In the heart of New Zealand's Waikato Region, 160 kms from Auckland lies the town of Matamata, population 6,306. With the Hobbiton Movie Set tours of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Ring and The Hobbit masterpieces only minutes away by car, you could say Matamata lies in the heart of Middle Earth. In fact a sign welcoming you to Hobbiton greets visitors as they enter town. However, passenger trains haven't called at this station since the withdrawal of The Geyserland Express between Auckland and Rotorua in 2001. So just what do you do with a left over railway station once it is no longer needed? You turn it into a community resource centre.
|Matamata Railway Station in New Zealand as seen from the Hetana Street Green 2013.|
Railside by the Green was established in 2002, a year after The Geyserland Express had pulled away from town for the final time, to provide a facility for community and organisational groups to meet in. The original railway station was built in 1885 by the Thames Valley and Rotorua Railway Company, and the present brick building sometime around 1965. Sitting on a large parcel of land on Hetana Street in the heart of town, Matamata's Railway Station is still proving to be a prominent part of the town's landscape, with plenty of free parking and picnic facilities provided for visitors to this picturesque rural town. A short walk down the street leads you to the town's Hobbit inspired Tourist Information Centre which was due to open the day after we passed through in December 2013.
|Matamata Railway Yard in New Zealand in 2013 consists of nothing more than a passing siding.|
The platform side of the railway station still faces the active Kinleith Branchline that sees up to 8 freight trains a day pass through town. The railway side of the station today is nothing fancy. In fact it is fenced off to prevent vandals from interfering with what is now the rear of the community centre. But on a cold, wet summer's day, I wasn't going to wait around to photograph a passing train. I was too keen to see what waited somewhere else down the line.