Auckland railway station

Auckland Railway Station is the former main railway station of Auckland, New Zealand, and is located on the eastern edge of the Auckland CBD near Mechanics Bay. It was a city landmark from the time it was opened in 1930, and is a grand architectural statement in beaux-arts brick and mortar, having been called "one of the most self-consciously monumental public buildings erected in early twentieth-century New Zealand". The building was designed by William Henry Gummer (1884–1966), a student of Sir Edward Lutyens and architect of various notable New Zealand buildings such as the Dilworth Building in Queen Street.

The station closed in late July 2003 when services were moved to the new Britomart Transport Centre. The former platform 4 (Platform 7 at time of opening) of the station has been retained for excursion use as The Strand, named after a nearby street; it continued to be used by a limited number of peak-hour suburban trains for a few months following the opening of Britomart.

The remaining platforms of the former station may be to be removed as part of ONTRACK's redevelopment of Quay Park junction, with the area used identified as a possible storage area for suburban trains between peak times. At this point it is expected that the station will be re-opened for use as an emergency station as part of Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Railway use

The station was built by the New Zealand Public Works Department between 1928 and 1930 and sits on reclaimed land close to the wharves. It replaced a smaller terminal on the site of Britomart. The grand and ornate building was intended to serve as a gateway to the city, and its construction cost of £320,000. The station was designed by Gummer and Ford, who were New Zealand's premier architects in the early twentieth century. It has great historical importance for its associations with the public building programme of the 1920s, and with the central role played by the railways in national transport.

The symmetrical facade of the three storey-high building was constructed of reinforced concrete, faced with brick and granite. It is approached by a sweeping ramp on either side of the building, enclosing a landscaped garden immediately to the front. The building's design echoed American models, such as Union Station (Washington) and Pennsylvania Station (New York), considered the most striking and luxurious examples of the time. It has also been favourably compared with New York's Grand Central Terminal and the National Theatre in Melbourne.

The station was given ornate public spaces and a wide variety of amenities, from waiting and dining rooms to shops and a first aid station. Of particular interest is the magnificent metal ceiling in the main lobby, this item was manufactured in Germany and the parts shipped out and reassembled to create one of the most remarkable structures in the country. The loomimg threat of german aggression meant that its origins were quickly downplayed and obscured. The rest of the lobby is a showpiece of expensive imported marble and fine bronze detailing with a beautiful terazzo floor. The fine detailing extended to the restrooms with imported panelling, light fittings, period-style furniture and porcelain sanitaryware.

Underpasses and ramps linked the station building with an extended platform network to the rear, built with elegant concrete canopies and other elements as integral parts of the original design and function. With modifications, the building was used, as the main point of arrival for rail passengers in Auckland for most of the century. It was sold during the privatisation of part of the New Zealand Railways Corporation during the 1990s, partly because a new railway station was to be moved closer to the Auckland CBD again.

Campus use

In 1999 the station was partly converted for use by Auckland University and named The Railway Campus. It was the largest of the university's residences, and had 426 bedrooms, in a total of 230 apartments. The residence was awarded four stars by Qualmark in the Student Accommodation category, which evaluated the facilities as well as the level of pastoral care and support for students, and has been accredited by the New Zealand Association of Tertiary Education Accommodation Professionals. However, in November 2008, the university announced that they would not be returning to using the building for dormitory use, due to weathertightness issues and associated works (see below for more details).

Due to the large number of American students who resided in The Railway Campus each semester, it was given by some the nickname 'The American Embassy'.

The station has also featured in the 1984 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, starring David Bowie, as the central railway station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In 2007 major weathertightness problems appeared. A multi-million dollar restoration programme is underway, and is expected to continue to late 2010. The tenants were required to leave to permit work to be undertaken. The effect of the water leaks on the prices of the apartments in the complex was marked - while the high price in the early 1990s was $160,000, apartments sold for a nominal sale price as low as $12,800 (with most going around $20,000) as owners extricated themselves from the problem investment. Values had by early 2010 recovered to an average sale price of $55,000.

Present day

The Station has very little services and all Platforms have been shortened for the Britomart Curve. Tracks have been stacked up on top of each other to make way for the tracks from Britomart and grass and weeds have grown on the tracks and Platforms.

The platform canopies are under threat of demolition because of contingency plans by Auckland Transport to prepare the station for use as an alternative to Britomart for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Building Activity

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