10 February 2015

Public transport comes to Onehunga

During the 1860s the first regular public transport service [between Auckland and Onehunga] was started by Captain Henry Hardington. His horse-buses left from outside the Exchange Hotel which was convenient for passengers arriving by ship from Wellington and New Plymouth. It was still not a very comfortable trip and passengers in wet weather could be called on to alight and assist in cutting manuka branches in order to get the vehicle over the swamp near Royal Oak, or sometimes they would be required to walk up Khyber Pass putting a shoulder to the wheel on the steeper part of the incline. 
Hopes were high for a better transport system when tenders were called in 1864 for a branch railway line between Auckland and Onehunga. Financial difficulties and a difference in opinion over the terminus site at Onehunga led to to a halt in construction. It was not until 1873 that the line was completed and passengers were able to commute to Auckland in under twenty minutes. In December the official opening took place when a special train, crowded with eminent citizens from Auckland, arrived for the function and a luncheon celebration at the Railway Terminus Hotel. They were regaled with turkey, goose, chicken, hams and other delicacies with a choice selection of red and white wines. The train is reported to have left on the return journey two hours behind schedule. In 1878 the railway line was extended to the wharf, and was the main transport link between Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington and the South Island until 1908 when the Main Trunk Line was opened. 
- Janice C. Mogford, Onehunga, a Brief History, Onehunga Borough Council, 1977, p.25

The New Zealand Herald of 25 November 1863 records an advertisement for Henry Hardington's Onehunga coach service and his general hires. This was the first year the Herald was printed.

The New Zealand Herald of 7 February 1865 mentions 'taking a seat in one of Mr Hardington's conveyances', and in the same paper on 4 April 1865 there's also a note that Hardington ('that enterprising provider of coach accommodation for the public') had 'placed [horse-drawn] omnibuses on the road between Panmure and Auckland. They will leave either place twice a day at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m'. So it would appear that Hardington's transport empire was already growing. His obituary published in 1887 indicates that perhaps his coaching business started as early as the 1850s, although this in unclear, and other sources suggest a date of 1860. Hardington Street in Onehunga, a short step from where I grew up, is named after him.

See also:
Transport: What if Auckland's Subways were actually subways?, 17 March 2013
BlogMemories of long-dead dogs, 30 June 2011
Transport: Avondale to Onehunga tramlink, 31 October 2010
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