Sunday, September 28, 2008

Avondale's future/past railway

Above is the site of Avondale's future railway station. Part of Ontrack's Project DART, or "Developing Auckland Rail Transport". (I guess the acronym DARN, if they'd used "Network" instead of "Transport", didn't go down too well with the decision-makers.) Anyway ...

All the bits an' bobs about the project are here. They're still working out how best to plan out a pedestrian crossing across Crayford Street (it's been closed to vehicular traffic since the 1960s or so) where it is already a pretty steep drop from Crayford Street East to Crayford Street West. Anyway ...

I'm not here just to relay the blurb from the powers-that-be as to what they're going to do here in Avondale. See that photo? Imagine if the house with the blue roof just behind the vegetation on the left wasn't there. And the vegetation, the grass, the auxiliary box at the left -- and if a lot of that verdant slope was bare, and covered with ballast. Complete with four lines of rail siding.

Back in 1914, the Avondale Railway Station yards (at the present site closer to Blockhouse Bay Road) were redesigned. According to plans I've photographed (with permission) from Archives New Zealand, along with the now-familiar island platform layout, with our station renovated, enlarged slightly, and given not just one verandah as they'd done in 1908, but two verandahs. A signalbox was added, and the goods shed extended, as extra lines in the station yard were laid doiwn between the clay banks. An overbridge was constructed in 1913 across Blockhouse Bay Road, and a footbridge (still there) led from the road to the station platform. For a while, a pedestrian pathway led from Layard Street (I'll post another piece I wrote about a tragedy there which stopped that crossing. Ironically, the railway planners intended putting in a pedestrian subway from Layard Street, but that never happened.

Anyway ...

At Crayford Street (called Cracroft Street in those days), the railways also planned the sidings, and proposed taking another half-acre to accomodate them (hence why I said the blue-roofed house wouldn't have been there.) The reason for the sidings? The passion and the popularity in those days of going to the Avondale races. The sidings would have been for queuing up the race-day trains. It may have made it easier for folks to get off and go down to the racecourse via either Crayford or St Judes Streets. The local Road Board had already expressed disquiet at the practice of some trains to stop in the middle of St Judes Street to let off passengers, thus blocking the traffic (what it was then).

The sidings, though, were never created. The land was left empty, barring the trees which look very nice, but they'll go once the work begins soon during construction of the new rail station.

Just another of the "might have beens" of Avondale's railway story. We might even have had a direct rail link, from Chalmers Street, to Green Bay via Portage Road if a 1900 plan I was also able to copy had left the drawing board (can you imagine Green Bay possibly as a light industrial centre, serviced by the line which would have plowed through the land which later became Clark's Potteries along Taylor Street in Blockhouse Bay, so that would never have existed there ...)

Extra: This post has been updated here, regarding the raceday trains and a special platform in 1899.

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