30 March 2011

Waiotira railway station, Waiotira, Northland, New Zealand

All photos (apart from one obvious exception) taken by me, April 2010.

Now, as much as I love slagging off hideous architecture, I don't want Mow Your Lawn! to get too bogged down in rants like the sort I just published about the Elizabeth Tower Hotel. So I thought I would fairly quickly follow it by showcasing the other side of the blog: the fascinating world of derelict and decaying man-made structures. Today's subject is the very decrepit Waiotira railway station in the middle of nowhere, lost somewhere in the rolling hills of the Northland region of New Zealand, a couple of hours out of Auckland.

The old back platform is in the foreground. If you can tell.
Waiotira station is located on the last section of the railway between Auckland and Whangarei to be opened. A rough-and-ready kind of freight service operated from 1923, but it wasn't until late 1925 that passenger trains began passing through here. But soon Waiotira was a railway junction, with a branch line leaving this station for Dargaville to the west. Between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s, this was a busy station where trains from Auckland to Opua or Okaihau via Whangarei met local services that ran between Waiotira and Dargaville. It had two platforms, one for the main line and one for the Dargaville trains, a station building, and a busy goods yard. But that's all history.

Waiotira, June 1985. Credit: jeffpylenz; source.
Go to Waiotira today and try to imagine what it was like around 1950. Both railway lines are still open - just. They are on the brink of closure. As for the station itself? It's pretty eerie here in Waiotira really. It's hard to even get a sense of how this was once a busy junction, with passengers changing trains and goods being trans-shipped. Just look at that lonely platform; it's fading back into the landscape, covered by grass in an even more substantial way than Dargaville station. The only reason a train would stop here is so that locomotives on freight trains between Dargaville and Whangarei can swap ends. Passengers have not boarded regularly scheduled trains here since 1976, and the platform is now so overgrown and inaccessible that even a special excursion could not use it. It's hard to believe that even in June 1985, there was a decent-sized, well-painted, and not unattractive building sitting on that platform (see photo above right). If you told me nobody had set foot on it since that last regular service in 1976, I would have believed you.

The old goods yard, with Waiotira township behind.
The yard is basically a thing of the past. The main line and a short loop are still useable; a third track is in place but looked to me like it could no longer be used. The rest is gone. There are no facilities; the back platform has long since been taken up; there are certainly no wagons being dropped off or collected by passing trains. You have to use your imagination to recall a time when wagons were shunted busily, local produce was loaded, and much-needed supplies were dropped off. Waiotira was more than just a couple of hours away from Auckland in those days, and this station was a lifeline. Now, it's nothing. The only life is a signal protecting the branch to Dargaville. Even those tracks are losing their glimmer.

Well there's SOME platform surface left!
Like many country New Zealand towns, Waiotira nowadays is barely more than a dot on a map. There are just a few houses, and it's little wonder that the railway station building has not been preserved or that the station precinct has become so derelict and forgotten. It is, in a way, symbolic of how rural communities are fading away in many places. It shows how in this part of Northland, like so many other regions, being away from the State Highway and being stripped of your railway facilities one-by-one (first the expresses, then the slow passenger trains, then the freight) can be ... perhaps not a kiss of death, but a key part of the slow decline of rural areas.

Rating: Vacant, which I think translates to about Unpleasant on our oh-so-formal rating system.

1 comment:

  1. My brother in law worked at that station and my sister ran the telephone exchange from there it was a lovely little town it is sad that this station has not been preserved