The Swanson Railway Station Project began at the end of 1993 when Waitakere Community Board members David Harre and Penny Hulse heard that the old Avondale Railway Station (built in 1879) was to be demolished and replaced with a modern corrugated iron shelter. The neglected and vandalised station had been closed since 1986. Since it was well worth saving, NZ Rail agreed to sell it with the proviso of a new shelter for Avondale.
A meeting of local residents was called and in incorporated society formed. The group calculated that $30-40.000 could be raised in six months with the following six months spent restoring the station. However, it eventually took seven years to complete and became a $225.000 project, including land bought from the Crown paid for by the Swanson Balefill Trust.
The first couple of years were spent raising money, promoting the project and acquiring land. Market days and car boot sales became a permanent part of Swanson Village life.
During the first year it was decided to buy 9500 square metres of excess railway land between the railway line and the road. The sales process took over a year after lobbying the Minister of Lands, local MPs and the Prime Minister. The Swanson Balefill Trust purchased this land, extending from the Challenge Redwood Park petrol station to Christian Road, for the community.
While land issues were being sorted out, the station building was further vandalised: the toilet block was set on fire, every wall inside and out was covered with graffiti, every window and door was smashed, and the floor littered with unmentionable or unrecognizable objects.
On 26 September 1995, the beleaguered building finally arrived in at Swanson around 5am, after which the supporters and moving crew enjoyed a big Champagne breakfast. The old station, cut in half with its roof removed, was an amazing sight with the double verandas lit up. As the sky lightened, people stared in shock as they drove by on their way to work – it didn’t much resemble the image of the picturesque old station that had been sold to the community. Swanson school students came down to look at it and were given a commemorative certificate.
Restoring the severely damaged building turned out to be a long, hard, complicated job and the team relied heavily on the support of the community. On 22 August 1998, three years after the station arrived, the community room was finally opened. It is regularly used for local meetings and small gatherings. The café, opened at the end of 2000 has been a huge success.
The Swanson Railway Station Trust uses funds from the lease of the commercial café and market days for maintenance and sponsors community events such as the annual Carols on the Deck.
The station and park have become important aspects of Swanson’s developing character. The completed project is much more ambitious than originally planned and is a great asset to Swanson, both aesthetically and functionally, enhancing Swanson’s role as northern gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. The project demonstrates what a community can achieve with motivation, commitment and, most importantly, community spirit.
Rugged Determination, p63-64