Document Archive

Opening Hours

Holiday services

While we appreciate that some people may wish to visit our archive during the holiday period, our
hard-working volunteers also need time off to “smell the flowers” and recharge their batteries.
Accordingly, the archive will be nominally closed from the close of business on Saturday 22 nd
December 2018, and will reopen on Monday 7 th January 2019. Between those two dates there will probably be somebody in attendance on most days, but they may not be there for the full normal office hours.
If you do wish to visit our archive between those two dates, then we suggest that you make an
appointment by ringing our office phone, which is (04) 568 4938, and either speak to whoever
answers the phone, or if the office is unattended, then please leave a message on the answerphone.
We will try to accommodate your needs, but this may not always be possible.
If the matter is urgent, and there is no answer to the telephone, then please ring one of our people
who are on call. These are Bill Prebble 027 442 5632 (after December 27 th ), Graeme McClare 04 528 2745 or 027 240 4559, or David Cuthbert 021 673 641 (up to 2 nd January).
Most services will resume on Monday 7 th January 2019, but maybe on restricted hours, until Monday 21 st January (Wellington’s Anniversary Day), with full services and hours resuming on Tuesday 22 nd January 2019.

Thank you
Graeme McClare Archivist


After Hours: or in an emergence you may ring Mark Cole (04 586 0353), Bill Prebble (027 442 5632), or Graeme McClare (04 528 2745).

People wanting to do research are advised to make prior arrangements with the Archivist, Mark Cole. Contact by voice or phone message at (04) 568 4938,  or email to   If you are a Society member, please always quote your membership number.

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 bu 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.