A closed railway platform in Porirua’s northernmost suburb has become a place to unlock some of the tales of the area’s proud, and colourful, railway past.
Muri Station, one stop north of the main Pukerua Bay Station, was closed in 2011 due to low patronage, structural defects and high projected costs to upgrade it.
The small building used as the station’s waiting rooms has not seen any use since the station’s closure but on Saturday, an official opening has given it a new lease on life, albeit one that is steeped in the past.
Pukerua Bay Residents Association, working with Porirua City Council, have placed information boards in the shelter, outlining the suburb’s connections with rail that began with the awarding of a contract to connect Paremata and Pukerua in 1883 (the suburb didn’t have the ‘Bay’ added to Pukerua until 1923).
Paul FitzGerald, chairman of Pukerua Bay Residents Association, says the idea of celebrating the railway history in the suburb has been around for more than a decade. A dedicated group of people, called He Ara Pukerua, kicked the project up a gear about four years ago.
Having "two marvellous historians" in Margaret and Ashley Blair giving their time helped, he says.
"We’re very excited to have it opened, so everyone can enjoy a significant part of the heritage of Pukerua Bay."
Pukerua Bay’s linkages with the railway line, as shown on the panels in the shelter, highlight a rich, sometimes lawless and sometimes tragic, past.
Mr Blair says the camps at Pukerua as the railway line was going down in the 1880s and 1890s were a "rip-roaring time".
"There were robberies, stabbings, unexplained deaths, sly grog being sold, a serious tunnel accident where three men died - bad things occurred while this significant piece of rail was built," he says.
"You forget what is was like now, because we drive through so easily with cars, but this was a remote place. Once the rail went in, everyone was coming out here by train."
Mr Blair says while some history of rail in Pukerua Bay had been recorded, he needed to fill in a lot of gaps, spending time in archives at the National Library and receiving information from the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society.
Porirua Mayor Anita Baker unveiled the panels and says the group deserved plaudits for the work put in.
"New Zealand is a relatively young country that needs to have its history recorded, not always digitally, but in resources like this building," she says.
"History in our community, that you can see and touch, encourages us to get off our devices and check it out in person and what we have at Muri is especially relevant given rail is part of New Zealand’s historical DNA.
"Many of us have stopped at Muri Station over the years but, now that is no longer an option, it is fantastic that its involvement in the history of this area, and the main trunk line, is to be forever enshrined to inform generations and enthusiasts for years to come.
6 Sep 2020