Auckland Railway Station
Auckland Railway Station is the former main railway station of Auckland, New Zealand, and is located on the eastern edge of the Auckland CBD near Mechanics Bay. It was a city landmark from the time it was opened in 1930, and is a grand architectural statement in beaux-arts brick and mortar, having been called "one of the most self-consciously monumental public buildings erected in early twentieth-century New Zealand". The building was designed by William Henry Gummer (1884–1966), a student of Sir Edward Lutyens and architect of various notable New Zealand buildings such as the Dilworth Building in Queen Street.
The station closed in late July 2003 when services were moved to the new Britomart Transport Centre. The former platform 4 (Platform 7 at time of opening) of the station has been retained for excursion use as The Strand, named after a nearby street; it continued to be used by a limited number of peak-hour suburban trains for a few months following the opening of Britomart.
The remaining platforms of the former station were planned to be removed as part of KiwiRail's redevelopment of Quay Park junction, with the area used identified as a possible storage area for suburban trains between peak times. However, in September 2011, two platforms were re-developed to prepare the station for possible emergency use during Rugby World Cup 2011. The platforms were not utilised for this purpose, but may be used for future rail routes.
The station was built by the New Zealand Public Works Department between 1928 and 1930 and sits on reclaimed land close to the wharves. It replaced a smaller terminal on the site of Britomart. The grand and ornate building was intended to serve as a gateway to the city, and its construction cost of £320,000. The station was designed by Gummer and Ford, who were New Zealand's premier architects in the early twentieth century. It has great historical importance for its associations with the public building programme of the 1920s, and with the central role played by the railways in national transport.
The symmetrical facade of the three storey-high building was constructed of reinforced concrete, faced with brick and granite. It is approached by a sweeping ramp on either side of the building, enclosing a landscaped garden immediately to the front. The building's design echoed American models, such as Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania Station in New York City, considered the most striking and luxurious examples of the time. It has also been favourably compared with Grand Central Terminal, in New York City as well, and the National Theatre in Melbourne.
The station was given ornate public spaces and a wide variety of amenities, from waiting and dining rooms to shops and a first aid station. Of particular interest is the magnificent metal ceiling in the main lobby, this item was manufactured in Germany and the parts shipped out and reassembled to create one of the most remarkable structures in the country. The looming threat of German aggression meant that its origins were quickly downplayed and obscured. The rest of the lobby is a showpiece of expensive imported marble and fine bronze detailing with a beautiful terazzo floor. The fine detailing extended to the restrooms with imported panelling, light fittings, period-style furniture and porcelain sanitaryware.
Underpasses and ramps linked the station building with an extended platform network to the rear, built with elegant concrete canopies and other elements as integral parts of the original design and function. With modifications, the building was used, as the main point of arrival for rail passengers in Auckland for most of the century. It was sold during the privatisation of part of the New Zealand Railways Corporation during the 1990s, partly because a new railway station was to be moved closer to the Auckland CBD again.
In 1999 the station was partly converted for use by Auckland University and named The Railway Campus. It was the largest of the university's residences, and had 426 bedrooms, in a total of 230 apartments. The residence was awarded four stars by Qualmark in the Student Accommodation category, which evaluated the facilities as well as the level of pastoral care and support for students, and has been accredited by the New Zealand Association of Tertiary Education Accommodation Professionals. However, in November 2008, the university announced that they would not be returning to using the building for dormitory use, due to weathertightness issues and associated works (see below for more details).
Due to the large number of American students who resided in The Railway Campus each semester, it was given by some the nickname 'The American Embassy'.
In 2007, major weather-tightness problems appeared. A multi-million dollar restoration programme was undertaken to help resolve the issue. The tenants were required to leave to permit work to be undertaken. The effect of the water leaks on the prices of the apartments in the complex was marked - while the high price in the early 1990s was $160,000, apartments sold for a nominal sale price as low as $12,800 (with most going around $20,000) as owners extricated themselves from the problem investment. Values had by early 2010 recovered to an average sale price of $55,000.
Before 2011 The Strand was in a decrepit state. All platforms were shortened for the Britomart Curve. For many years, tracks were stacked up on top of each other to make way for the tracks from Britomart, and grass and weeds grew on the tracks and platforms.
In 2011, the platforms were upgraded by Auckland Transport to prepare them for use as an alternative to Britomart for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In a $1.7 million project, the canopies were removed from two platforms, with a small section left behind for historic purposes. The disused section canopies were also retained for similar reasons. The platforms were resurfaced, and amenities such as lighting and a public address system were installed. The platforms were not used during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but remain a backup station and could be utilised for future routes such as a restarted Waikato Connection to Hamilton.
Currently work is being done to turn the disused section of the station platforms into a storage facility and stabling yard. The inside track on the operational section has been removed for the electrictrification facilities including the foundations and pylons.
- Historic gem back on track? - The Aucklander, 16 October 2008
- "Auckland Railway Station". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
- Graeme W. A. Bush (ed), The History of Epsom, Epsom & Eden District Historical Society Inc, Auckland, 2006, pp. 279 - 280.
- Rail Newsletter Issue 29 (from the ARTA website, 2006)
-  (AKT, "Strand Railway Station Re-Opens")
- Railway Campus (from University of Auckland website)
- Uni quits Railway Campus over repairs - The New Zealand Herald, Friday 7 November 2008
- Rooney, Edward (14 April 2011). "Demolition threat to old station canopies". New Zealand Herald (Auckland). Retrieved 14 April 2011.
- http://www.aktnz.co.nz/2011/10/28/waikato-rail-looking-more-unlikely/AKT, "Waikato Rail Looking More Unlikely"
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