A wheely good story

Published on 22 July 2019

Historic train wheels installed at the Railway Land.

Six historic rail wheels are being installed at the Railway Land to commemorate the significant role the site played in Palmerston North's history.

You'll be able to see the wheels up close in a couple of weeks.

The wheels are a gift to the city from rail enthusiast Tony Batchelor. He was granted permission to excavate them from the Oreti River, near Invercargill, in the 1990s.

They'd been put in the river in the 1920s to stop the banks eroding.

The cast iron and steel wheels are the same type that were once used by the Manawatū Railway Company's steam trains.

These wheels are believed to be the first South Island "V" class wheels to cross Cook Strait.

Mr Batchelor helped Palmerston North City Council design the installation, which features the wheels in three sets of two, on an old rail track with sleepers.

"I want people to see these wheels and remember what once stood in this place. Palmy had a bustling rail hub for decades and it helped shape us into the city we are today."

Council Manager of Parks and Reserves, Kathy Dever-Tod, says the wheels are the perfect fit for the Railway Land.

"We're very excited to give these wheels a new home. The reserve's name has always been an indicator of what once stood on the site, but there hasn't been any other recognition of its history. It will be great for residents and visitors alike to learn about the significance of the site."

History of rail in Palmerston North

The Main Street Station served Palmerston North from 1891 to 1963. You can explore photos of the city's rail history on Manawatū Heritage. And if you've got photos of your own, we'd love to see them. Please consider sharing them to Manawatū Heritage to help us build our archive.

The railway was once based in The Square but after causing bottlenecks the station was moved to the area we now know as the Railway Land around 1891. The area was used for moving stock, passengers and goods throughout the lower North Island.

The train storage and workshops were located on what is now the Warehouse site.

Milson became the future of the city's rail. Construction started there in 1926 but it wasn't completed and in use until 1963. The old line on Main Street was closed by mid-1965. The land came into Council control in 1972.

There was also a Palmerston North to Foxton tramway which passed through the Railway Reserve area, as early as the 1870s. A replica of the tramway is on display in Foxton.

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