Document Archive

Archive Access

Our days/hours are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, 9.30 am to 2.00 pm
Our contact details are:  04 568 4938  or email ‘
Contacts, Graeme McClare (Archivist), phone 04 528 2745
or Bill Prebble, phone 027 468 2655
Location:  1A North Street Petone (adjacent Ava Station)

About the Archives

From small beginnings the Society is now recognized as having the largest collection of archival material relating to New Zealand Railways, a collection which is continually being added to.

The Society’s premises are located in North Street, Petone, opposite and on the south side of the Ava Railway Station on the Wellington to Upper Hutt line. The premises are open on the days and hours above, at other times by arrangement.

Useful Hints for the Collector

  • Newspaper clippings should always record the name of the newspaper and the date of issue.
  • NEVER use Sellotape® or other adhesive tapes and REMOVE all pins and staples.
  • Scrapbooks – material should be mounted single-sided, NOT on both sides of the paper. This makes for easier filing should the scrap book be broken up.
  • NEVER use biros or ink on the back of photographs. It is recommended that a black pencil (preferably 2B or softer) or a chinagraph pencil be used.
  • Negatives should be retained wherever possible.

Plans Referenced by NZR Drawing numbers etc.

There is an extensive series of drawings, tracings, blueprint etc. that have been produced by various departments of the old NZR.

CCE List (Civil Engineers Office)

Chief Mechanical Engineer for the workshops at Lower Hutt, Addington and Hillside, Dunedin:
Signal and Electrical Branch (Wellington):
Many unnumbered NZR Plans (for which we have created an index):
These are stored in branch and drawing number order. They vary in size from 8×11 inch and even smaller to very large similar to A1 size or bigger, especially CME plans. At present the reference method is by drawing number. We will endeavor to find something for you by name and approximate date reference but cannot promise a successful result.

The Book Reference Library

The Library collection of railway related books is being catalogued and contains about 570 hard and soft covered books.

A list will be published on site in due course. Unfortunately while in storage no reference can be made to individual books. Note: At present photocopying is not possible, or even when books are available, due to the book’s binding preventing it from lying flat.

Engineering Society Papers etc.

There is a collection of the following proceedings, papers, gazettes etc. bound and unbound

  • Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers; 1932 on.
  • NZ Engineering
  • Engineering (London) from 1869 on
  • Railway Age 1923 on
  • Railway Gazette from 1906 to 1947.

These can only be consulted by arrangement but will not photocopy easily in the case of bound volumes.

Technical Operations of the NZR

A large collection of Railway Department correspondence files is held at Ava. (These are in addition to those held by National Archives at various locations throughout New Zealand. A register of such files is held by the Society.)

  • Correspondence files from various branches and divisions of the Railways Department.
  • Technical writings on various railway matters, particularly engineering, originating from staff and consultants.
  • The Staff Magazine. Produced at various intervals containing information about staff and of interest to staff.
  • Official staff lists. Recorded annually, these are consulted frequently by those doing genealogical research.

Reference by description. If you are seeking names from the staff lists please be careful with the position held and advise as much information as is already known, particularly full names. The lists are divided into Departmental divisions, Management and permanent staff. Accurate identification will assist the searcher. No information is held on temporary staff.

General Archive

The Society also maintains archives on such items as various lines of railway (open and closed) and general railway subjects such as weed spraying, railway vehicles and rolling stock, Royal tours etc.

These boxes contain correspondence, plans, descriptions newspaper cuttings and some photographs on a variety of subjects:
Royal Trains, Railway houses, Painting and colour schemes, Circus trains, Refreshment Rooms, Windmills – to name a few.

In the same style there are folders containing lines of railway and branch railways. Some are: – North Island Main Trunk, Fairlie branch, Cambridge branch, the closed Foxton branch.

Locomotive collections are also included. Items specific to a type of locomotive but not having a home in any of the more structured archives. Here you will find correspondence, tests, odd facts, colour schemes, incidents, scaled drawings and other interesting items.