Hastings was born of a railway station. This year marks 145 years since the railway opened between Hastings and Napier.
Enterprising property owner Francis Hicks gave enough land in 1873 to the railways to establish a train station and goods yard and shed in what would originally be called Karamu Junction, near the now Russell St North and Queen St East.
When Francis Hicks subdivided his land to cash in on its proximity to the station, a nucleus of a town slowly developed as his land was sold and others subdivided their land for settlement.
Land for a hotel, called the Railway Hotel, was purchased from Francis on Heretaunga St East.
On October 12, 1874, the line to Napier and Hastings was opened, and a train with passenger carriages made a 40 minute journey to Hastings. The first train was named "Hastings", and a bottle of wine was broken on the engine upon arrival.
A picnic was held in a paddock with the Napier Town Band playing "popular airs".
It was a windy day, as it can get in Hawke's Bay in October, and part of the station's under construction galvanised roof blew off and across a paddock.
The Napier to Hastings section of the railway was connected in 1874, the line was extended to Pakipaki in 1875, Waipukurau in 1876 and in 1891 finally reached Palmerston North through the Manawatū Gorge.
It became very busy around the train station and having the goods yard so close to the middle of the town meant many disruptions.
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Therefore a move was planned for 1894 to physically move the train station further along Russell St North (as shown in the 1920s).
In 1894, the railways owned Station St (now Russell St North) between Heretaunga and Queen streets. It was, by all accounts, not kept in the best condition, and cleaned infrequently of refuse. The railways were apparently not concerned about the state of the road. Some years later it was handed over to the Hastings Borough Council, who sealed the dusty and pot-holed street.
The delivery of mail through the mail train had great importance. When a large fire broke out in 1907 in Heretaunga St West, the fire brigade laid fire hoses over the railway line to connect to a sewer manhole as the water supply was exhausted.
A story is told in connection with this that when a train wanted to depart the station, the hoses were ordered to be pulled up by railway officials otherwise the train with 35 trucks on it would go over the hoses. Disconnecting the hoses, letting the train pass through, reconnecting the hoses again to restart pumping sewerage took 15 minutes. By this time the fire flared up again, taking 21 hours to bring the fire under control.
The second site of the railway station also became quite congested.
In 1912, James Nelson Williams had donated land in Caroline Rd (now Sir James Wattie Place) to encourage the shift of train station, but a move did not occur until 1962.
Without much fanfare, on July 9, 1962, a railcar arrived at 8.25am to the Hastings station.
The Hastings train station had received attention in recent years by the Lions and Hastings District Council – who also had plans for it.
I noticed during this year's Art Deco Festival while waiting for the railcar at the station that significant vandalism had been done.
The first railcar had arrived in at the Hastings train station 1962, and the last train to stop at the station before its destruction would also be a railcar in February 2019.
- Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are available at $65 from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings and Wardini Books Havelock North and Napier.
- Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.