"This building is going to be restored back to its original glory."
– Jeff Griggs,Whangarei Men's Shed
She’s a bit down at heel, Whangarei’s old railway station building. But if a bunch of keen retired handymen have their way, she’ll be all sparkling again one day. The Whangarei Men’s Shed bought the big 1925 building for just a dollar last year from the local council. They plan to restore the building’s exterior, but revamp the inside for their own use.They have to raise about 1.1million dollars to do it all but it seems like the blokes are all as keen as mustard.
The Railway Station was officially opened on 11th March 1925 by the Minister of Railways and future Prime Minister Gordon Coates. It marked the joining of Whangarei and its isolated regional rail lines north, to the main trunk line running south to Auckland. The station cost about nine thousand pounds and was designed by architect George Troup who famously designed Dunedin’s station.
At 600 square metres, the station’s size reflected the status of Whangarei as Northland’s most important town. But by the second half of the 20th century, rail use was being eroded by road and air transport. Passenger trains stopped coming to Whangarei in 1977, and the building was bought by the local City Council in the 1990’s. Since then its use has been patchy and its beauty has faded. The Whangarei Men’s Shed Club plans to change all that.
There are about 900-Mens Sheds in Australia, and fifty or so in New Zealand.The Men’s Shed movement began as a place for retired men to do their carpentry and metal working, when they no longer had room in their downsized homes. They come for the carpentry but stay for the camaraderie. A Whangarei health professional is already studying the health benefits of the weekly get togethers.
"The company of the guys, its great. That's why I come."
– Alf, 84
The average age of the Whangarei men’s shed is about seventy, and one of the founders Jeff Griggs says members have an amazing array of talents, including fund raising, particularly vital for future plans. Jeff says the building has been saved from demolition because of its Grade two listing with Heritage New Zealand.
Jeff says the Whangarei City Council was quite apologetic about the state of the building when it showed the Men’s Shed people through. Water poured through the ceilings and there was lots of mould. But he says his members could only see great potential. Council did urgent and expensive repairs to the roof but members have paid for repairs to plumbing and electrical wiring.
Eventually the building will include a carpentry workshop, metal shop, model room, and lunch room. Member Duncan Sutherland says the rest of the building will be leased to other businesses to improve cash flow.
Men’s Shed members plan to do as much of the building and restoration work as they physically can.They reckon it'll take them at least three years and possibly ten!