Preserving Hillside's history

The industrial heritage of the Hillside Workshops is part of New Zealand’s proud rail history.

Though there have been rail workshops on the site since 1875, the creation of Hillside in the 1920s was a major step forward. Like other new rail workshops built in Wellington’s Hutt Valley, it was a state-of-the-art facility considered to be among the most modern engineering plants in the country.

Over the years a wide range of railway rolling stock have been built at Hillside, including steam and diesel locomotives, passenger carriages and rail wagons.

Well over 1,000 people worked at Hillside in the 1940s, however by 2012, with aging buildings unfit for use, and dilapidated or broken machinery, the once proud site was a shadow of its former self. With fewer than 10 people working there, it came very close to closing for good.

Over the past decade, staff at the workshops have carried out maintenance on KiwiRail’s South Island locomotives and undertaking a range of other short-term projects – including converting 130 existing container freight wagons to carry forestry logs.

As part of the redevelopment project KiwiRail has worked with heritage groups, our union partners and local staff to strike the correct balance between preserving history and creating an efficient, modern workplace. The new development has been designed to incorporate elements of Hillside’s past into its future, including the relocation of the Workshops War Memorial.