Today we can report that we have made further progress having now got onto the Gracefield Branch after completing initial mapping of the Melling Branch and the main line to Woburn, including Petone, Lower Hutt, Melling, Ava and Woburn stations. After the initial maps we remembered to look up the Valley Signals website and discovered additional information necessitating a small amount of updating at Petone, Melling and Ava. These maps have not yet been produced for the official map set yet so there is no need to reissue but we hope to produce these maps quite soon as we finish the Gracefield Branch and head on up into Waterloo.
We have decided that since these updates are the only blog posts we have time to do at the present, they will include as many maps as we can put in, but these will be relatively small scale so as to be able to cover a lot of ground in an update with as small a number of maps as possible. You won’t see in these progress reports the indepth large scale maps that have been put into the research posts that we have done previously. You will be able to see larger scale maps when the official map set is produced. It does actually take a great deal of work to produce one of those research posts and we want to be able to keep putting out updates every few days but not ones that take hours to write as we want to use those hours on the maps themselves.
Melling became the terminus of the Melling Branch in 1954 and the first station shown on the right was closed at the same time in favour of the new station shown on the left. This was likely in anticipation of construction of the second Melling Bridge which was opened in 1957. As shown in the Valley Signals site, Melling had a ballast siding which ran down to some sort of plant like a crusher but it is not clear where exactly the gravel was extracted from. Melling area has changed so much that it would be next to impossible to trace any of the old station or sidings today. This includes the straightening of the Hutt River so that the location of the 1909 Melling Bridge is actually high and dry today, and the filling in of the stream that ran through what is the current station site and the two rail bridges.
This map of Lower Hutt in 1939, as well as the station shows three of the Hutt River bridges there. The first Ewen Bridge dates from 1929 and the current one from 1996 but you can also see where the bridge before 1929 was located as it was still in place at that time. Valley Signals site confirmed Lower Hutt station only had one platform with the double track ending just before it. The station building still exists as the focus point of a local mall, whilst the station itself has been redesignated as “Western Hutt” for the metro passenger services but its official geographic name is still Lower Hutt and hence it is represented as such in the maps.
Ava is first station on the Hutt Valley line past Petone and has been different in the past. On the left you can see the old General Motors plant which had its own siding for a number of years. This crossed over the Down Main at the east end to come off the Up Main. Below it is the Petone Gas Works and whilst that might have been expected to have its own siding to bring coal in by rail, there is no sign of one ever being installed there. One of our family homes was located more or less in the middle of this map just off the main road. Ava had two pedestrian bridges originally (the one on the left is a recent removal possibly because of the quakes). There was also a siding on the south side which connected to the Down Main at the west end. On the east end of Ava this siding was supposed to have crossed over to reach the Up Main but we cannot find this on the aerial photo and so have not drawn it. We have just added a 1980 map tile to the mosaics to show another siding that was in place more recently at Ava so that will be added into the maps today.
Woburn is the junction for the Gracefield Branch and has two footbridges. The left hand one was there in 1939 but was moved closer to the station building at some point, probably because of rearrangement of the yard resulting in the platform being cut back slightly. Woburn has a number of sidings likely used in conjunction with working the branch line as there has never been a full triangle layout there so all trains onto and off the branch have to reverse at Woburn. We will look more into the Branch itself in our next update.
We’ll finish with a quick look at Waterloo (known as “Hutt Central” to metro passengers but its official name remains as Waterloo). It was the original terminus of the Hutt Valley Branch when it opened in 1927 and remained as such for almost 20 years. The 1939 aerial reflects this as no tracks continue north. The original station had a footbridge at the north end. The subway was added sometime later and has been further extended in the 1990s with the newer transport interchange that was built at that time. Waterloo has changed a great deal, most notably in the 1990s from having an open island platform to its present layout with two enclosed platforms inside the station building and the resulting changes in track layout. There were once industrial sidings on the west side which are visible in this 1939 aerial, the site to the right now being occupied by the water treatment plant built in 1981.