Woodville railway station, Manawatu-Wanganui

Woodville railway station is the northern terminus of the Wairarapa Line and is located at the junction with the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line in the small Tararua town of Woodville, 27 km (17 mi) east of Palmerston North in New Zealand's North Island.

New Zealand Government Railways (NZGR)
regional rail
Woodville railway station 01.JPG
LocationStation Street, Woodville, New Zealand
Coordinates40°20′42″S 175°52′03″E / 40.3449°S 175.8676°E / -40.3449; 175.8676
Owned byKiwiRail
Line(s)Wairarapa Line
Palmerston North - Gisborne Line
PlatformsSingle (formerly split mainline and 2 dock)
TracksMain line (1)
Balloon loop (1)
Loops (4)
Goods sidings (2)
Bicycle facilitiesNo
Opened22 March 1887
Closed7 October 2001 (passengers)
Previous namesWoodville Junction
Woodville Yard Layout
PNGL to Palmerston North
Balloon Loop
State Highway 2
loading bank
goods shed
Station Building & Platform
Dock Platform Siding
Wairarapa Line to Wellington
PNGL to Gisborne

Woodville was the railhead of the line from Napier until the line was completed through the Manawatu Gorge, connecting it with Palmerston North in 1891. It was not until 1897 when the Wairarapa Line finally reached its northern terminus that Woodville again became a station of some importance, 10 years after it opened. As a junction, Woodville has hosted a variety of services from the Wairarapa, Manawatu, and Hawkes Bay regions,[1] but has been closed to passenger services since 2001.[2]

The station remains distinctive for its unique (to New Zealand) balloon loop track arrangement, which allows trains from Hawke's Bay direct access to the Wairarapa and vice versa without having to run the locomotive around the train. This means that trains from any direction can use the station, and the loop can also be used to turn locomotives when Woodville is the terminus of a journey.[1]



Early years: 1887–1897Edit

Woodville was initially a station on the Palmerston North – Napier line that was constructed southwards from Napier in the 1880s. The railhead finally reached Woodville in 1887, with the first official train arriving on 22 March 1887. Woodville remained the terminus of the line over the next four years as it was extended through the Manawatu Gorge, finally reaching Palmerston North in March 1891.

Passenger services from Woodville west to Palmerston North and south into the Wairarapa were provided by private coach operators. The Wairarapa services connected Woodville to the railhead of the Wellington – Woodville railway, which for much of this time was located at Eketahuna. Those passengers travelling north from Woodville to the Hawkes Bay region were catered for by mixed train services, but following the completion of the line through to Palmerston North in 1891, the Napier Express service between Napier and Palmerston North via Woodville was inaugurated. It connected with services operated by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway company at Longburn to Wellington, allowing passengers to complete their journeys between the Hawkes Bay region and Wellington by train. Passenger excursions were also popular, with trips being made to destinations such as Napier, Waipawa, and Foxton.[3]

Heyday: 1897–1908Edit

The connection of the Wellington – Woodville railway with the Palmerston North – Napier line at Woodville on 11 December 1897 ushered in a period of intense activity for Woodville station, as well as being a momentous occasion for the Railways Department. The government now had its own rail connection north from Wellington into the Manawatu and Hawkes Bay regions, which led to a significant increase in the amount of freight trafficked through Woodville.

The Napier Express passenger trains that used to terminate at Palmerston North were re-routed south from Woodville through the Wairarapa to terminate at Wellington following the completion of the Wairarapa Line. This change reflected the desire of the Railways Department to use its own lines where possible, and to avoid losing traffic to the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company. However, the move proved to be unpopular, as the journey time increased by an hour due to the operational requirements of the Rimutaka Incline.

Halcyon years: 1908–2001Edit

Woodville railway station Wairarapa dock siding and platform

Nationalisation of the Wellington – Manawatu line in 1908 resulted in several operational changes at Woodville. As the line was a superior route to Wellington compared with the Wairarapa Line over the Rimutaka Incline, as much freight as could be diverted to the new route was, and the Napier Express passenger trains were also diverted to run through Woodville via Palmerston North to Wellington. Following the opening of the Rimutaka Tunnel and deviation in 1955, the Wellington – Napier freight trains once again returned to the Wairarapa Line.[4]

Woodville became the terminus of the Wairarapa Mail, a replacement locomotive-hauled passenger train introduced to provide passenger services to Wairarapa between Wellington and Woodville. In its later years, the Wairarapa Mail was extended from Woodville through to Palmerston North, operating as a mixed service between these two stations. Railcar services were introduced in 1936 over the same route using the new Wairarapa-class RM railcars, which eventually replaced the Wairarapa Mail in 1948 to due coal shortages. Despite this development, mixed trains on the northern section of the Wairarapa Line continued to operate. A mixed Woodville – Masterton and return service was run six days a week, Monday – Saturday, and in the opposite direction on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The daily nature of this service made it popular with students attending secondary school in Masterton. After the Rimutaka Tunnel opened, both the Wairarapa railcars and the mixed trains were withdrawn and replaced by the new twinset railcars. As at 1959, Wairarapa services were still terminating at Woodville using the Wairarapa dock siding,[5] and it was not uncommon for two or three railcars to be waiting at Woodville to transfer passengers between services. Locomotive hauled passenger trains through the Wairarapa to Woodville were gradually re-introduced from the mid-1960s, fully replacing the railcars in 1977. Later, passenger trains were run as through services between Palmerston North and Wellington via Woodville, but demand for these services declined through the 1980s, leading to their cancellation from 1 August 1988.[6]

In 1959, the following list of staff members was provided for Woodville:

Position #
Stationmasters 1
Section Officers 1
Shift Clerks 2
Cadets 2
Office Assistants 1
Exchange Attendant 1
Guards 4
Signalmen 7
Shunters and Traffic Assistants 11
Numbertakers 3
Traffic Assistants and Junior Porters 4

The Railways Department was keen to expand the use of railcars for passenger services following successful trials of the vehicles on select routes in the 1930s and 1940s. Accordingly, first Standard-class and later twinset railcars replaced the Napier Express passenger trains through Woodville from 1954. A locomotive-hauled passenger service was re-introduced from 1972, which was at first known as the Endeavour, and later the Bay Express from 1989.[2] The Endeavour did not fully replace the railcars on this route until 1976.[7] Declining patronage led to the cancellation of this service from 8 October 2001, and marked the closure of the station to timetabled passenger services.[2]


Original station: 1887–1964Edit

There was some heated debate about the location of the station, after initial plans for the railway line to bypass Woodville were revised to include Woodville on the route. This was interpreted by the settlers of the area to mean that the line would run through the town, to which some vociferously objected. A meeting was organised to rally opposition to the move, but called off a few weeks later when the actual location of the station was revealed.[8]

The wooden station building was of a standard design, and had a long, sealed platform. A veranda covered the platform in front of the building, and extended a short distance to either side of the building. Two semaphore signal gantries rose up through the veranda, and several loops ran through the station yard. Other facilities were provided at the station at various times, including a social hall (later a second such facility was added, west of and near to the intersection of Station Street and McLean Street), a post and telegraph office, a crossing keeper for the McLean Street level crossing, a goods shed, and a locomotive depot. There were dock sidings at both ends of the platform; the west (Palmerston North) end dock was renewed in 1921.

Mr. E. W. Ruddick leased the Woodville Refreshment Rooms from the Railways Department and operated a private dining room there until 1921. In 1919, on account of the inadequacy of the facilities during the busy season, he requested an extra room be provided. In 1921, the refreshment room was assimilated by the Railways Department and run by the Refreshment Branch.[9] By the time the railcars arrived, the only victuals on offer were tea and sandwiches.[10] Losses continued to mount for the Refreshment Branch due in part to faster trains, and following the recommendations of the 1952 Royal Commission, the Woodville refreshment room was immediately closed.[11] The dining room was deemed to be in excess of the requirements of the Refreshment Branch, and reallocated for use as office space, including that of the Inspector of the Permanent Way, and the kitchen was converted for use as a communications equipment room. Woodville's dining room was once described by New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield as "a great barn of a place – full of primly papered chandeliers and long tables – decorated with paper flowers – and humanity most painfully in evidence."[12]

In 1963, the east-end (Wairarapa) dock siding at Woodville was extended 180 feet (55 m) and the crossover was shifted to a more central position. This enabled the railcars to stop closer to each other, shortening the distance transferring passengers would have to walk between railcars.

The condition of the station building had been gradually deteriorating to the point where, in May 1960, tenders were invited for the renovation of the station building. Tenders closed on 22 June, but when no tenders were received, three local firms were approached and asked to provide quotations for the work. Two quotes were received, but it was considered that these prices were too high, and on 17 November it was decided instead to replace the station.

Replacement station and deviation: 1964–1966Edit

In legislation and Hansard the proposed Woodville balloon loop was referred to as the 'Woodville Connection'. It was approved by the Finance Act of 1957 and the written description of the line was as follows; A connecting line leaving the Wellington to Woodville Railway near the Manga-atua Stream and running in a westerly direction to a junction with the Palmerston North to Napier Railway at McLean Street. Length about 1¼ miles. From the debate it is clear the loop was proposed due to the completion of Rimutaka Tunnel, and the subsequent increase of through traffic over the Wairarapa Line.

The loop line was required to maintain the correct direction of rolling stock coupling hooks. Prior to the construction of the loop teams of men were required to change the direction of all hooks on through travelling wagons over the Wairarapa Line, and this was done at Masterton or Woodville depending on the period. The coupling hook direction anomaly was caused by the fact the Wellington – Palmerston North – Woodville – Wellington line is an enormous balloon loop in its own right.

The land to be taken for the balloon loop was gazetted on 12 March 1958.

Plans for the new station building were finalised in 1962. The new building was one of several changes intended for the station, with other work including a new 1.25 miles (2.01 km) loop line, alterations to the yard trackwork (including moving the main line), a new platform, a new veranda, and alterations to the road approaches. It was decided to install a balloon loop because a turning triangle would have been difficult and expensive given the terrain around Woodville.[13]

Woodville railway station goods shed and loading bank

On 20 August 1963, the District Engineer was notified that the amount of funding available for the project had been increased to £124,300 for the track alterations and construction of the new loop line, and £41,500 for the new station building. Advertisements were placed in local newspapers in December 1963 and January 1964 inviting interested parties to submit tenders for the construction of the new building. The requirements were listed thus: “The building has an approximate area of 4350 sq. ft. and is of composite construction with concrete foundations and floors, timber frame, block veneer and aluminium roof. Structural steel verandas with an approximate area of 7880 sq. ft. are also included in the contract.” Tenders closed on 12 February 1964, and construction was expected to begin a few weeks later. Six tenders were received from the following local firms: Morris and Bailey Ltd.; E. M. David & Co. (Pahiatua); Jacques Bros. Ltd. (Pahiatua); J. Browne (Pahiatua); Kensington & Fraser (Woodville); Gerry Ogden and Walsh Ltd. (Dannevirke). The tender of Morris and Bailey was accepted for £30,876 on 21 February. A contract for the construction of the loop line formation had already been let to Brill and Norris Ltd. of Palmerston North in April 1963.

As the new station was to be built next to the existing station, the Foreman of Works was requested on 10 March to demolish the west end of the existing building prior to the arrival on site of the building contractor. In order to minimise disruption to users of the station, the District Traffic Manager was requested to arrange for a temporary Ladies Waiting Room and an office for the numbertaker if required.

Morris and Bailey were advised on 31 March that the site would be ready for construction on 1 April, and that they were expected to complete the contract by 31 March 1965. Due to an omission in the tender, the price of the contract was increased to £31,439.15.0 on 21 April.

The Foreman of Works was advised on 7 October that the contractor expected to have the building ready for use in early November. He was requested to arrange for the necessary furniture to be delivered pending completion of the building. On 10 November, Mr. Morris revised the completion date to 4 December, and was requested to carry out several minor tasks that were in addition to the contract.

The building was finally ready for occupation on 11 December 1964. However, several tasks in the overall project remained outstanding including: demolition of the existing station building and veranda; extension of the veranda at the eastern (Napier) end of the platform; rebuild platform; and lay a new main line, and therefore the Chief Civil Engineer advised the General Manager that an opening ceremony was not warranted at that time. This recommendation was accepted, and it was planned to hold an appropriate ceremony on completion of the entire project.

Following relocation of station operations to the new building, tenders were called for the purchase and removal of the old building from the site. Tenders closed on 11 February 1965, with the only bidder being the Central Salvage Company for £61.10.0, which was duly accepted. The Railways Department were initially advised that demolition was expected to commence on 24 February, but this was later revised to 15 March.

Woodville railway station building

Discussions on arrangements for an official opening of the new station and deviation began in May 1966. Though it was expected that the new deviation and signalling system would officially commence operation at 18:00 on Tuesday, 19 July, it was decided to hold the ceremony on Monday, 25 July at 14:30 at the station followed by afternoon tea for invited guests at the nearby Railway Hotel. The official party included Mr. and Mrs. John McAlpine, Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Gandell, Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Bridges, Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Morris or Mr. and Mrs. I. B. Bailey (on behalf of the station building contractors), Mr. and Mrs. Brill (on behalf of the deviation earthworks contractors), and Mr. and Mrs. N. H. Lanham. McAlpine unveiled a plaque that had been mounted on the end wall of the station building to mark the occasion, and which read:


By The

25 JULY 1966

The ceremony marked the completion of the most significant stages of the project. Other work which had also been completed by this time by Railways Department staff included an extension of the yard to handle longer trains, and a new power signalling and interlocking system to replace the old mechanical interlocking and semaphore signals. The new system was controlled from a desk in the station building, superseding the two signal boxes required to operate the old system. This coincided with the commissioning of automatic signalling through the Manawatu Gorge, extending the area of responsibility for the Palmerston North CTC over the Palmerston North – Woodville section. However, not all of the works planned for Woodville had been completed. A new goods shed and a new staff amenities building for the Permanent Way and Signals staff had still to be constructed, and were already in the planning stages.


NZR AB class No. 663 "Sharon Lee" running backwards around the Woodville balloon loop

Physically, Woodville remains largely intact, having retained its station building, platform, balloon loop, loading bank, goods shed, and some of its crossing loops and sidings. The local Rotary Club, with the assistance of the Rail Heritage Trust, spruced up the station building in the mid-2000s for the benefit of excursion trains.[14] The station is owned by KiwiRail but is currently untenanted. The local community is investigating options for restoring the building and future uses for it.[15]

For a period of seven years from 27 November 1988, the northern section of the Wairarapa Line was effectively mothballed.[16] Congestion on the Wellington – Palmerston North section of the NIMT led to the redirection of the Wellington – Napier freight services through the Wairarapa from 14 August 1995,[17] though these services were redirected back to their original route from 14 December 2008[18] following the daylighting of tunnels Nos. 3, 4, 5 on the PNGL which allowed the use of hi-cube containers through the Manawatu Gorge.[19] Today, there are up to 55 scheduled movements through Woodville each week, most of which are trains terminating at or passing through Palmerston North, but some pass through Woodville to/from the Wairarapa, including a weekly Wellington – Palmerston North freight service.[18] Shunts between Palmerston North and Pahiatua pass through Woodville usually on a daily basis (though they may vary with demand) but do not stop there.[18] The station yard is also still used to marshal or cross trains when required. Woodville is occasionally either a waypoint or a destination for excursion passenger trains operated by local rail heritage organisations such as Mainline Steam, Steam Incorporated, and the Pahiatua Railcar Society.[20]

The station's 125th anniversary was celebrated on Saturday, 24 March 2012 at an event arranged by Woodville Districts Vision. In attendance were over 1,000 visitors including those who arrived on two special trains from Wellington and Palmerston North, as well as dignitaries from KiwiRail and the rail heritage community. The occasion also served as a reunion for former railways staff associated with the district and an opportunity to see rolling stock that used to work in the area.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Bromby, Robin (2003). "Railways At Work". In Olphert, Lorraine (ed.). Rails That Built A Nation: An Encyclopedia of New Zealand Railways. Wellington: Grantham House Publishing. p. 145. ISBN 1-86934-080-9. Woodville was a busy junction where the Wairarapa line connects to the Palmerston North – Gisborne line. In recent years there has been installed a balloon loop so that trains coming up the Wairarapa line do not need to reverse to continue towards Napier.
  2. ^ a b c Bromby, Robin. "Main Lines – North Island". Rails That Built A Nation: An Encyclopedia of New Zealand Railways. p. 35. ... the Endeavour, the passenger train introduced between Napier and Wellington on 6 November 1972 ... It was succeeded in December 1989 by the Bay Express, which ceased operating on 7 October 2001, ...
  3. ^ Bartley, Houghton D.; Beagley, Shirley A. (March 1982). "New Zealand Railways". Woodville 1875–1975. Bly, William M.; McIntyre, Kevin J.; Smith, Lorna G.; Wilson, Robin D. (limited ed.). Woodville: Woodville Centennial Committee. p. 93. Excursion trains had, from the beginning, been very popular, with trips being made to Napier, Waipawa, Foxton, etc.
  4. ^ Hermann, Bruce (Summer 1995). "Small Lots". The New Zealand Railway Observer. Wellington: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. 52 (4): 137. ... these trains had been long established as Nos. 902 northbound and 935 southbound. It was in November 1955, when the Rimutaka tunnel was opened that they were first diverted to run via the Wairarapa. At that time they were ordinary goods trains timed to leave Wellington at 7 05 pm and to reach Napier at 5 35 am, a journey of 10 hours; and to leave Napier at 7 00 pm to reach Wellington at 5 45 am
  5. ^ Churchman, Geoffrey B. (1989). "Timetables". The Golden Era of Fiat Railcars in New Zealand. Wellington: I.P.L. Books. ISBN 0-9597832-4-5.
  6. ^ Bromby, Robin. "Main Lines – North Island". Rails That Built A Nation: An Encyclopedia of New Zealand Railways. p. 40. Passenger services on the 80.5 km Masterton – Woodville section ended from 1 August 1988, ...
  7. ^ Churchman, Geoffrey. "The Declining Years". The Golden Era of Fiat Railcars in New Zealand.
  8. ^ Bartley, Houghton D.; Beagley, Shirley A. "New Zealand Railways". Woodville 1875–1975. Bly, William M.; McIntyre, Kevin J.; Smith, Lorna G.; Wilson, Robin D. p. 92.
  9. ^ Atkinson, Neill (2007). "Citizens of Trainland". Trainland: How Railways Made New Zealand. Auckland: Random House New Zealand. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-86941-905-9. Other private rooms soon came under the Department's umbrella, including Woodville (1921), ...
  10. ^ Bartley, Houghton D.; Beagley, Shirley A. "New Zealand Railways". Woodville 1875–1975. Bly, William M.; McIntyre, Kevin J.; Smith, Lorna G.; Wilson, Robin D. p. 94. By 1938 a railcar service was introduced on the Wairarapa line and Woodville's refreshment rooms served tea and sandwiches only.
  11. ^ Atkinson, Neill. "Citizens of Trainland". Trainland: How Railways Made New Zealand. p. 182. Following the recommendations of the 1952 Royal Commission, the Kaitoke and Woodville rooms were shut immediately.
  12. ^ Atkinson, Neill. "The Long Train Journey". Trainland: How Railways Made New Zealand. p. 198.
  13. ^ Churchman, Geoffrey B.; Hurst, Tony (2001) [1990]. "Wellington". The Railways of New Zealand: A journey through history (second ed.). Wellington: Transpress New Zealand. p. 160. ISBN 0-908876-20-3. The presence of several streams would have made a conventional "triangle" track a more costly exercise.
  14. ^ Rail Heritage Trust
  15. ^ Brownlie, Kaysha (12 October 2016). "Watch NZH Local Focus: Community rallies to save Woodville Railway Station". NZ Herald. Auckland: NZME. Publishing. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  16. ^ Hermann, Bruce (Summer 1995). "Small Lots". The New Zealand Railway Observer. Wellington: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. 52 (4): 137. ... but from 27 November 1988, when the Woodville – Masterton section of the Wairarapa line was virtually "mothballed", ...
  17. ^ Hermann, Bruce (Summer 1995). "Small Lots". The New Zealand Railway Observer. Wellington: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. 52 (4): 137. With effect from Monday 14 August 1995, Nos. 630, ... and 631, ... were rescheduled to run via the Wairarapa ...
  18. ^ a b c "TrainTimetableGuide". Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
  19. ^ "Title missing". New Zealand Railfan. Mosgiel: Triple M Publications. 15 (1): 79. December 2008. ISSN 1173-2229. For many railfans, a more dramatic civil engineering project was the daylighting of the three short tunnels at the east end of the Manawatu Gorge. Tunnels 3, 4 and 5 on the Palmerston North to Gisborne Line (PNGL), addressing their restrictive loading gauge was ultimately solved by removing them. ... The mammoth excavation work was essentially completed by 27 September 2008.
  20. ^ Farmer, Don (30 April 2015). "Wheels turn to keep rail stations alive". Wairarapa Times Age. Masterton: NZME Publishing. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  21. ^ "Station platform busier than in its heyday at 125 anniversary". The Express. KiwiRail (136): 8. 29 March 2012.

Further readingEdit

  • "Woodville – Station building". Wellington: Archives New Zealand. 1918–1961. R-W 3 4 592. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • "Woodville – Station building". Wellington: Archives New Zealand. 1962–1965. R-W 3 4 592. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • "Arrangements for official opening ceremony: Woodville Railway Station and deviation". Wellington: Archives New Zealand. 1966. AAVK W3180 76 PUB 158/26. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Cameron, Walter Norman (1976). A Line Of Railway: The Railway Conquest of the Rimutakas. Wellington: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. ISBN 0-908573-00-6.

External linksEdit