26/07/2019 9:00:00 a.m.
26 July 2019
Limited edition ‘golden tickets’ to ride the Durie Hill Elevator are now on sale at Whanganui i-SITE Visitor Information Centre at 31 Taupō Quay and the elevator. The tickets have been produced to commemorate Durie Hill Elevator’s centenary this year. At $2, the ‘golden tickets’ are the same price as a regular one-way ticket ($2).
Opened on 2 August 1919, the Durie Hill Elevator is an extensive engineering feat involving major earthworks, 2500 tonnes of concrete and immense labour to create a 213 metre-long arched tunnel, and a 65.8m vertical shaft. The elevator’s cab travels through the earth from its base on Anzac Parade near the Whanganui City Bridge intersection, to Blyth Street on Durie Hill.
Social historian and Durie Hill resident, Dr Penny Robinson says, “The idea developed when Durie Hill became part of Wanganui Borough in 1910 and residents wanted easier access than the steep staircase opened in 1897. In 1912, after much public discussion a cableway was proposed then rejected. The elevator idea was then put forward by Wanganui Chronicle editor John Ball and his friend, Wanganui Technical School engineering instructor, Edward Crow.
“Crow drew up plans for what he and Ball hoped would be a civic project but ratepayers refused to pay for it. A joint venture co-ownership proposal with potential hilltop residents was looked at next, but lapsed because of insufficient interest. However, the scheme had Council approval confirmed by 1914.
“In 1915, recognising the elevator’s potential for opening up the suburb a Durie Hill landowner, William J Polson (later Sir) and his brother-in-law, Colonel Alfred Ernest T Wilson, DSO, took on the project privately,” says Dr Robinson.
The project was then awarded to Westport contractors, Maxwell & Mann, in 1916 and the foundation stone laid. Borough Engineer, N C Staveley, oversaw the project and a Mr E Moult attended to the electrics.
Because World War I limited the availability of labour the tunnel was finally finished in December 1917, and the elevator shaft in October 1918. By January 1919, the lift tower was under way and by June the shaft wiring and all machinery had been installed. The elevator cab was swung and the four steel cables supporting it were tested to 10 times the load they were designed to carry.
The Durie Hill Elevator centenary community celebration event will be held on Saturday, 3 August 2019 from 9.00am to 1.00pm by the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower and include market stalls, food trucks, vintage games and the opportunity to see the elevator’s unique mercury arc rectifier in operation. You can ride up in the elevator with a golden ticket or take a vintage vehicle to the top of the hill. Elevator and vintage car rides cost $2 each. The Durie Hill School Ball Drop will close the day’s celebrations.
The elevator celebration is the first event for the inaugural Whanganui Heritage Month.
Image: Dignitaries and invited guests pose in the Durie Hill Elevator tunnel and cab at the lift's opening ceremony on 2 August, 1919.