Hutt Valley Signalling History

This site summarises the development of signalling in the Hutt Valley and through the Rimutaka Tunnel to Featherston in the Wairarapa.

The page started out as a summary of signalling on the Hutt Valley Deviation Line from its opening in 1927 through to the present day. I have now extended the scope to cover the full Wellington to Featherston section.

The dates quoted are those on the Signalling and Interlocking Circulars (S&Is). In most cases the actual implementation date is a little later. Most S&Is contain the statement "...will be brought into use at a time and date to be advised by Train Advice". There may in fact be four dates: On the Diagram; On the Text; On the Train Advice; Commissioned.

In some cases the S&I may not have been issued until some time after the work was completed.

Taita controls semaphore signal

Extract from S&I circular No. 689 dated 12th February 1954, showing that Taita Box once controlled a semaphore signal.

A Brief History

Early Days The single line from Wellington (Lambton) to Upper Hutt via Lower Hutt was opened in 1876. Upper Hutt to Featherston, which included the Rimutaka Incline was opened in 1878. The line as far as Cross Creek was fully signalled by 1895, some signals being of the slotted-post type. Safe working from Wellington to Lower Hutt and from Upper Hutt to Cross Creek was by Winter's Block. Tyer's Electric Train Tablet was commissioned from Te Aro to Lower Hutt in 1901 and from Lower Hutt to Featherston in 1902.

Lambton - Lower Hutt Duplication & Signalling
Between 1905 and 1911 the Lambton - Lower Hutt section was doubled and Sykes lock-and-block installed (from 1909).

Upper Quadrants In 1922 automatic signalling with three-position upper quadrant semaphores was installed on the double line between Lambton and Lower Hutt. Single line automatic, also with upper quadrant semaphores, was installed between Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt in 1923.

Hutt Deviation Line In 1927 the Hutt Deviation Line was opened from Hutt Valley Junction to Waterloo. It was equipped with three-lens colour light signals. The line was extended in stages, reaching Taita in 1947.

Taita - Upper Hutt In February 1954 a single line was opened from Taita to Haywards (now Manor Park) and the Melling - Haywards section was closed. The Taita - Upper Hutt section was operated under single line automatic rules with a mixture of searchlight signals and upper quadrant semaphores. Later in the same year the Taita - Haywards Junction section was doubled.

Double Track Bridge In November 1954 a new double track bridge (with a single operational track) was opened over the Hutt River at Silverstream, bypassing the section now occupied by the Silverstream Railway.

Double Line To Trentham In June 1955 Haywards Junction to Trentham was doubled and Wellington - Petone - Taita - Upper Hutt was now an electrified railway with searchlight signals throughout.

Rimutaka Deviation In 1955 the 8.8km Rimutaka Tunnel was opened giving a new route between Upper Hutt and Featherston. The line was equipped with colour light searchlight signals controlled from a CTC machine at Upper Hutt, which also controlled the single line Trentham - Upper Hutt section.

Transfer To Train Control. In 2007 control of Featherston, Upper Hutt and Trentham was transferred to Train Control. It is proposed that in late 2013 control of Taita and Petone will be transfered to Train Control.

Replacement of Searchlight Signals with LEDs began in about 2007. By April 2014 there were just thirteen searchlight signals between Wellington and Upper Hutt.

Hutt Valley Signalling History Diagram

Dates I have checked the above diagram with notes published by the NZR Publicity and Advertising Branch and believe that the dates are actual, not "S&I".

Andrews Siding closed in 1933. In 1938 Pitcaithly's crossing loop closed and Andrews crossing loop opened at Andrews Siding site.

Signalling & Track In Detail

Click on a diagram for details....

Petone Junction

Petone Junction  provided access to the Hutt Park Branch and later to the Gear Meat Company siding.


Petone  In the 1920s a switchout station with upper quadrant semaphores; in the 1950s a permanent signal cabin controlling a large interlocking; in 2006 a single cross-over.

Hutt Valley Junction

Hutt Valley Junction, General Motors Siding & Ava  Includes the one semaphore on the Hutt Branch, the singling of the junction and diamond crossings at switchlock sidings.

Hutt Valley Branch

Hutt Valley Branch In 1927 In 1927 a double track branch line was opened to Waterloo. The branch was paid for by the betterment of the surounding land.

Lower Hutt

Lower Hutt  Two position semaphores; three position upper quadrant semaphores; colour light signals and an early use of the yellow/green indication - Lower Hutt has had an interesting variety of equipment.

Lower Hutt - Melling

Lower Hutt - Melling Although a boring section of railway today, Lower Hutt - Melling has had an interesting signalling history. For example, in 1927 there were nine semaphore masts with ten arms in this section.

Melling - Haywards

Melling - Haywards

Page Under Construction.


Woburn  Includes the installation and later removal of a diamond crossing and a single slip. Also changes after a station fire.

Gracefield Branch

Gracefield Branch   Includes the 30 year period when the Gracefield Branch was equipped with automatic signalling and a Woods key.

Waterloo - Taita

Waterloo - Taita   Documents the many stages involved in extending the line from Waterloo to Taita.

This page requires horizontal scrolling.

Taita - Wallaceville

Taita - Wallaceville   Documents the stages involved in diverting the Wairarapa line to the Taita route.


Trentham   Documents the changes at Trentham.

Trentham history prior to 1976 is on the Pomare-Wallaceville page.

Upper Hutt

Upper Hutt  Documents the transition from two-position signalling in tablet territory to three position colour lights in CTC territory.


Upper Hutt - Featherston  Documents the CTC installation on the Rimutaka Tunnel deviation.

Featherston  Documents the interesting and subtle ways the operation of Featherston has changed over the years.


Masterton   is a Woods locked country station with two-position signals and sleeper locks.

Signal Boxes

After the Hutt Valley re-signalling in the 1950s, Wellington - Taita trains were controlled from five signal boxes:- Wellington A-Box, Ngauranga, Petone, Woburn and Taita. Further north there was a switchout panel at Trentham, the Upper Hutt signal panel (including a time code CTC machine) and a switchout panel at Featherston.

Note: In December 1965 control of Ngauranga was transferred to A-Box. Note also that prior to May 1951 there was a signal box at Petone Junction (at the south end of Petone).

Click on an image for details.......

Featherston Panl

Featherston was a permanent signal box when first installed. In later years the station was switchout. Control of Featherston was transferred to Train Control in 2007.

Upper Hutt panel

Upper Hutt panel controlled the Trentham - Upper Hutt - Featherston single line section from 1955 until early 2007. This diagram shows the interlocking as it was in the mid-1950s and defines the safeworking methods used.

Trentham Panel

Trentham was a switchout panel used only on race days. The panel was decommissioned on Waitangi Day, 6th February 2007.

Taita Panel

Naenae - Taita was controlled from the Taita signal box. View the interlocking in 1954. The photograph was taken in 2001. The Naenae structures have been erased from the diagram.

It is planned to close Taita Box in late 2013.

Woburn - Waterloo was controlled from the Woburn signal box. This diagram shows the interlocking in 1953. The panel was destroyed by arson in the 1990s.

The date of the photograph is unknown but Waterloo has been erased from the diagram.   (Photo CB Vickery)

Petone Panel

Petone to Melling (including Hutt Valley Junction) was controlled fom the Petone signal box. This diagram shows the interlocking in 1975.

It is planned to close Petone Box in late 2013.

Petone Junction Box

Petone Junction Box. 1943. World War II headlight restriction sign beside Hutt Road, Wellington. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-123929-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


To be added......

Local Instructions

Download a Local Instruction in PDF format:

  • Petone L71   (August 1975).   In 1975 Petone still had an extensive interlocking.
  • Woburn-Waterloo L 917   (May 1960).  Four areas of the interlocking could be switched out independantly.
  • Gracefield L1260/1 & 1260/2   (March 1968).   Automatic signalling *and* a Woods key on the Gracefield Branch.
  • Taita L889   (April 1960).   Taita and Naenae at a time when the interlocking was in its most complex form.
  • Taita L365   (November 2001).   Taita only.
  • Trentham L194   (December 1976)
  • Upper Hutt L 739   (May 1959).  In these days of cell-phones and train radios this contains an interesting description of telephones and yard loudspeakers.
  • Upper Hutt - Featherston CTC L732  (October 1955).   Describes the CTC installation when the Rimutaka Deviation was opened. A good description of how the CTC system works.
  • Featherston L286  (March 1989).

I hope to add other local instructions as they become available.


  • Signalling & Interlocking Circulars, most of which I obtained from the New Zealand Railway And Locomotive Society (NZRLS) archives at Ava. My S & I Diagram spreadsheet (in pdf format) contains a complete cross-referenced list of all of the S & I circulars that I have identified.
  • A Line Of Railway by W. N. Cameron, published by the NZRLS.
  • Semaphore To CTC by RW Heine published by the NZRLS (2000).
  • Notes On Wellington- Hutt Valley Railway published by the NZR Publicity and Advertising Branch June 1965.
  • New Zealand Railway and Tramway Atlas (Third Edition) published by Quail.
  • Once Upon A Village - A History Of Lower Hutt by DP Millar (1972) published by NZ University Press.

The following table summarises the circulars for the Petone - Hutt Valley Junction - Taita section. I will probably not create a similar table for the remaining sections.

The dates quoted are those on the S&Is. In most cases the actual implementation date is a little later. Most S&Is contain the statement "...will be brought into use at a time and date to be advised by Train Advice".

Woburn - Gracefield S&I Diagrams
Complete list to Dec 2002 (AFAIK).

  • 439   16/5/27 The opening of the Branch to Waterloo. Three lens signals.
  • 662   8/51 Searchlights installed Junction - Waterloo. Switchlock, Home & Outer Home installed on Industrial Branch.
  • 664   7/4/53 Additional crossovers at Woburn
  • 674   5/53 New Woburn - Waterloo interlocking controlled from Woburn. Searchlights & storage sidings at Waterloo.
  • 917   5/61 "Open Section" board on Gracefield Branch.
  • 1260   5/68 Automatic signalling on Gracefield Branch.
  • 1534   10/75 Woburn crossover 38 moved, eliminating single slip and diamond crossing; Signal 14AB Shunt & Up Starting from Down Main replaces shunt signal 14A(fixed Red).
  • 2133   11/88 Replaces 1534 (Waterloo changes).
  • 2458   22/2/96 Changes following Woburn Station fire. Some signals fixed red or blacked out. Some Gracefield signals removed. Gracefield Woods locked siding removed. Woburn cross-over removed.
  • 2505   2/12/98 Gracefield line automatic signalling removed.

Hutt Valley Junction - Woburn S&I Diagrams
I have selected only those Petone S&Is that show major changes at Hutt Valley Junction or General Motors/Ava.

  • 439   16/5/27 The opening of the Branch to Waterloo. Upper quadrant semaphores at the double track junction.
  • 660 4/5/51 6A Down Main Junction Home & 6B Down Branch Junction Home converted to single unit searchlights. 20 Up Junction Home remains a two-arm semaphore.
  • 662 8/51 Ava now a single ended switchlock siding.
  • 665 3/52 New Petone Signal Box. 20 Up Junction Home (semaphore) converted to 17 Up Junction Home (two-unit searchlight). 6B converted to gantry mounted signal 77. Double track junction.
  • 667   20/6/52 Double track junction. Ava switchlock siding still in place.
  • 669   6/10/52 As 667.
  • 824 7/58 Converted to single track junction; Ava siding removed. Trainstops installed.
  • 1467 7/75 Fletcher Siding installed. Signal numbers metricated. A-lights added to main line junction signals. S&I diagram converted to a mirror image - Up is now left to right.

Waterloo - Taita S&I Diagrams
Complete list to Dec 2002 (AFAIK).

  • 439   16/5/27 The opening of the double-track Branch to Waterloo. Panel at Woburn.
  • 618   10/12/45 Single line extension to Naenae. Panel installed at Waterloo.
  • 630   5/11/46 Extension of double line to Naenae. Waterloo switchout.
  • 635   3/47 Single line extension to Taita (3 lens signals)
  • 666   6/52 Platform 2 & searchlights at Taita.
  • 673   1/53 Naenae to Taita doubled. Island platform at Naenae. No structures at Naenae. Naenae panel removed. New Taita panel.
  • 676   7/53 New Naenae interlocking controlled from Taita. Taita loop & sidings added. Epuni to Naenae searchlights.
  • 678   8/53 Copy of S&I not made (it is available at Ava Archives).
  • 691   2/54 Taita loop completed. Single line extended to Haywards.
  • 697   6/54 Taita - Haywards doubled.
  • 889   9/60 Naenae storage siding removed.
  • 917   5/61 Waterloo storage siding removed.
  • 982   4/62 Not sure.
  • Train Advice 2476   11/71 50 & 53 switchlock points at Waterloo locked in the "Normal" position.
  • Train Advice 43   11/1/73 Loop-Siding switchlock points at Waterloo removed.
  • 1534   10/75 Waterloo switchlock sidings removed, leaving just the loop.
  • Train Advice 3843   10/80 49 points at Waterloo spiked and bolted in the normal position.
  • Train Advice 1688   17/4/88 S&I 1534 amended. All structures at Waterloo removed. (For interchange).
  • 2133   10/88 Replaces No. 1534 - shows Waterloo changes.
  • 2242   9/93 Metricated.
  • 2488    8/96 Naenae structures removed.
  • 2634   15/5/00 Taita Simplified

Last Updated: Wed 23rd April 2014

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