Newspaper Article 1997 – A rocking good time in Ormondville

Tomorrow, Wairarapa MP Wyatt Creech will open what is believed to be the first former railway station in the world to be converted to a bed and breakfast motel. Philip Kitchin reports

A rocking good time in Ormondville

THERE are several unique features to Central Hawke’s Bay’s Ormondville Station bed and breakfast, including the certainty that the earth will move for any couple staying there … weeknights, anyway.

It won’t happen for anyone staying overnight Saturdays and Sundays, but stay any other night in this railway station-cum-quaint bed and breakfast and the ground could be shaken up to six times a night by the rattle and rumble of freight trains passing a few metres form the foot of the magnificent bed.

That’s nothing out-of-the-ordinary for Ormondville people. In days gone by, the locals of what was then a bustling timber town set their routines to the rumble of 22 trains passing through each day.

The whistle of the 11 o’clock express signalled the end of smoko; the hoot of the three o’clock train prompted the call for an afternoon cuppa as kids walking home from school were held up from crossing the tracks and the toot of the 7.20pm express was a depressing sound for children for whom it meant bedtime.

In those days, Ormondville was set in what was known as Seventy Mile Bush – a huge tract of native bush which was cleared, with timber milled and sold or burnt to make way for the lush pastures, farm buildings and plantations which now dominate the landscape.

Today, Ormondville is a tiny place. Its buildings are a mix of perfectly kept colonial cottages with colourful country gardens and battered tumbling down old villas and shops.

Compared with its peak population in 1910 of some 1200 people, today’s settlement is miniscule with just a handful of people still living in the town. But they are a proud bunch and when they learned in the late eighties that their railways goods shed was to be tendered, the locals got a bit stirred up.

The Ormondville Rail Preservation Group was born from there on, with help primarily from Lottery Board grants and the Eastern and Central Trust, the protection of some classic examples of early railway station buildings, and their associated memorabilia, has been assured.

But turning a luggage and sometimes coal room into a bedroom and a telephone exchange into a kitchen has taken many working bees, mainly by about 10 active members of the group

The railway station, built in 1880 to the exacting standards of a Fifth Class Station, Class B, was the same as 240 others put up around New Zealand.

Now that it’s been repiled, reroofed, repainted and had its chimney rebuilt and its platform resealed, New Zealand’s oldest main line station where you can still catch a train is a stunning looking station.

Tomorrow, one hour before the Bay Express whisks and hoots its way through Ormondville, Wairarapa MP Wyatt Creech will open what is believed to be ­­­the first former railway station converted to a bed and breakfast motel in the world.

ONE of the movers and shakers in the project has been Wellington man Paul Mahoney. No stranger to railway stations, Mr Mahoney spent six years with his father, Jack, on a private mission to look at every one of New Zealand’s 1350 railway stations before Mr Mahoney senior wrote a book on them. Most of these stations have disappeared and today there are less than 40 railway stations left and none of the Ormondville type.

Inside the station, the enthusiasts have lovingly restored or maintained a myriad of railway memorabilia. Gleaming bits of brass and brightly painted metal make up all sorts of machines, ranging from an early computer to switch rail tracks over to ticketing machines.

The wrought-iron veranda is original but for some of the renovation work the preservation group has scavenged around the lower North Island to find the right kind of timber or paraphernalia.

It’s worked. The main bedroom, formerly the luggage and coal room, is so luxuriously authentic you can almost smell the richness in the old leather trunks and oiled timber. Bedroom two, what used to be the local post office, is appropriately a bit more spartan but the lounge – the station’s main office – with its open fire and original trappings, is full of romantic railway memorabilia.

Though the project has not been officially opened yet, a few people have already tested out the accommodation. One couple gave it a cracker review except for the fact that they were there on a weekend when the trains don’t huff past at night. “They complained,” Mr Mahoney says.

The station can sleep up to eight people and there are other activities nearby, apart from exploring Ormondville and visiting the country pub, including golf, fishing, walking, cycling and checking out the nearby railway viaduct.

The work that’s gone into this project has been recognised by the Ormondville Rail Preservation Group winning the 1997 Rail Heritage Restoration Award.

Photo captions –

Above, the Ormondville Railway Station – trains still rumble past, giving guests that authentic ‘railway experience’. Right, the brightly repainted doorway to the bedrooms

Above, Karen Jones of Dannevirke fits new pillowslips in the bridal suite.

Left, Paul Mahoney and Fred Playle, president of the rail preservation group, with the station’s period luggage and trolley

Original digital file


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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

29 November 1997

Creator / Author

  • Philip Kitchin


The Dominion


  • Member of Parliament Wyatt Creech
  • Karen Jones
  • Paul Mahoney
  • Jack Mahoney
  • Fred Playle

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