New Zealand’s First Railway Opened – 1st December 1863

“The Archdeacon called to the recollection of the company the boldness with which Mr [William Sefton] Moorhouse had first announced what was then the new idea of a railway: that idea Mr Moorhouse had turned into a fact; with an untiring disregard of ceaseless opposition Mr Moorhouse had held to his plan and had at length succeeded in carrying it out”. – The Press 1863

On 1 December 1863, the first railway in New Zealand opened in Christchurch – from the city to Ferrymead.

“We observed Mr Moorhouse standing on the engine, with an air almost of severity upon his features. We noticed that as the train passed the platform he did not move a muscle in his countenance; neither did he lift from his head that shabby dusty hat with which we are so familiar, until a vociferous cheer greeted him from the masses; but before the sound of the cheer reached him, his face had unbent, his hat was off his head, and he seemed for the first time to feel himself at home…” – The Press 1863

It was not only the first railway opened in New Zealand but was also the first in New Zealand to close. With the opening of the Lyttelton (Moorhouse) Railway Tunnel, the line became redundant and was closed on 9 December 1867.

Evidence of this past history is still visible for those who look. On Bridle Path Road, at the Ferrymead Reserve, part of the tracks remain along with a switch lever (pictured). Close by, a plaque proudly sits, acknowledging the history that took place there.

* Image courtesy of Annette Bulovic*

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