Thursday, May 5, 2011

To Rail Against The Wreckers...

It takes a certain eye to look past the state of "now" and see the beauty of "then".
In 1993, the old Avondale Railway Station was in a real mess. Closed since 1986, it was slated for demolition...if vandals didn't destroy it beforehand! The old weatherboard building, circa 1879, was covered in graffiti with every door and window smashed. But it's underlying heritage value was seen by the Swanson community.
Swanson's a semi-rural suburb of Auckland, at the foot of the lovely Waitakere Ranges. Like many communities these days, Swanson had no focal point other than the school, so the idea of acquiring an historic railway building at very little cost - for use as a café or craft gallery - seemed attractive.
Hundreds of people raised funds to relocate/restore the building. The Swanson Railway Station Project, that it was thought would take six months, stretched out to seven years...but the end result was certainly worth it!
The plan was to site the station next to the railway line to provide shelter for rail travellers, and then to use the building for a community meeting room and café, which would mean the project could become financially self-sustainable. In 1995 the old gal was relocated to Swanson; the community room opened in 1998; the Swanson Station Café opened in December 2000.
Community leader Meredith Youngson was part of the Project, and wrote her recollections (well worth a read) of the efforts put in by so many, and what Swanson gained - not just a fine building.
Now Swanson has a focal point outside the school and stronger community cohesion. This led to the formation of the Swanson Residents and Ratepayers Assn and a better-informed and a more proactive community. As Meredith wrote: "Sure, we can do some great things by ourselves. But together, we can do amazing things."
The Swanson Railway Station is testimony to that!

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