The future of Pukekohe seems destined to be decided by people who live far from here. The council plan to convert our fertile soils into housing estates will end the 100 year association of market gardening with our town.
Another piece of history is also set to disappear, one that tells the story of Pukekohe’s development, from a one horse town in the middle of nowhere, hamstrung by poor road access, to a prosperous community.
Today the 1913 railway station sits by the tracks, neglected and unnoticed by many. Yet in 1875 the arrival of the first station was responsible for the complete transformation of Pukekohe.
At long last there was reliable transport for our goods independent of the muddy, often impassable roads. Settlers could make money from the abundance of trees which had previously been viewed as a nuisance, sending out Puriri railway sleepers by their thousands.
Land value at Pukekohe increased as proximity to the station was seen as an asset. The town centre began to take shape as a hotel and shops sprang up near the station. Travel into Auckland became a comfortable day trip whereas previously many hours were spent in a jolting wagon just to reach the Drury railway station.
The dairy factory was able to process cream brought from as far afield as Ararimu, Papatoetoe and Waiuku by the last decade of the 19th Century. The resulting butter was first class and much of it ended up on London tables.
Around 1913 the current station building replaced the original iron and wood structure of 1875. Deregulation sounded the death knell for rail in the latter half of the 20th century; however train travel has enjoyed a revival since the advent of motorway gridlock.
New technology has seen train movements controlled from Wellington via a fibre optic cable, replacing the signal box. Until late last year, ours was the very last remaining signal box station on the main line. Pukekohe is currently undergoing massive changes. What better way to remember its history than preserving the old kauri building by re-purposing it as a museum and cafe.
T. Reid, Ararimu