Hutt Valley Signals

Bits and pieces of railway information of interest to me - mainly signalling and the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa Lines. The Hutt Valley is a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand.

My browser is Firefox and operating system Linux. I do not test the site on any other combination of browser and OS. The site is best viewed on a PC with an 1600X900 monitor. I tend to restrict the page width to about 900. I have checked part of the site on an Android phone and the results are sometimes strange but still readable.

I have a theory that the amount of information on a page is inversely proportional to the number of bells and whistles so I do NOT use Javascript or Java. There is no fancy formatting on this site but there is LOTS and LOTS of information. As I am a a Grumpy Old Man you will not find any references to Facebook or Twitter or any of the other things that seem to clutter most sites these days - just plain pages with lots of information. It is the World Wide Web as I like it.

I try and make my pages W3C HTML 4.01 compliant and I support the Viewable With Any Browser campaign.

Contact me at:   signalman at valleysignals dot org dot nz

Upper Hutt History

Download research notes about Upper Hutt history.

Early settler the Hon H W Petre, millwright James Duff Cruickshank, an 1855 water tunnel, gullible London investors and the Haukaretu Block are some of the subjects investigated.

water tunnel entrance

Under The Wires

In October 2013 trolley bus enthusiast Alan Wickens began publication of a monthly e-magazine called Under The Wires (UTW). UTW documents the Wellington trolley bus system past and present but unfortunately there is no future.

At the end of October 2017 the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) closed down the 60 year old Wellington trolley bus network. Such was the GWRC's determination to rid Wellington of electric buses that destruction of the overhead network began the next day.

This is an unofficial UTW archive.

Trolley photter

Maymorn Estates (NZ) Ltd

The story of May Morn Estates (NZ) Ltd is a fascinating tale of gullible investors, the construction of a light railway and how New Zealand came close to loosing the Akatarawa Forest and having major erosion problems today.

The formation of the Maymorn Tramway is still walkable today. I have not done so yet but it is on my list of things to do. When I make the walk I hope to provide a kml file and other details here.

Maymorn Estates Stock Certificate

Cruickshanks Tunnel

Disused Cruickshanks rail tunnel is hidden in the hills north of Upper Hutt. Access to the tunnel is not particularly difficult but it is not signposted. The purpose of this page is to explain how to get to the tunnel.

The rail tunnel crosses a water tunnel built in the 1850s to feed a waterwheel at Cruickshank's Mill via a water race. Some of my researches into the water tunnel are discussed. I correct a claim made in local histories.

I am re-writing the page to provide detailed information about what I have called the Cruickshank's Saddle Historical Area.

Tunnel Elevation


Astro Navigation (Astro), also known as Nautical Astronomy or Celestial Navigation (CelNav), is a means of navigation by the sun and stars. Used for hundreds of years astro became obsolescent with the introduction of GPS in the late 1980s.

Today a sun or star sight can be easily reduced to find latitude and longitude with a scientific calculator, spreadsheet or phone app. In the pre-electronic era it was done manually by a variety of methods and mathematical tables.

The purpose of this page is not to explain what astro is but rather to document some of its rich history, including the many sight reduction methods. This site does not provide an explanation of spherical trigonometry or the celestial sphere.

Cloudy Weather

Signalling Principles

Study the principles of New Zealand railway signalling with particular reference to the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa. Diagrams and photo sequences describe speed signalling, junction signalling, aspects, low-speed lights, marker lights, overlaps, advance caution, permissive working and other aspects of railway signalling. 19th century signalling extant at Masterton is explained.

Signalling Principles

Safe Working

A page dedicated to the safe-working systems used by the New Zealand Government Railways (NZGR) and its successors.

Browse various safe-working documents including the Rule Book; Electric Train Tablet; Train Staff and Ticket; Track Warrant and Automatic Signalling.

PDF versions of the documents can also be downloaded.

Safe Working

Searchlight Signals

Searchlight signals have been part of the Hutt Valley railway landscape since the early 1950s. Over the past few years there has has been a project to replace the searchlight signals with LEDs.

In April 2014 there were just thirteen searchlight signals extant in the Hutt Valley and five at Featherston. This page documents these remaining searchlight signals.

Searchlight signal

Train Running

Study the operation of specific trains in detail, with the emphasis on signalling and safeworking.

Trains described include a Red (English Electric) EMU travelling to Wellington; Bankers on the Daffodil Express; a Masterton Passenger Train running Wrong Line; Race Trains to Trentham; Q2 Gracefield Shunt; EMUs reversing at South Junction; a 25kv Electric Locomotive departing Woburn and trains to the WestpacTrust Stadium.

Train Running

Hutt Valley Signalling History

Study the history of signalling on the Hutt Valley line, including the extension of the line from Hutt Valley Junction to Waterloo, Taita and Haywards; the Gracefield Branch; and the Rimutaka Tunnel route to Featherston. Diagrams show the progression from two-position mechanical signalling to three-position upper quadrant semaphores to automatic signalling with colour light signals.

Observe the extent of the interlockings once controlled by the Petone, Woburn and Taita signal boxes - very little of which now remains.

Signalling History

Hutt Valley Timetables

An analysis of Hutt Valley timetables. The period from the opening of the Hutt Valley Branch in the 1920s until the present day is covered.

Hutt Valley Train Timetables

Masterton Signalling Relics

Some relics of late 19th/early 20th century signalling practice were still in regular use on the commercial railway at Masterton in 2006. This page records Masterton signalling in 2004.

Masterton is the only location I know of where a Woods key is still used and is one of only two or three stations that have two-position signals.


Featherston Station

Featherston is familiar to motorists because the town marks the end of their journey over the Rimutaka Hill.

Today a quiet station on the Wellington - Masterton railway, Featherston's main claim to fame is that it is where patrons on their way to the annual Toast Martinborough wine and food festival transfer from locomotive hauled Ganz EMUs to buses, to complete their journey.


Upper Hutt Station

Upper Hutt is the terminus of electrified commuter services from Wellington. Until early 2007 it was manned 24 hours a day because the single line Trentham - Upper Hutt - Featherston section was controlled from a signal panel and time code CTC machine in the Upper Hutt station building.

Study the operation and history of Upper Hutt, with emphasis on the signalling.

Upper Hutt Signal Panel

Trentham Station

Trentham is a single to double-line junction. The little used Racecourse Platform (loop) gives punters easy access to the racecourse. A bow-string bridge is a prominent feature of the station.

I document signalling, race trains and rare workings, including a freight train using the loop. I also describe Trentham as it is for most of the year.

Trentham railway station

Taita Box

Taita signal box, dating from the early 1950s, was switched in during the morning and evening peaks, Monday to Friday, to terminate Wellington - Taita EMUs.

I describe the operation of Taita Box in 2013 and provide some history.

Taita Box was switched out for the final time on at 1842 hours on Friday 18th July 2014. At 0001 hours on Saturday 19th July 2014 Taita Signal Box was decommissioned.

Taita Box

Gracefield & Woburn

The Gracefield Industrial Line, now the Gracefield Industrial Siding, served Gracefield and Seaview. This industrial area was developed after the passing of the Hutt Valley Lands Settlement Act 1925. The line also served the Hutt Railway Workshops and Hutt Park Racecourse. The junction was at Woburn.

Diagrams and photographs provide a historical perspective and describe the operation of Woburn and the Industrial Siding today.

Waiwhetu Stream

Melling Branch

An introduction to the Melling Branch with a diagram providing geographical and historical perspective. The 1949 suburban steam timetable is compared with later electric timetables.

Photographs show the line as it is today.

Melling Branch

Petone Box

Petone was one of a small number of stand-alone signal boxes extant in the network in 2013. It was switched in for just under thirteen hours per day, Monday to Friday, to signal Melling trains.

It was also sometimes switched in at night and on weekends so trains could terminate at Petone during a network upgrade.

Petone Box was switched out for the final time at 1835 hours on Tuesday 24th December 2013. At 0600 on Thursday 26th December Petone Signal Box was decommissioned.


Hutt Park Railway Company

From 1885 until 1905 the Hutt Park Railway Company carried passengers on its Esplanade railway to meetings of the Wellington Racing Club at Hutt Park.

In 1915 the line was sold to the Gear Meat Company and the Hutt Park Railway Company went into liquidation in 1918.

Photo Graeme Bennett

Hutt park Railway Co

Johnsonville Line Signalling

The Wellington - Johnsonville Line has some unique signalling features. Therefore, although the branch is not in the Hutt Valley, I have created a Johnsonville Line Signalling site.

The site includes details current and earlier signalling practice on the branch, including starting signals at Ngaio and Khandallah to allow trains to be divided and mechanical signalling at Thorndon, Ngaio and Johnsonville.

Johnsonille Line Signalling


A record of the track and signalling changes at Wellington during the installation of the third track in 2009/10.


Wellington - Porirua Signals



Hutt Valley Documents

Browse the text of various documents relating to Hutt Valley services.

Hutt Valley Documents

Track And Lineside Structures

Study various track and lineside structures in detail. I have documented all extant trap points between Woburn and Upper Hutt; an Economical Facing Point Lock (FPL); the Wynn-Williams spring point mechanism; Fletcher Siding at Ava and all location cabinets between Petone and Ava.

Diagrams and photographs describe these and other structures in detail.

Track and Lineside Structures


Browse various miscellaneous pages, including the BR Mk2 cars at Hutt Workshops, a residential subdivision next to a railway workshops, sightings of De508 at Palmerston North, a cab ride to Masterton, commuter train myths and a locomotive in Sri Lanka that reminded me of an Interisland Ferry.

This page is also an index to the many miscellaneous images that I have posted over the past two years.


Valleysignals status May 2019.......

When I started this site in February 2001 I had one aim - to document passenger timetables and signalling and safeworking on the Hutt Valley Deviation Line from its opening in 1927 to the present day. After three years work I finally achieved my aim - going down many interesting side tracks in the process.

In 2016 I completely lost interest in trains and seriously considered closing the site down. However I decided to take the site in another direction, adding pages about Astro (cel nav) and Upper Hutt History and hosting an archive of the e-magazine Under the Wires. UTW records the last few years of Wellington's trolley buses.

I have added an Upper Hutt History page.

(Right, Upper) That is me in the very early 1970s. I have not flown a hang glider for nearly fifty years.

(Right, Lower) I survey Petone station in 2013. This was one day before Petone Box closed permanently.

Contact me :

signalman at valleysignals dot org dot nz

Me on a Hang Glider Surveying Station

Last Updated: Sunday 19th 2019

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