Dotted throughout New Zealand are numerous railway stations. Each has its own unique history including the Paekākāriki Railway Station, north of Wellington. The station has survived throughout the decades and is an important part of the Paekākāriki village. Kāpiti News editor David Haxton takes a journey back in time to uncover its story.
Thousands and thousands drive past it every day as they make their way up and down the Kāpiti Coast. But how many of those know the humble beginnings of what would become one of the busiest stations in the regions?
The origins of the Paekākāriki Railway Station date back to 1886 when the privately run Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company's line from Wellington to Longburn was completed.
The original station wasn't grand, rather a "small, dark old shanty", an early issue of the NZ Railway Officers' Advocate said.
But by 1908 the New Zealand Railways had taken over the line, completing the North Island Main Trunk Line.
A new station was designed by the widely respected George Troup who designed many stations including the famous Dunedin Railway Station.
The station would become one of the busiest stations outside of the main metropolitan stations for various factors – it was changeover point for engines, patronage was a lot higher, railway people lived nearby, the area was a popular destination especially in the weekends, and it was the end of the suburban line for many years.
"There were picnic trains from Wellington to Paekākāriki," said Dave Johnson, chairman of the Paekākāriki Station Museum.
Its large refreshment room, which opened in the early days, was well renowned for many decades until it closed in about the late 1960s.
"It used to have a beautiful, long, native timber counter," he recalled.
The eight-minute station stop saw people eager for a drink or something to eat in the inviting, and long, refreshment room.
And it was extremely popular, catering for over a million customers a year.
Several of the women who worked at the refreshment room stayed in a New Zealand Railways hostel in nearby Ames St.
One of the more busier times was during World War II with lots of military movements including US Marines who had a heavy presence in Kāpiti between 1942 and 1943.
People crowded the station to see Jean Batten who made the first solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936 - she stopped at the station during a lecture tour of New Zealand.
By the late 80s-early 90s, the Government was downsizing parts of the railway line with the Paekākāriki station in the line of fire as only part of it was being used.
The community rallied in support of the station and it was spared.
"You couldn't demolish a building like this – it would be a crime," Dave Johnson said.
In 1993, with community support, the Paekākāriki Station Museum was opened, within the station, with stories of local Māori, settlers, railway people and the US Marines.
In 2008 the 100-year celebration of the North Island Main Trunk Line was celebrated with special trains running between Wellington and Auckland.
The occasion was used to celebrate one of the station's restored signal boxes, which sits proudly at the southern end of the platform.
Currently the railway station building is divided into four main sections.
At the southern end is Kakariki Books, owned by Michael O'Leary, a passionate Paekakarikian.
Next to the bookshop is the museum, next to the museum is a waiting room for people to use in winter months, and at the northern end is rooms used by Transdev train drivers and train managers.
Parts of the building are undergoing earthquake strengthening courtesy of the Wellington Regional Council.
Work, which also includes some flooring repairs, and is expected to be finished by the end of July, has meant the museum is temporary closed.
The regional council is also painting the station's historic signal box which dates back to 1915 and is located at the southern end.
A local artist, Frances Krsinich, has been using the signal box as an art studio for the last six months. She will be exhibiting her latest works there in July.
Because of the complexity of Paekākāriki operations and track layout, a signal box was required at each end of the platform.
The system was discontinued in 1985 and replaced with a remote control system.
The northern signal box is at the Ohakune Railway Station.
A large sign near the platform proudly states Paekākāriki is the home of the Paekākāriki Express - not a train, but none other that former All Black Christian Cullen, who grew up in the area.
The railway station has been a major part of the community for a long time, and continues to be treasured by the community.
"It's still very much like a railway town," said O'Leary, noting the nearby Steam Incorporated, a railway heritage and preservation society.
"And it's still a working station, in the sense that we've got railway people here," Johnson added. "Railways have played a big part in Paekākāriki's history."
Michael O'Leary sums it up: "It's an asset not just for Paekākāriki but for the whole of Kāpiti."