toilet block is sympathetic to the form of the Station but is distinguishable as a recent addition. Although the fire destroyed the original fire-place surround in the women's waiting room, an interesting feature which it revealed from behind cladding was the original twisted brick chimney. Part of the restoration process involved inserting bracing in the interior of this chimney to minimise the risk of damage from earthquake.

The repair and restoration of the fire affected areas at Ohakune Railway Station has ensured the building's ongoing viability. Adaptive re-use has seen the twisted brick chimney become the centrepiece of the Pathways of the Ancestors office, which is a combined tourism promotions venture between the Ruapehu, Rangitikei, and Wanganui District Councils. The southern end of the building incurred some smoke damaged during the fire. However, this was repaired and a larger kitchen installed, which encompassed the old storeroom area, in order for a café to open and re-establish the tradition of refreshment being available in the Station. In the absence of the train passenger numbers of the past, the café will mostly service locals and tourists staying in the town. The promotion of the rail heritage values of the Station and the nearby Signal Box by MTRO and the Ruapehu District Council will also play an important role in the continued relevance of the buildings.

Signal Box:

The Signal Box now at Ohakune Railway Station was built in 1909 and was originally the North End Signal Box at Paekakiriki.

Since its relocation to Ohakune, the Signal Box has become an important part of the Ohakune Junction heritage precinct because it is [an architecturally] representative, and rare, example of the signal boxes which were built at major stations on the NIMT soon after its inception. Like Ohakune Railway Station, the Signal Box's use, fall into relative obscurity, and then its revitalisation, is indicative of the broader history of the NIMT and changes in rail management and operations in the late 20th century.

Signal boxes were constructed to a standard design throughout the country and the Signal Box is a typical example of this. This Signal Box is a two-storey building clad with rusticated weather boards. The upper room, which is accessed by an exterior staircase, features large windows which gave the signalman an un-impeded and excellent view of the activities in the rail yard, but more importantly, along the mainline. Despite being a service building it has decorative features, such as finials on the apexes of its roof gables, and barge-boards, which although not ornately detailed, are indicative of the Signal Box's early 20th century design and construction. The upper storey still has the signal levers, and the operational machinery occupies most of the space on the ground level. The wide-spread use of this standard design is confirmed by photographic evidence from Ohakune and other contemporaneous stations with signal boxes, such as Taihape. However, despite their original proliferation signal boxes are now rare.

The signalling system in the pair of Paekakariki signal boxes was up and running in 1910, but the buildings became obsolete when CTC system operations were moved to Wellington in 1985. Because it was no longer a functioning part of the station at Paekakariki, and therefore superfluous, the North End Signal Box was threatened with demolition. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust had bestowed a ‘C' category on this signal box and helped negotiate its eventual relocation to Ohakune by MTRO in late 1991.

Whereas Paekakariki's signal boxes faced demolition in the mid 1980s, Ohakune's signal boxes were removed in the mid-1960s and coincided with a general downsizing of operations at that station. This is also well before the establishment of MTRO or other rail and heritage groups which could have advocated for the retention of one or both of the original signal boxes.

Like Paekakariki, the working signal boxes at Ohakune were at the north and south ends of the station adjacent to the NIMT. However, although on the Station side of the NIMT like the original Ohakune signal boxes, its position away from the railway tracks between the Station and Thames Street, and also its orientation, is not one which would have been used for functioning signal boxes.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

The design of the Ohakune Railway Station is attributed to George Alexander Troup in his role as New Zealand Railway Department Architect. The design for the Signal Box would also have been generated by this department. Construction professionals are unknown but both structures are likely to have been built by department employees.

Physical Description and Analysis:

The Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box at Ohakune Junction are located on a slight rise parallel to Thames Street. The Station serves a functioning rail-line and is set amid rail structures from a similar era, including the Signal Box.

Ohakune Railway Station:

Ohakune Railway Station was constructed [circa 1908] and belongs to the Troup era of standardised railway station designs. It is a typical, medium-sized 'Class B' station, timber framed, single storey building clad in weatherboards. It's corrugated iron gabled roof has a northern ceiling ventilation cavity behind one of the pedimental barge-boards that are a feature of each end and are modelled on those which were originally on the building. Under the driveway-side eaves is a corbel course, and the opposite façade is dominated by the platform canopy which has decorative scalloped gable-ends with the place name on them. It is unclear whether the exterior fabric on the southern end and driveway-side is from [the early years of the twentieth century] because of the extensions to the driveway-side of the building [circa] 1914-17, then the [circa] 1965 reductions in the building's size which took place in these areas. The canopy-side of the building maintains most of its original fabric except where entranceways have been added. Despite the canopy being reduced in length at the southern end in 1982 the corresponding canopy gable-end is likely to date from [circa 1908]. However, the northern one had to be replaced after the 2003 fire as well as structural and cladding fabric of the northern gable-end and part of the driveway-side wall.

The driveway-side of the building features a series of six four pane sash windows that all appear to be contemporaneous with the initial construction of the building, but would have been relocated when the c.1914-17 extensions were added, and then when this extension was demolished in the mid 1960s. This façade also features a protruding brick chimney, a utility box, and a small ventilation cavity. The external access door and simple wooden staircase are post-1965 additions, and in 2008 a section of the subfloor weather boards was removed in order to install an extraction fan. The new toilet block addition at the northern end of the building has two new four paned windows on this driveway-side façade.

On the opposite side of the Station and sheltering the platform is a large, open-end wooden canopy with decorative scalloped ends. The canopy is supported by cast iron pillars (former rails), which have been date-stamped 1876. The canopy overhangs the southern end of the Station. Hard against the southern end on the front elevation of the Station is a door and then a couple of four paned sash windows which are in line with those on the driveway-side wall and are of a similar era. This is followed by a post-1948 small corridor leading to the café, and a series of doors of various eras interspersed with sash windows. The doorway at the northern-end which opens into the tourism office is one of the few remaining original entranceways to the building, although some of its fabric was damaged during the 2003 fire and subsequently replaced. The next entranceway also provides access to the tourism office, is post-1948, and has double-doors. The positioning of most of the other access points and windows on this façade is of a similar era.

The northern-end of the platform canopy is directly aligned to the end of the main station building and because of the fire damage both required a significant amount of replacement fabric including the original scalloped gable-end. The barge-boards on this gable-end were also reconstructed to match the [circa 1909] barge-boards which had been removed from the building by 2000. There is a new sash window of similar appearance to those throughout the rest of the building in this northern-end that provides natural light for the tourism office and would previously have been obstructed by the original toilet block.

The new toilet block at the northern end of the Station replaced the previous toilet block, which incurred the most damage from the 2003 fire because it was the area where the fire was started. This new toilet block was designed so that the building would adhere to [its original] footprint, and it is just over half the width of the main station building with its roof mirroring the angle of the main building's southern gable pitch, but is approximately one fifth lower with moderately deep eaves on its three exterior elevations. The northern-side has two ventilation cavities set on a diagonal adjoining the roof. The doors on the platform-side of the building are simple panelled wooden doors similar to those in the main building. The form of the exterior cladding is also consistent with the cladding present on the main building, although the corrugated iron roofing has not been colour matched to the pre-2003 fabric.

The immediate surrounding of the Ohakune Railway Station is utilitarian in appearance and largely un-landscaped. The southern-end of the concrete platform is fenced from the driveway with a wood framed wire fence, and recently an access ramp has been built close to the building at this end. The main platform access is from the northern-end using a concrete ramp abutting the new toilet block. This leads directly to the station's driveway which connects to Thames Street, west of the Signal Box. The narrow strip between the driveway and Station, which used to be the site of the [circa] 1914-17 extensions, was landscaped [circa] 2008 and a paved pathway made. The Signal Box is nearby on the opposite side of the driveway. It sits on a rectangular concrete pad amid a grass section which has a slight slope running up to the Station from Thames Street.

Ohakune Railway Station Interior:

The interior of the Station has been modified throughout its history. Currently the main building has three major spaces consisting of the large café area to the south, with the café kitchen adjoining it in what was the post-1965 kitchen and store room. This end of the building was not severely damaged by the 2003 fire and as a result this space is unchanged from that on the 1992 plan, including the servery window, although recess lighting has been installed in the ceiling. Therefore, the only significant internal change in the Station since 1992 has been the removal of the c.1965 partition wall which separated the old kitchen area from the storeroom.

The other internal space is now the tourism office which was previously an office and a separate waiting room. The tourism office is partitioned by the original twisted chimney fireplace and a non-load bearing wall perpendicular to the driveway-side wall. This partition is a pre-1948 feature, and it is possible that it dates from [circa 1908] or else reasonably early in the Station's development. The chimney is thought to have been clad over in the 1950s and this cladding, along with the original fire surround, were irrevocably damaged during the 2003 fire and not reconstructed. On the platform side of the fireplace there was a post-1948 wall which was removed during the Station restoration project in 2006 in order to create one office space. At this time the chimney was also laterally strengthened in order to minimise the risk of earthquake damage. Despite the history of changes to these internal spaces, it appears that much of the current internal fabric dates from [between the building's original construction and circa] 1917, and has been recycled during the various renovation and alterations projects.

The Station has had many alterations to its internal and external form throughout its history. However, it appears that a certain amount of its [original] and early fabric has been recycled when these have occurred. The major exception to this is when fire has destroyed it, and with completely new features such as the driveway-side door and steps. The recent restoration, alterations, and toilet block addition to the Station are sympathetic to the original footprint and design of the building, and therefore do not detract from the heritage values of its grouping with the Signal Box.

Signal Box:

The Signal Box was built in 1909 to a standard design. It is a two-storey building, 8m high with a single room on each level measuring 3.4 x 4.9m. The upper level is accessed by an external dog-legged wooden staircase which terminates with a small wooden platform and ramp. The Signal Box is a timber-framed building clad in rusticated weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. A small gable roofed bay/entranceway on the upper storey over-hangs the access door on ground level and is braced on either side of the doors architrave. This and the main gable have deep eaves, simplistically moulded barge-boards, and finials on each apex. The upper storey has extensive glazing on the southern and eastern sides which would have allowed the signalman an unimpeded view of the line approaching Paekakariki station and of the yard as well. The upper interior is lined with timber, has a timber floor, and features the signalling levers, with the lower level containing the machinery which operated the signalling system.

The standardised designs which use similar materials and forms, combined with the contemporaneous construction of both the Station and Signal Box, mean that the two buildings form a cohesive set of [architecturally] representative early 20th century railway buildings.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1908 -
Ohakune Railway Station built

Original Construction
1909 -
Signal Box is built, north end of Paekakariki Railway Station. Ohakune Railway Station signal boxes built. Bookstall and Refreshment Room built in the Station

1913 -
Gas lighting installed in the Station

1914 - 1917
Additions to the Station and rearrangement of the internal spaces

1918 -
Telephone system installed at the Station

1919 -
Electric lighting installed at the Station

1926 -
Refreshment Rooms in the Station are taken over by the Railways Department and renovated

1928 -
Refreshment Rooms and Inspector of Permanent Way's Office at the Station are severely damaged by fire and then repaired

1935 -
Refreshment Room damaged by fire and then repaired

1939 -
Minor non-structural changes to the Refreshment Rooms in anticipation of increased patronage during the Centennial Exhibition in Wellington

1948 -
Refreshment Rooms renovated

1955 -
Layout of Refreshment Rooms altered and extra seating in-stalled

1957 -
Bookstall closed

1960 -
Refreshment Rooms closed. Former Bookstall used as mail storage space by Ohakune Post Office

1964 -
Ohakune signal boxes removed. Station building reduced in size

1965 -
Female public toilets on the northern-end of the Station ex-tended to incorporate male public toilets. Some interior modifications are also completed

1982 -
Canopy reduced in length at southern end

1985 -
Signal Box at Paekakariki threatened with demolition

1989 -
Ohakune Railway Station threatened with demolition

1990 -
Restoration of the Station begins

1991 -
Development of the Junction as an historic precinct begins. Former Rangataua Trust store moved from temporary home at Waiouru Army camp to Ohakune. Ex-Paekakariki North-End Signal Box relocated to Ohakune and restored

1993 -
CT WN40C/469 and 470 transferred to the Ruapehu District Council

1994 -
Turntable retrieved from New Plymouth

2003 -
Arson attack damages Station

2004 - 2006
Restoration and additions to the Station, including construction of a replacement toilet block

2008 -
Installation of a new kitchen area and removal of a non-load bearing partition between the old kitchen and the storeroom to enable the establishment of a new café in the Station

Construction Details

Timber, weatherboards, corrugated iron. Station canopy also contains cast iron pillars.

Completion Date

16th November 2009

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

[AJHR 1908, Voll III], [AJHR] 1912, Vol II, AJHR 1913, Vol II, AJHR 1928, Vol II, AJHR 1935, Vol II

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

MS-Papers-1240-5 - Ohakune Borough Council, 'Ohakune: Golden Jubilee 1st November 1961' MS-Papers-4314 - J.Dean, 'The 1918 Raetihi Bush Fire', P Box 993.1 OHA 1986 - Ohakune Borough Council, 'Ohakune: 75th Jubilee 1911-1986.'

Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)

Archives New Zealand (Wellington)

AAEB W2393 145 16/4400/5 pt2 - Refreshment Rooms Ohakune

R3 W2278 10/1966/6 - Stockyards Ohakune

R3 W2278 10/1966/8 - Staff Amenities Ohakune

R3 W2381 116 1916/4400/5 pt1 - Ohakune - Refreshment Rooms

R3 W2476 61 1919/1600/7 - Lease of Railway Bookstall - Ohakune

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Aspen, R., 'Furkert, Frederick William 1976-1949,' updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

Dalziel, R., 'Vogel, Julius 1835-1899,' updated 16 December 2003, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

Lowe, P., 'Hay, Peter Seton 1852/1853?-1907,' updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

Encyclopaedia of NZ, 1966

Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Wellington, 1966

McLintock, A.H., ed. 'Ohakune,' from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Wellington, 1966

Evening Post

Evening Post

15 April 1911

, 6 April 1912

'On the Main Line Wellington to Auckland,' , 12 February 1908

'Big Bush Fires,' , 19 March 1918

'Main Trunk Bush Fires,' , 21 March 1918

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

'Railway station fire suspicious,' 3 December 2003

Other Information

This structure forms part of the operational railway. Trespassing on the rail premises and/or rail infrastructure is prohibited as trains may pass at any time without warning. Pursuant to the Railways Act 2005, a person must not enter any railway infrastructure or any railway premises without first obtaining a formal written Permit to Enter from the rail

premises or access provider.

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central region office. The information is from the original registration report. Additional information provided after registration is shown in square brackets.

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.