Overview: The National Railway Museum of New Zealand

The National Railway Museum of New Zealand is a heritage railway organisation based at the Ferrymead Railway in Christchurch. It was first established around 2003 so it has been in operation for about 20 years. It grew out of ideas for a dedicated exhibition-focused branch of the Ferrymead Railway. Ferrymead itself is somewhat unusual in rail heritage circles in being a number of different societies coming together at a large history-focused site, other comparable examples being at MOTAT in Auckland, East Coast Museum of Technology in Gisborne, Plains Railway at Tinwald, Founders Park in Nelson, and Shantytown near Greymouth. Therefore, relatively speaking only a handful of the 50 or so members of FRONZ are part of these larger sites. Ferrymead is quite notable for having multiple railway societies present on the site, which is an experiment that hasn’t been attempted to any real extent elsewhere. NRMNZ was established as a subsidiary of the Canterbury Railway Society (which is the governing body of the Ferrymead Railway) and operated under the control of CRS until about two years ago when it changed its constitution to become independent, however much of its membership is shared with CRS.

The NRMNZ as it generally known is not like the National Railway Museum in the UK which is probably what people would be most inclined to compare it to. Most rail heritage in New Zealand is carried out by private non-profit entities run by member societies, generally these are small with about 100 members at a lot of them, and only a handful that are larger to any extent. The rail heritage sector, in NZ at any rate, is relatively small perhaps in proportion to the national population, and has certainly changed a lot in the last two decades. NRMNZ is a private heritage society, not like the NRM of the UK which is a professional body affiliated to a larger group of museums (Science Museum) that are operating in the public sector with a mixture of government and private funding. Hence, comparisons between the two entities are mostly relevant at the level of their similar names, and not in terms of their scale or stature. A more relevant comparison in NZ would be appropriate if NRMNZ was to be affiliated with the Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, or perhaps with local government support and funding. In regard of the latter, the only such entity of this type in rail heritage in NZ is MOTAT in Auckland, which is professionally run as an arm of Auckland Council.

National Railway Museum site early 2021. The turntable and tracks are upper centre. A building that NRM is taking over as a temporary exhibition space is just below and left of the turntable. Other buildings belong to other Ferrymead societies. Moorhouse Railway Station is lower centre and the yard and buildings to the left are mostly part of the Ferrymead Railway.

NRMNZ’s site is at Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch. This site consists of open air display of rolling stock for the most part. Their physical assets on the ground consist of a turntable and a number of tracks radiating out from it. This is supposed to be the base of a half roundhouse building structure that the NRMNZ hopes to construct, which in turn was downgraded from the original proposal of a full roundhouse. The above picture shows no rolling stock except on the connecting road to the left (which joins the Ferrymead Railway) however in April 2022 rolling stock was moved and placed into the radiating tracks around the turntable.

In April 2020 NRM announced that they had taken over a building known as “Albert Hall” within the Ferrymead Heritage Park for use as an interim display space. This building can be seen in the aerial photo above as it is adjacent to the turntable, being directly below and to the left of it. This is supposed to be a temporary project until they can get a building of their own constructed. There doesn’t appear to be any further updates of that kind on this project since that time. The NRMNZ produces occasional newsletters and has a Facebook page. Recent posts on the page within the last two years are mostly about photographs that have been scanned from the NRM’s archive collection, the acquisition of archival resources, and taking delivery of rolling stock. There have been almost no announcements on buildings or displays since that time so the current status of buildings and displays is unknown. The NRMNZ does have a physical presence in the form of a bookshop based in the Moorhouse Railway Station.

Summary: The National Railway Museum of New Zealand is an under-development rail heritage museum based at Ferrymead Heritage Park. The group has a collection of several pieces of rolling stock but does not have any buildings to house this rolling stock at the present time. The group has received collections of archival materials and delivery of rolling stock items in recent years and operates a bookshop at Moorhouse Station.

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