Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Gingerbread" George Troup's legacy

On 12 November 1906, the new Dunedin Railway Station was officially opened. Designed by George Alexander Troup, nicknamed "Gingerbread George" for his elaborate buildings, built by railway department staff supervised by district engineer Mr McLean and the inspector of works Mr Hall, with the chief engineer J Coom, electrical engineering supervised by H J Wynne -- "We are now going to open the Railway Station with the sun shining upon it," said Sir Joseph Ward at the opening, (Otago Daily Times, 13 November 1906).

Built with the frontage facing west -- photographing the building took a day in which to catch its moods, from just after dawn ...

... to midday ...

... and into early afternoon, when the April sun caught the facade in the best light.

I didn't mind. Out of the over 980 digital images I took of central Dunedin while I was down there earlier this month, photographing Troup's station was one of my main goals.

On 3 June 1904, Ward was on hand (as Minister of Railways) to lay the foundation stone as well.

The weather yesterday morning was threatening and cold, but fortunately the rain held off while the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of Dunedin's new railway station was proceeding. Only a light shower fell, causing the raising of umbrellas all over the platform and the tiered seats, as well as in the concourse of the general public, and then the rain cleared away and the ceremony ended in sunshine. The huge gantry was decorated with flags from end to end, giving it an appearance quite different from its commonplace, look on ordinary occasion? The crane on top was also adorned, and the greenery and other ornamentations placed here and there set off the structure effectively. A line of flags ran from the gantry in the direction of Stuart Street, and above the platform was the inscription, in large letters, "Advance New Zealand's Railways”. A couple of interesting views were shown—a design of the station it intended to erect some years ago on the Cumberland street site and a design of the substantial building now being erected. A carpeted platform was placed around the foundation stone, with seating accommodation for about 200 persons, and at the side there were seats in tiers, capable of holding over 300 persons. The Volunteers stood in front of the platform, and also on the old street line, and the public (of whom there were some thousands) took up positions in all places from which they could command anything at all of a view of the speakers' platform.
Otago Daily Times 4 June 1904

Memorial plaque to railway staff who didn't make it back from WWI.

This appears to be the coat of arms for the Province of Otago.

The ticket office windows. Amongst the Taieri Gorge Railway souvenirs (sold just next door) are images of these windows.

Sadly, this isn't the original floor -- the original needed replacement after subsidence in the 1960s. But the design was copied.

The station is the operating centre for the Taieri Gorge Railway these days. I didn't go on that -- but, maybe one day ...


  1. I can't recall seeing it and it is not the type of building to forget. It seems to be very well maintained.

  2. You've been to Dunedin, Andrew -- and you missed the old station? Heavens. The Dunedin crew all the time I was there were saying "Have you seen the station??" over and over. First thing I headed for, meself (hence the dawn shot).

    1. I have. My memory is hazy though. I recall a university town feel, the caravan park where we stayed at St Kilda, a musical fountain and an beautiful old house called Overton, or something like that. It rained heavily when we were there, so it wasn't the best for seeing anything.

    2. You need to go again, then. Sounds like the house was Olveston.

    3. Yes, that was it. I still have the booklet, filed away.

    4. Booklets filed away -- you sound like me, Andrew! ;)

  3. I have no doubt that the railway station was the most important building in cities towards the end of the 19th century, more important even than the town hall or the cathedral. How else could a city show its commercial skills, its modernity and its scientific progress? Compare it to Maryborough in Victoria, for example.

    But the new Dunedin Railway Station looked a bit grandiose, even for a bustling city. Did it cost a fortune to build? Who paid all the costs?

  4. Click on the link to the NZHPT site above, and you'll find the information you're after.

  5. Thanks for the heads up for Dunedin's heritage. Knowing what has happened to Christchurch makes what we have here even more precious.

  6. Too true. As I can, I'll put up more photos I took while I was down there. I had a brilliant time exploring your heritage!

  7. It's a beauty, all right! Didn't you have FUN!!! :-)

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