Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

23 October 2009

Railway Hotel, Woodville

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995 and was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

It’s the relief lettering on the balcony that appeals to me. I’ve seen nothing quite like it elsewhere. It is in a style known as ‘Stencil’ and is typical of the art deco period. The veranda wing, which incorporates the balcony, some decorated farmhouse shutters and support posts with strange, pyramidal bases, looks to date from about 1930 and has been added to an unremarkable nineteenth-century hotel.

As its name implies, the hotel sits beside a railway line, the one that runs the length of the Wairarapa to join, at Woodville, lines from Palmerston North and Hawke’s Bay. Over the years its relationship with the permanent way has been such that, at one time, the pub was called ‘The Office’ because the boys from the railway station tended to spend significant parts of their working days in the bar. The goodwill engendered kindliness all round and the pot belly stove in the bar was usually white-hot from the free coke dropped off from passing trains!

Woodville, a horse training and farming town, also has an important geographical raison d’etre; it guards the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge, which separates the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges and provides easy access to Palmerston North and the west coast.


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By Don Donovan