The railway house is a mainstay, stalwart and a foundation piece of many New Zealand towns. They popped up alongside rail lines in growth areas and indeed founded some of the towns by their existence.
There are several different models of railway house, the era of each usually evident from it's styling, and each town had one, slightly less modest stationmasters house.
The railway house of the 1920s is the most prevalent and easily recognisable. They were preformed in kitsets at a factory in Frankton and railed to their destination, populating the countryside with small and perfectly formed homes which still stand today. The factory, in Frankton, Hamilton, was built in 1921 - 1922, and in 1923 started churning out pre-framed timber houses with every fitting attached, including instructions for construction. The entire house would be bundled up and sent on a railcar to any corner of the North, and then South, Island complete with a booklet to assist the builder at the other end.
At their destination, the houses only took about three weeks to construct, the jigsaw often put together by the railway worker himself, or other unskilled labour.
The social problem that arose here was that New Zealand was short on builders, and on houses and the Railways Department was simply doing too good a job and putting private enterprise on the back foot. By 1926 the factory was producing more houses than it needed, and started storing them and then selling them to local authorities. By 1928 the construction industry was so envious of the railway house factory that they lobbied for it's closure.
Dinsdale and Frankton were fertile ground for the planting of the product, railway houses, and 160 stayed right there. The visitor can easily take in a few prime examples of the product in streets nearby to the house factory, including one grand classic, the 1920s Station Master's house.
The modest, cookie cutter railway worker cottage is not without charm either as it features a street-facing porch designed to encourage neighbourliness and it holds in its stature a familiarity for many New Zealanders as many towns have them, and some are entirely made of them.
FROM THE OTAGO DAILY TIMES 26 MARCH 1920
The Railway Department has inaugurated a house building scheme on a large scale. The present programme involves the erection of 400 houses as a commencement.
The scheme involves the establishment of a factory equipped with modern machinery for cutting timber to standard lengths. This will enable rapid progress to be made with the construction of the houses. The houses will be built to standard type, and will be provided with modern conveniences.
A commencement has already been made with the erection of a number of houses at Kaiwarra to relieve the pressure in Wellington, where the housing problem is at present most acute. Twenty chains of road has been formed,15 sites excavated, and the erection of 10 houses is in hand, some of them being well forward.
The plans of the New Zealand railway house show a compact arrangement of rooms built on the plan of an English house, with the rooms entering off a passage-way, and not entering off each other, which in the American houses is very common. The standard type being built at present contains kitchen, sitting-room, three bedrooms, bathroom, scullery, and washhouse with copper and tubs built in.
In addition an outhouse is provided for wood and coal. A hot and cold water service will be installed in each house, electric light will be provided wherever it is available, and each house will have, in addition to the lighting, a connection for an electric iron.