Railway Housing in Greater Christchurch [1]: Introduction

As we all know, when NZR developed their network, staffing requirements especially in remote locations often required housing to be provided. There are a number of townships in NZ where the amount of railway staff housing was significant compared to the overall community, including several railway towns – Otira on the Midland Line being one of the best known examples and one of the few that is still substantially unaltered today.
In the course of the Greater Christchurch research several housing settlements have come to light around the city, some of which have long gone and others which still exist in some form, however in general Kiwirail does not have any houses of its own these days and only occasionally leases properties as needed such as at Otira. At a major station there would generally be a stationmaster’s house which was separate from most other housing, the latter tending to be a row of houses close together, and generally without driveways or garages although a small shed was commonly seen on the majority of sections.
As we generally know, NZR housing became a major focus around 100 years ago to the extent that a housing factory was built at Frankton (the buildings still exist in some form) and prefabricated standarised designs were churned out for a number of years afterwards. Hence it becomes possible to identify ex-Railway houses by sight in some areas because of the characteristic appearance. Wherever possible, Railway housing settlements were often placed at the edges of railway yards.
We haven’t specifically researched Railway housing in the Greater Christchurch area just yet but intend to do so as it is becoming a topic of interest and the map key does include a code for marking houses which has been undertaken on other maps we have developed, most notably the Otago Central line, so having stumbled across a number of files specifically related to housing in our research currently on Lyttelton, we now intend to research the housing more intensively in order to document it as part of the maps.
Our research some weeks ago on Christchurch Station, for example, documented that a house for the stationmaster may have been provided somewhere in the area in the early 20th century, but it was not too long before NZR started to pay their stationmasters allowances to live in their own houses elsewhere. For example, paying the telephone connection and monthly fees for the Christchurch stationmaster was undertaken for many years in recognition that they would be expected to be available on-call most of the time when not actually working.
Housing at Lyttelton appears to have been located all over the township rather than being clustered close to the station. So far we have uncovered that NZR owned houses as high up as College Road and Brenchley Road (these locations are near the northmost limits of housing development on the eastern side of the township). As our aerial photos at the moment don’t go that high, we may have to extend them if possible in order to show the housing on maps.
Heathcote is an interesting place to investigate as well because a housing development was undertaken c. 1960 at Railway Terrace, between the upper section of Martindales Road, Port Hills Road and the Tunnel Road. At this stage we can only speculate that the intention was to provide for a number of staff housing needs in the general area rather than specifically for Heathcote, as it is evident on the map that there were approximately 20 houses constructed, and Heathcote has never been a major station that would have required a significant number of staff – by that stage probably only a stationmaster and/or signalman. Since NZR sold the housing, some of the sections have been redeveloped but there are still some of the staff houses in place. Further research has yet to be completed on this settlement and the other NZR housing that is known to exist around Heathcote.
Then-new housing development at Heathcote in 1961. Martindales Road has been extended to give access to the tunnel road formation during the construction of the Lyttelton Road Tunnel project.
View of some of the wider area in 1970, including a water reservoir on the hillside above that no longer exists today.
Same view as the first map but taken 2015, the settlement has changed much but some of the houses are essentially the same.
No survey of railway housing in Greater Christchurch would be complete without looking at the settlements around Addington Railway Workshops. At this stage we know little about this housing except that due to the extensive changes in the transport landscape that have taken place in Addington over the past 30 years, even some of the streets these houses were in have disappeared.
The first area that may have been a railway settlement at Addington is directly north of the Shops site in Lowe Street. Earlier aerial photos show this was almost all in housing, whereas today there is hardly anything left due to it becoming mostly commercial and light industrial in nature.
Addington in 1940. The area that may have been a railway housing settlement is bounded by Lowe Street, Tyne Street and what later became Blenheim Road (known as Alliance Street at the time). There already seems to have been some industrial development in Pope Street in the area opposite the saleyards that later became the NZR Publicity and Advertising premises.
 The same area of Addington in 2015, some 75 years later. Tower Junction occupies the Shops site, and the housing has almost completely disappeared from view. In fact there was just one of the old houses in a run down condition which appears to the left and slightly below the 0.5 km peg. But the latest imagery from Canterbury Maps (below) shows it too has gone recently.
The other main area of Railway housing we are aware of in Addington to date is directly to the west of the Shops. This was never huge – there may have been only about 20 houses there at its peak – but the streets themselves were removed completely when Tower Junction was developed.
The NZR housing settlement in Margaret Street, Levin Street and Bell Street, as seen in 1940. There were still some houses there in the 1980s although parts of the land by that stage were being used for Shops purposes such as carparking. Clarence Street at that time was the major through route of the area, with a level crossing over the Main South Line just west of the present passenger station.
The same area much altered in 2015. Whiteleigh Avenue has become the major roading route with a new level crossing and Clarence Street is now closed off and (as Troup Drive) ends at the entrance to the present Christchurch Railway Station (Addington).