Christchurch to Lyttelton suburban Ec electric locomotive undergoing maintenance in the Addington Workshops [ca. 1960].
Built between 1879-1880, the Addington railway workshops replaced an earlier railway workshop (the first in New Zealand) and continued to operate until December 1990. The New Zealand EC class locomotive was designed by English Electric in 1928 to serve the electrification of the line between Lyttelton and Christchurch. They were decommissioned in 1970.
Do you have any photographs of the Addington workshops or the EC class locomotive? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
The modern Ferry Road Bridge marks the site of where a ferry service once operated to serve those settlers who, after having arrived in Lyttelton and having crossed the Port Hills via the Bridle Path, would commence the final leg of their journey to Christchurch.
When standing on the bridge, let your gaze wander along the banks of the Heathcote River until it comes to rest on a house, partially obscured by trees, with an ad hoc blend of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. This is 285 Bridle Path Road, or as it was once known, Ferrymead House.
Although there is very little other than the house to show for it now, this was once the site of a busy cargo wharf and railway station.
In December 1851, James Townsend (d. 1866) leased a plot of one hundred and fifty acres next to the Heathcote River from Robert Godley for a period of three years. As part of this lease, Townsend was required to establish approaches to the ferry and provide a punt for the use of which he could charge tolls. In 1852 the ferry was moved further upstream to the site leased by Townsend.
Upon the site he leased, Townsend built a kitset house using the ‘best Van Dieman’s Land timber’. From an early photograph taken in December 1863 by Alfred Charles Barker we can deduce that it was similar in style to another ‘Hobart-town timber’ house, Dullatur, built in Opawa in 1852. Townsend’s house (as seen in the photograph below) faced north, with an east-west roof line and two dormers on the northern side of the first floor. Although he originally named its Greenlands, the property eventually came to be called Ferry Mead.
In July 1853 the mercantile firm of Joseph Longden and Henry Le Cren of Lyttelton advertised the house for let, describing the property as ‘one hundred acres of freehold land…situated on the Bank of the River Heathcote, where schooners can land goods at all times.’ It is possible that no one initially took up the offer, as by March 1854 Joseph Longden was still advertising the property. In October 1855 Charles Torlesse, who had married Townsend’s third daughter, Alicia, in 1851, was advertising the property for sale on behalf of Townsend.
By March 1856, John Mills, a former settler from Tasmania, was living at Ferrymead, where he sold roofing shingles which he imported from Tasmania. However, in September 1856 he sold up his stock and chattels and departed New Zealand. It is possible that the property remained in his possession, as by August 1857, Frederic Le Cren (a ferry master at the Heathcote) advertised the house for sale (or let). At this time it was described as a “desirable and convenient residence” containing six rooms and accompanied by a garden with trees, a stable, cart shed, fowl house, piggery and stock yards. Three months later, Frederic Le Cren married Cecilia, the eldest daughter of John Mills.
Initially the Heathcote had been used by cargo boats to bring goods further upriver to a site which later became known as Steam Wharf. In 1861 the Canterbury Provincial Council decided to build a railway line from Christchurch to the site of a proposed tunnel to Lyttelton. In 1863 this Christchurch-Heathcote railway line was extended to Ferrymead before officially opening on 28 November 1863.
Even though a former ferry operator, Thomas Hughes, had kept a house on the western side of the river known as the Heathcote Hotel, the prospect of a railway line and cargo wharf at Ferrymead offered the opportunity for a rival institution. In April 1863 Stephen “Yankee Doodle” Curtis opened a store at Ferrymead House. In that same month he applied for a license to sell liquor which was granted on the condition that he improved the house before the license renewal in the following year. By July he was referring to the building as Ferrymead Hotel.
The photograph taken in December by Alfred Charles Barker shows how the new settlement at Ferrymead looked. The approach to the now redundant ferry is situated in the foreground. Beyond stands a cluster of buildings, the centre of which is the Ferrymead Hotel. Next door, to the east, is the gaol and policeman’s house. Situated between the hotel and the river were the refreshment rooms and a goods shed. Just beyond this were the railway line and the cargo wharf.
In 1886 the property was purchased by the Bunting family who used the land surrounding the former hotel to grow tomatoes. During their ownership the building resumed its original role as a house.
The house underwent renovation during its ownership by Leonard and Annie Shearman (nee Bunting), fruit growers, who are recorded as residing in the Heathcote Valley by 1913. During this time, a porch was built over the main entrance which was enclosed at a later date. A box window was added to the west façade of the ground floor. Upstairs, the two north facing dormers were merged to form an unusual gable. These changes must have been made after 1906 as a painting by Florence Hammond dated from that year shows the building in its original form. A photograph dated from the 1920s, when the property was still owned by the Shearmans, shows that the structural changes made to the building were already in place.
Under the ownership of the Shearmans a museum was established behind the house which, during the 1930s and 1940s, catered to visits by school classes. The museum collection consisted of photographs and items associated with the history of Ferrymead House and its environs.
In 1971 the house and nursery were purchased by Philip Wright (1943-2015), who had an interest in horticulture. A collector of antique items, Philip Wright kept the museum and the nursery open to the public, as an advertisement from the Christchurch Star (April 15, 1976, p.21) shows. In 2008, a short documentary “The Lost Time Traveller” was filmed, which consists of interviews with Philip Wright as he takes the viewer on a tour of the property. The documentary provides some glimpses of the interior of the house, including the original staircase.
The house suffered damage during the Canterbury earthquakes and the chimney, which was already on a lean prior to the earthquakes, was later removed.
Subjects unknown. Photo reproduced from a glass negative.
Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008. The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.
Rail heritage groups from around Canterbury have joined forces to celebrate the 150th birthday of New Zealand’s railways. The effort is headed by the Canterbury Railway Society, who are based at Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch.
The celebration will centre around a three day exposition of displays and operation of vintage railway equipment over Labour Day Weekend at Ferrymead Heritage Park, the site of New Zealand’s first public railway.
The three day weekend will give people a chance to see and ride preserved and restored rail equipment dating back to the late 1800s including a trip through the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel to Lyttelton!
The Auckland-Opua Express once carried passengers to the Bay of Islands, the Onehunga Boat Train used to be part of the main route between Auckland and Wellington, and the Rotorua Limited enabled tourists and the well-to-do to take the waters in Rotorua. Later trains like the Silver Star and Northerner – even the Kaimai, Geyserland and Bay Expresses, withdrawn in 2001 – had a distinctive character too.
Almost everyone in the first half of the 20th century travelled by train – including royalty. In 1869 the first royal train journey from Lyttelton to Christchurch carried the Duke of Edinburgh; the first fully-fledged royal train carrying the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (the future King George V and Queen Mary) plied the route of the Rotorua Limited and the South Island Express; in 1920 the Prince of Wales traversed the country by train with Lord Louis Mountbatten. In 1927 the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) travelled more than 1700 miles by royal train. Other distinguished visitors whose stories are told in the book include the English comedian J.L.Toole and his company (1890), Australian poet Will Lawson, singers Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Clara Butt, Irish tenor John McCormack and Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin, Polish pianist Ignace Paderewski, ‘March King’ John Philip Sousa and his band, ballerina Anna Pavlova, the 17-year-old violinist Yehudi Menuhin, writers Rudyard Kipling, Zane Grey and George Bernard Shaw, and actors Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Last Train to Paradise describes the halcyon days of New Zealand rail, some of which the author was fortunate enough to experience personally. The ‘name’ trains and journeys cover a considerable period of New Zealand’s history, from the late 1800s, through the ‘golden’ era of train travel (the first four decades of the 20th century), and conclude with the introduction of new services in the last half of the century.
The railway lines described in the book cover every part of the country – and some that have almost been erased from popular memory.
Thinking about our annual mass exodus to beaches and sea side towns on Boxing Day got me wondering if it was always so.
A bit of research on our website confirms that a seaside culture had grown up in the nineteenth century and those who could afford it holidayed at the sea. The Governor-General, for example, traditionally retired to Northland for “fishing and sunshine” and in 1894 Kaiteriteri was already a popular gathering (or trysting) place at New Year.
It was not always so for the working man though. The law didn’t make even Christmas a holiday until late in the century; before that it was a regular working day for many. According to New Zealand History Online the summer break as we know it started to be popular in New Zealand from the 1920s, by which time most people had a week of holidays.
Travel was not by car, but by train and boat. Train excursions were popular right from their inception in the 1870s. However by between the wars newspapers referred to the holiday queues for boats and trains as the mad rush. As early as 1910 four express trains left Christchurch for points south every day during the holiday period. It all sounds a bit reminiscent of travelling in Europe. Motor cars didn’t become the main mode of transport until the 1950s.
Perhaps that explains why we had such a large and forlorn (I always thought), railway station built in Christchurch in the 1960s. Someone hadn’t caught up with our change in travelling habits.
For thirty years Paul Theroux has been for me the master of travel writing. Vain, critical and humourless his writings have still been a must and far superior to his fiction. He has criticised New Zealand, slagged off the English, made me reappraise the worthiness of aid to Africa and fostered my desire to see foreign climes, preferably from the window of a long distance train.
Now thirty-three years after his first travel masterpiece, The Great Railway Bazaar, he has decided to retake the train journey from London via Turkey, India, S.E. Asia and Japan and back on the Trans-Siberian. Continue reading →
One of the saddest reminders of industrial decline must be an abandoned railway. The lifeline for a community or industry has been replaced by rusting machinery, derelict and vandalized buildings. Along Lost Lines is a tribute to a vanished world, mainly focussing on vanished railways: what journeys could have been made in the past and what remains today.
Colin Gifford’s And Gone Forever records the last days of steam railways in Great Britain. He soon realised when taking these superb photographs that he was also recording not just the end of the engines but also a way of life: the sense of community, the squalor and hardship of working class life, a world alien to that of our own.