The Carterton Railway Precinct in 1884

Philip Sharp


The Carterton precinct along with the other precincts on the Wairarapa line from Woodside to Masterton was officially opened on November 1, 1880. By then, the Carterton precinct had been used for four months, the first train, a lumber train, having departed July 5, 1880.

The photograph below is of a scaled drawing of the Carterton Precinct four years later. The photograph is high resolution, permitting you to magnify the image to see greater detail.

Figure 1: A photograph of a scaled drawing of the Carterton Precinct in 1884.

In this article, I use the drawing to describe the precinct as it was in 1884.

Legend for map

Wellington is to the left of the photograph and Masterton to the right. The top of the drawing is northwest approximately. The level crossing at the left side of the photograph is Pembroke St and that on the right side Belvedere Road. The two level crossings are approximately 340 metres apart. Carterton's town centre is 500 metres off the bottom of the photograph.

The black rectangular and related shapes are structures in the precinct. The dotted bands represent gravel roads, often called metal roads in New Zealand, for horse drawn wagons. Cars did not arrive in New Zealand until 1898. The lowercase ps on the drawing denote the points, or turnouts as they are typically called in New Zealand. The thin dark lines represent the tracks in the precinct.

The two numerical 5s near the bottom of the drawing are related to the distance from Wellington station. The distance between the two 5s is 10 chain which is 220 yards or 201.2 metres.

In the descriptions below, above means closer to the top edge of the photograph and not further off the ground.


Passenger Station

The structure labelled "Passenger Station" has three parts. The long thin rectangle is the platform. The larger of the two remaining rectangles is the station building. This was built 1879 - 80 and had five rooms and a women's toilet. The building is 72 feet by 18 feet and is a Class 2 Vogel station. The Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand describes Class 2 Vogel stations as ''Larger gable-roofed stations with little architectural embellishment, common features being the use of similar joinery components.''

The remaining part of the passenger station is the men's toilet. This women's toilet was inside the station building.

The platform, station building and toilets all remain. The platform has been extended to allow for the longer passenger cars. The Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand states that a veranda was added in 1899 and a portico on the eastern side in 1924. There has been no substantial structural changes since then. At some point, a doorway was added between the two rooms at the Wellington end.

Goods shed

Up from the station on the diagram is the goods shed. This was 60 feet by 30 feet and had one track running through it. This track is near the bottom of the shed which meant loading was from one side only, something that was common.

The goods shed was removed in 1989. All that remains in the area is a small concrete loading bank with steps.


To the right of the station building is a small structure marked tanks. These were water tanks and were needed because the steam locomotives that serviced the Wairarapa line at the time had small tanks.

The tanks are long gone.


Diagonally up to the right from the tanks are two platforms. These were not for loading passengers but were low level loading bays for general goods.


The small rectangle up from the low level loading bays is the loading block of the ramp for loading sheep onto wagons.

Station master's house

The enclosed area in the top left corner of the photograph contains two structures. The bigger of the two is the station master's house. The small structure above the house is possibly an outhouse.

Other structures

There is a small structure just outside the enclosure for the station master's house. The purpose of this structure is unknown.


There are six tracks on the drawing

Main line

The line nearest the bottom of the drawing that extends right across the drawing is the main line. This runs in a southwest - northwest direction approximately. The main line services the station and was/is the track used by passenger trains.

Loops 1 and 2

The first and second tracks up from the main line are examples of what are often called loops in New Zealand. I will refer to these two tracks as Loop 1 and Loop 2.

Loop 1 has two important characteristics. Both ends of the track connect directly to the main line, and both ends of it are contected to other tracks in the yard.

Tracks of the type Loop 1 have four potential uses:

The regular weekday timetable effective April 21st, 1884 had two mixed trains each way, one in the morning and one in the afteroon. There were no passenger trains. The morning trains were scheduled to meet at Summit and the afternoon trains at Upper Hutt. Hence, delay excepted, trains never met in Carterton and the first and fourth potential uses listed above can be discounted.

Loop 2 was used for building or breaking up a freight or mixed train.

Loop 2 remains, Loop 1 was lifted in 2007. The centreline of Loop 1 was 12 feet from the centreline of the main line. This separation was too small for modern wagons and carriages.

Goods shed track

As the name implies, this track serviced the goods shed. Having the track connected to Loop 2 at both ends made the goods shed track easier to use than if it was connected to Loop 2 at one end only.

The goods shed track remains.

Loading bay spur

The spur that runs past the two low level loading bays was used to service the loading bays, and possibly when wagons were being shunted in the yard.

The spur remains.

Sheep yard spur

This is the spur that runs beside the sheep yards. A mob (flock) of sheep would have been brought to the station by a drover and put in the holding pen (the rectangle in the photograph with the word 'Yards' ) and possibly the smaller pen to the left of the holding pen. A sheep wagon would be shunted into position beside the loading ramp and sheep loaded into the wagon from the smaller pen via the race which was immediately above the loading block in the photograph.

All but the first metre or so of this spur has been removed.

What is missing?

The Carterton precinct was small. Larger precincts in the steam era had at least the following that Carterton did not have


The author thanks the Wairarapa Railway Restoration Society Incorporated for permitting him to photograph the scaled drawing of the precinct in 1884.

Revision history

April 19, 2017. Minor revisions including to the description of the loading bay spur.

March 4, 2017. First version.