Book Reviews

Railway Books

ALL ABOARD the Train from Napier to Woodville. By Thomas F. Wheeler. (New Zealand: Published by the author at 8 Tasman Street, Havelock North). 1994.
ISBN 0-4730305-1-9, 144 pp, 214 x 158 mm. Illustrated. Card covers. Available from the author at the above address. Price $33.00 including postage.

IN this book, Mr Wheeler gives us the results of his research into the history of stations and freight yards, both past and present, situated on the Hawke’s Bay line from the port of Napier to Woodville. The book commences with a short introduction commenting on the history of the line and the tram operations (although it must be noted that the tablet system was actually invented by Edward Tyer and developed by him from 1879 for the Caledonian Railway in Scotland, not by H.J. Wynne who, as Signals Engineer for the NZR in 1901, was responsible for its extensive introduction in New Zealand over the next few years).

Each station is given its own section of from one to six (occasionally more) pages with text complemented by photographs. Some of the latter regrettably lack clarity, especially those which appear to have been reproduced from photocopies, and the matt paper used has not helped. My favourite picture was of the Dannevirke station building of 1903, one of those elegant structures designed by George Troup.

There is also a section dealing with private sidings which were once quite numerous, reflecting the agricultural and sawmilling activities in the region. A number of private sidings were held by stock and station agents and timber merchants. The tablet system is also mentioned, as is the more recent track warrant system of train control.

Mr Wheeler has obviously put a great deal of effort into his research and compilation of the material for this book, but I do feel that he has been let down to some extent by the word processing, which is attributed to a printing consultant in Hastings. There are a number of misprints and mis-spellings, such as “Makotutu” for the first station south of Ormondville. This has always been rendered in NZR timetables as “Makotuku”. Likewise, the station just north of Dannevirke is shown as “Mangatera” in railway timetables, not “Mangatara”.

Not withstanding these mishaps, this is an interesting book that will no doubt be a useful reference for all who wish to follow up the history of this railway and the Hawke’s Bay region.



The Train from Napier to Woodville.

Thomas H [F]. Wheeler

Published by:
Thomas H Wheeler,
8 Tasman Street,
Havelock North.

144 pages,
Soft covered,
Recommended price $32.00 plus $1.00 P&P.

This book is the result of the authors research into the history of stations located along the line from Napier to Woodville. It begins with a short history of the line before commencing at Port Ahururi [Ahuriri] with a history of each station. Both past and present stations are covered with a short text and accompanying photograph(s). The more notable ones, an example being Ormondville, are dealt with in more detail.

Unfortunately, many of the photographs are not very clear, while, for some reason, a number are reproduced from photocopies. This has spoilt some of the more historical views. Included is a list of private sidings stating those that are closed and those still in operation. In addition, the tablet system and the more recent train warrant control are covered.

The book is published by the author who is to be commended for undertaking such a venture.

Despite some shortcomings in the quality of production, which is rather surprising when considering typesetting and preparation were by a printing consultant, the book will appeal to those interested in the rail history of the Hawke’s Bay region.



Ahuriri to Woodville
The story of every station between Ahuriri and Woodville with 100 photos of the past and present.
Price $33.00 inc P & P
Author and Publisher –
Thomas F. Wheeler,
8 Tasman Street,
Havelock North.


Public notices.
To be launched at
Book & Lotto Shop
Havelock North
4.30pm – 6.30pm
Author to be in attendance.



Human interest lacking

ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN FROM NAPIER TO WOODVILLE by Thomas F. Wheeler. Publ. T.F. Wheeler, 8 Tasman Street, Havelock North. (no price given); reviewed by Louis Pierard.

Publishing at one’s own expense is a risky and expensive affair. If one’s MSS are rejected by publishers, more often than not it is because it is unlikely that it is marketable. Yet if one takes it on one’s self to do the job, a lot of capital and expertise is needed to prevent the publication from looking shoddy.

Havelock North resident Thomas Wheeler, whose ambition from boyhood was to be an engine driver, has captured a piece of Hawke’s Bay rail history in a slender paperback which examines the history of the buildings and yards on the Hawke’s Bay Line.

But it takes much more than a recitation of dry facts, however scrupulously researched, to make a book readable.

Railway stations and those who work in and around them should be a motherlode of entertaining anecdotes and intrigue, but there is none of that here. In his archivist’s quest the author seems to determined to turn from any detail that might interest anyone other than a rail buff.

For instance, at the chapter on Tapairu Pa Station a caption under a picture of a level crossing warning sign written in Maori says that when it was unveiled it “caused much controversy among a number of people”. Sadly, we never discover quite why that was so.

The quality of photographic plates throughout the book is disappointing. The older pictures are unscreened and therefore lack detail, the newer pictures do not transfer well from the original colour to black and white and are a dense black. Mr Wheeler should be commended for his enthusiasm. Local history is always a source of fascination and should be documented. However, history is about people too.

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  • Ian Munro
  • Louis Pierard
  • George Troup
  • Edward Tyer
  • Barry Walker
  • Thomas F Wheeler
  • H J Wynne

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