Petone Box's Last Days

On Monday the 23rd and Tuesday the 24th of December 2013 the Petone morning shifts were worked by David and the afternoons by Mike. The last train to be signalled by Petone Box was 5671, the 1830 Melling - Wellington service, on Tuesday 24th December 2013.

When 5671 arrived at Petone the Wairarapa service 1610 was at the up platform obscuring the view of 5671. The driver of 5671 entered into the spirit of the occasion and delayed his departure until 1610 was clear. Good use was made of the horn as the last train passed the Box.

Present on the Petone Box balcony were Carl Network Control Manager, Mike signalman, David signalman, Alan retired signalman and a member of the public.

For most of the past 61 years Petone Box has been operated by a signalman so I will use that word rather than the horrible title "signaller".

Switch out

Switch 2 is in the Reverse position and the Down Main is switched out.

I am of the older generation that believes that personal information is private and should not be posted on the internet. Balancing privacy against the historical record I have decided to use first names only. This web page records events for posterity but the names are not internet searchable.

Dress Code

Day before

The morning peak has just ended on Monday the 23rd of December 2013, the day before Petone Box closed. A service from Upper Hutt, due at 0903, is at Ava. A service from Melling, due at 0907, is on the Branch.

David, who worked the Petone morning shifts on the last two days, operates the panel. He was determined to prove that a formal dress code applied at Petone Box, despite his manager's belief that there was no dress code whatsoever.

Surveying Station

Petone Dress Code

On Monday the 23rd of December 2013, the day before Petone Box closed, the morning shift signalman surveys the station.



At 1747 on Tuesday 24h December 2013 there is under an hour to go before Petone is switched out for the last time. As a retired signalman and a Network Control Manager chat Mike clears 77 signal for 2661, an all-stops service from Upper Hutt. 2661 is due at Petone at 1755. Just visible through the window is a four-car Ganz set that forms 5665, the third to last train off the Branch.

The Last Signalman

Last Signalman

At 1804 on Tuesday 24th December 2013 Mike, the Last Petone Signalman, has cleared 78 Down Directing signal for train 5667 to exit the Branch. 5667 is the second to last train to be signalled off the Branch by Petone Box.


Waiting for 5671

It is 1831 and the Melling Branch is occupied by the last train that will be signalled by Petone Box. All Mike can do is wait for 5671 to spot at 78 signal - the train is due at the down platform at 1836.

The Marvel That Is GPS


At 1832 the Up Wairarapa service 1610 is travelling along the waterfront, 5671 is approaching 78 Down Directing signal on the Branch and on the down 2667 is between Epuni and Waterloo. From experience I believe that 5671 will depart the Branch ahead of 1610.

Train Register

The train register

A check of the Train Register reveals that the next trains due at Petone are 1610 on the up at 1834 and 5671 on the down at 1835. This photo was taken at 1832.

78 Down Directing Signal Cleared

Signal 78 cleared

5671 has spotted at 78 Down Directing signal. The signal has been cleared for the final time.

There is just one train on the Branch - at 78 signal. The two sets of illuminated lights at Melling are a peculiarity of the Melling Branch signalling.

The End

The end

After 61 years it comes down to this....... It is 1835 on Tuesday the 24th of December 2013. 1610 has arrived at the up platform. 5671 is at the down platform. Mike switched the up main out as soon as 5671 was clear of the branch. He is now switching out the down main at Petone for the very last time.


Farewel last Melling

One of the perks of a Petone signalman's job was being able to wave to train drivers without embarrassment. This is the last time that a signalman will wave to a train from Petone Box. The train is 5671, the 1830 Melling - Wellington service, on 24th December 2013.

Photo by Alan Wickens.


Photos by Carl Mills.

Ring Control

(Top) Mike rings Kelly, the Wairarapa Train Controller, and advises her that Petone is switched out. The time is 1836.

(Right) David switches off the power on the panel.

Power off Three signalmen

(Top) From the left: Mike Last Petone signalman; David second to last Petone signalman; Alan retired Petone signalman.

Log Off

Log off

The Melling Branch is unoccupied. The signalman's final task is to log off from the computer network. It is only in the past four or five years that there has been a computer at Petone Box.

Lights Off

Lights Off

The lights have been turned off and the signalman puts on his jacket before heading home at the end of his shift.

It is three days after the summer solstice and at this time of year it is usually necessary to keep the blind closed during the afternoon shift because the sun is low in the west. Today it was raining and the sun could not be seen. The blinds on the left are closed to provide privacy from the Hutt Road when the Box internal lights are on. The original style windows, some of which have been painted to reduce the glasshouse effect, are on the right.

End Of Shift

End of Shift

The final shift at Petone Box has ended. Petone commuters will now have two more car parks to choose from because this is the last time that these reserved spaces will be occupied by KiwiRail staff.

Last Updated: SAturday 29th November 2014

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