Following the recent deconstruction of the Red Shed at Castlecliff, the Whanganui Regional Museum has acquired some historic items once in use at Whanganui Port.
These objects tell part of what is a fascinating story of geographical and economic change.
A look into the history of the port and Whanganui River mouth reveals dramatic stories both natural and human. On the one hand, the constant movement of sand and water; on the other, the rise and fall of maritime transport and commerce in a provincial New Zealand town.
The planned revitalisation of the port is the latest instalment in a salty story of ships and railways, cargoes and wrecks, sailors, harbourmasters and construction workers that dates back to the 1880s.
The Red Shed, so named because it was painted red, was the Castlecliff Railway terminus. The building contained railway loading facilities, and featured wooden floors, which were recycled prior to deconstruction.
The exact date it was built is unclear but was some time during the 1880s to 1910s. An adjoining shed, the Victory Shed, was built to commemorate the end of World War II. Its name was originally the "Victory Over Japan Shed".
The Castlecliff-based port opened in the 1880s. A meat freezing works opened in 1891. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the port was an important transit point for goods coming in and out of the central North Island.
As roading networks grew during the mid to late 20th century, the port experienced a decline.
The shifting sands of the shallow bar at the entry to the river had always made the port a dangerous one, and a long list of names of shipwrecks is testimony to this. Whanganui District Council bought back the port from private ownership in 2010. Now that central government's Provincial Growth Fund has allocated funding for port revitalisation, work is beginning.
The acquisition of the items by the museum is one way in which the changes at the port can be documented.
The items include depth sounding equipment, radio equipment and navigation lights. The lights were probably used to help navigate the wreck of the SS Te Anau, a Union Steamship Company passenger vessel that was scuttled to support the river wall in 1924.
The depth sounding equipment includes a Raytheon Survey Fathometer and a K Royal Depth and Fish Finder with alarm.
In the museum's current exhibition, Crossing The Bar - Tumu Herenga Waka, there are many nautical items on display, including lights, sail making equipment, paintings of ships and items from wrecks such as the Port Bowen.
The items from the Red Shed are not romantic in appearance. They came to us with a coating of windblown dust and sand. They are grungy, gritty analog technology from the second half of the 20th century. Like the port itself, the story they tell is not pretty or public, but functional, commercial and industrial.
•Airini Beautrais is the communications co-ordinator at Whanganui Regional Museum.