For many years the railway station was a prominent and familiar landmark in New Zealand cities, towns and rural districts. Before most people had cars or telephones, let alone television and the Internet, the railway provided many communities with their main connection to the outside world.
In the 1950s New Zealand had more than 1350 railway stations, ranging from grand urban monuments to tiny weatherboard sheds. As passenger numbers declined and rail services were cut over the following decades, many stations became redundant. Hundreds were closed and demolished; others suffered from problems with vandalism and graffiti.
In recent years a number of restored stations have been converted into heritage cafes, art galleries, museums, information centres or boutique accommodation. At the same time new stations have been built, most notably Auckland’s spectacular Britomart complex.