Farewell to a Friend


Otahuhu train station’s old free-standing signal box that has been a distinctive feature of its platform is no longer in use.

As part of last weekend’s big signalling changes, the box has been “de-commissioned” freeing up the platform for eventual improvements. A person is no longer needed to keep an eye on the train movements passing through the area.

Believed to be pre-WWI and built around the turn of that century, it’s the last freestanding signal box in Auckland. Such signal boxes, built by UK’s McKenzie, Clunes and Holland were amongst the earlier signalling contractors and supplied their boxes for railways around the world.

This 31-lever one for example was placed on UK’s North Warwickshire Line in 1907 although it is thought to have been built years earlier even around 1876.

Bearley East Junction Signal Box


You can see other examples here. 
Lately the poor old thing has been looking rather sad and its condition deteriorating.

In January, before the box was painted

To give it a fond farewell and so she could be proud in her final days, the box was painted recently.

For the technically interested: It has been using a 39-lever Westinghouse Style 1 power frame installed in 1942.

It’s had a busy life including in its old age coping with freight trains and the over 100 Auckland suburban services that pass through there each day.

While not free-standing, Remuera’s signal box remains and is preserved thanks to a local group of volunteers.

Remuera's signal box


The Remuera one also got a recent paint job as it had looked like this:

Remuera before the paint job

MOTAT Museum in Western Springs has a few examples of early train signaling in Auckland.

Signals on display at MOTAT

Kingsland’s box is on display also at MOTAT.


Inside Kingsland's box at MOTAT



Related Posts

  1. Oldmarket -Thankfully It’s Now Newmarket!
  2. Remuera SignalBox Shining Example
  3. Where Old & The Future Meet
  4. Signal Work Caused Overcrowding
  5. Remuera Gets Longer & Shiny




  1. penfold says:

    How is free-standing defined? The Remuera box is not connected to the station building.

  2. KarlHansen says:

    Decomissioned, but kept? What will happen to it?

  3. Carl says:

    oh no Jon, if you write a story about it, they’ll probably use money to do it up as something to look at.


    demolish it! and get on with the decent station and platform area.

  4. KarlHansen says:

    Carl - why would you demolish it? It’s not in the way - there’s easily enough space to pass even large crowds to the left and right onto the platform.

    Always this desire to bulldoze heritage. It could be such a funky building if someone could be found to actually make use of it.

  5. Pim says:

    I think it would work much better if we kept it in a place like MOTAT, or maybe at the entrance to the overbridge (if there is one, and if there’s anough room), and use it as an info kiosk, and ticket office, as Otahuhu is a transfer station.

  6. Patrick says:

    @ Pim
    That’s a good idea about ticket office

  7. Carl says:

    if someone could actually find something to do with it… always the case, considering the location of the station, what did you actually have in mind? really…

    by the time you have actually cause’d a hold up on the motorway to move it to motat and then spend more money on it to make it look good, how much do you want to spend?

    if you leave it there, you have spend money fixing it up to make it “fit in” with whatever the landscape of the time is.

    A ticket office could work yes, but then again you’ll have to spend more money on it to be bring it up with OSH health standards if someone is going to be inside it all day…..

  8. KarlHansen says:

    Carl, under that logic, Europe would have demolished all of it’s castles, and indeed, most of it’s other historic buildings by now. The cost of keeping up a historic building is flyspecks compared to the amount of money we waste on reports and bureaucracy, and in any case, would go to local craftsmen and building supplies, so a better use of money than spending it on many other things, especially imports.

    And heritage isn’t all in a museum. We need it around us too. Otherwise, we end up with areas like Queen Street, where the remaining heritage is just soulless facades - or with places like the Auckland Hospital, where we knocked down a beautiful Italianate building and erected some of the ugliest “architecture” you can find instead.

  9. Carl says:

    so what are these ideas of re-use then?

    considering you seem to think I know nothing about history.

  10. KarlHansen says:

    Carl, we will not find common ground, but I’d prefer if you did not take something I said as a “you know nothing” snide remark. I don’t think badly of you. I DISAGREE with you. That is all.

    And I have never said I would support bulldozing it even if it stood empty for the next 2 decades. That was what my castle post was all about. The “use” that seems to be required is a very capitalistic concept. Why does everything beautiful have to make money? IF some use could be found, that would be BETTER. But it isn’t a requirement for keeping a heritage building, especially one that is in no way in the way.

    Once it’s gone, it’s gone. All we’d ever get back is some Disney-land version, or a shed in a museum, and even that would be unlikely. So unless there’s a pressing need, heritage should stay - by default.

  11. HamishD says:

    Has anyone here read a book called ‘Mutations - Harvard project on the city’? It was available in Borders a while back, I found it rather good. I’m not marketing it or anything, but its a series of essays about the impact of cities on a global scale. Plus it contains some stunning photography. Might be beneficial to get an idea of how Auckland compares to other cities around the world.

  12. Sad to hear Otahuhu’s signal box is going. Have some memories and photos of it from a visit in 2009.

    If only it could be leased to an organisation/individual who could do it up as a clubroom (as some signal boxes were in Sydney in the 1990s and 2000s) then at least it would be occupied at nights and on weekends, the times when vandals and arsonists do their worst damage to old, abandoned structures.


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