Packed with joyous Napier citizens, the first steam train from Napier to visit Hastings ran on October 12, 1874. Much festivity, with drinking and dancing, occurred that night to celebrate the occasion in the Railway Hotel, on the corner of Station (now Russell) St and Heretaunga St.
After the Hastings/Napier route was completed in 1874, the line extended to Pakipaki in 1875, Waipukurau in 1876, and 15 years later in 1891 to Palmerston North, through the Manawatu Gorge.
Maori were fascinated by the "horseless carriage".
Apparently one Maori chief refused a ride so he could stare in amazement as the locomotive puffed and hissed as it passed him by. The first railway station, in what became Hastings, was built on land donated to the government by Francis Hicks in 1873, and a persistent myth still circulates that "Hicksville" was the name of the settlement then.
There is no actual proof that it was - except from historian J G Wilson, who claimed the deeds for the railway land, had Hicksville as the location.
When a new Hastings Railway Station opened 50 years ago this year, on July 9, 1962, the first railcar (pictured that day) arrived at the station about 8.25am, with much less fanfare than the 1874 opening. This year also marks the centenary of the first sod being turned by Prime Minister Joseph Ward in 1912 to celebrate the beginning of construction of the Napier to Wairoa line.
The Hastings Railway Station has not been used for many years with the cancellation of passenger services. The Napier to Gisborne line is presently closed.