Hamilton Central is New Zealand’s first underground station, although it has been abandoned since 1995. The railway originally ran through the centre of Hamilton and was one of the busiest locomotive areas on the north island. Over the years traffic on the line increased significantly as services for both passengers and industry improved; progress and growth was to such an extent that by 1968 the use of steam operated locomotives on the north island was brought to an end, replaced instead by the more contemporaneous diesel engine. During this period of expansion the railway used a method known as ‘cut and cover’ to construct the new station (Hamilton Central). This method involves excavating a large amount of earth and covering the hollow with concrete and spoil, and was designed to conceal the noise of countless trains thundering across the city. This also provided a partial solution to the growing traffic problems that were becoming an increasing concern. Above ground the former site of an old railway yard functioned, for many years, as a car park, tunnel entrance and bus terminal, all aimed towards serving the many public users of the station. In later years, a concrete slab was placed over the entrance of the underground station and after the closure of the terminal a DIY warehouse was constructed in its place. The warehouse’s car park, storage and staff areas now lie behind part of the station (if you climb up and look behind the wooden panel the last photograph). Part of the decision to close the underground station evolved due to increases in crime, concerns surrounding the safety of passengers, vandalism and graffiti. In preparation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup there were plans to reopen the underground station, however, the combination of impending financial debt and complications involving the warehouse above resulted in the dismissal of all pending proposals.
Our Version of Events
Some form of underground station has long been on the ‘to do list’, and since being in New Zealand the prospect of exploring one seemed unlikely; until I return to the UK at least. Nevertheless, one turned up! For this one we travelled many, many, many kilometres (not miles over here)… Then a few more kilometres, to reach the city of Hamilton; because that’s what you do in New Zealand. It’s a fantastic city though, for anyone planning a visit. Our prime concern, however, was the underground station that’s been abandoned for quite some time. Access is a little interesting with this one, as you have to find a way onto the main line and then give it legs until you reach the underground platform. Inside, although it’s heavily vandalised and covered in graffiti, it still feels like an underground station, with the tiles, the smell of pollution and general layout. The old ramp which ascended to the former terminal also still exists. Just as we were wrapping things up though the experience became all the more awesome as a train rushed past the station; kicking up the dirt of the platform and filling the air with the sound of the horn as it raced on to its destination.
Explored with Nillskill and Zort.