Red Cross railway carriage, 1915

An interior view of one of two railway carriages that were specially fitted out as hospital cars at the Petone workshops in mid-1915. Following the arrival on 15 July of the Willochra, which brought home the first large group of Gallipoli wounded, this car was part of New Zealand's first-ever military 'Red Cross Train', transporting men from Wellington to various stops along the North Island Main Trunk Line to Auckland. The Evening Post reported that:

The inside fittings of one of the carriages have been removed in their entirety, and twenty-four beds have been installed in two double rows of six beds each. The beds have been fitted with new mattresses and blankets, and the whole of the interior has been coated with white enamel paint. Lavatory and washing accommodation is provided at one end of the carriage. The other carriage somewhat resembles an operating theatre, but is really the dispensary. Only half of this carriage has been pressed into service for accommodating the wounded. In the centre is installed a movable table, to facilitate the dressing of the more serious wounds. Attached to the wall alongside is a wire mattress, which can be propped up or lowered at pleasure, and when it is convenient to use this the centre table will not be necessary. The dispensary is furnished with a linen closet and a small fumigating chamber, in which the clothes of the invalids can be disinfected. In the corner is a copper cylinder, gas heated, for boiling water. Like the men's ward, the colour scheme is white, which gives the dispensary as bright an aspect as is possible in the circumstances. The seats in the other half of the carriage have not been removed, and will be used as quarters for the medical man and the nurses engaged on the Red Cross train.

The Willochra subsequently sailed to Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. Another hospital carriage was fitted out in the South Island.

See ‘Red Cross train’, Evening Post, 16 July 1915, p. 3; ‘Return of the wounded’, New Zealand Herald, 17 July 1915, p. 4 (PapersPast).

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about Red Cross railway carriage, 1915

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Bruce Mai

Posted: 29 Nov 2015

I should have mentioned that I worked at MOTAT for many years restoring carriages etc. I am a keen railway historian, having once worked for the New Zealand Railways. I also collect W&MR artefacts. The carriage shown above shows a "Chevins" water filter at the far end by the door, and has been retrospectively fitted with four NZR 2nd class gas lamps. (Not first class lamps as would be expected for a first class carriage) These cars had electric lighting when first built for the NZR

Bruce Mai

Posted: 29 Nov 2015

As mentioned, the photo taken by Mr Percy Godber who was a prolific photographer of early NZ Railways. He worked at the then Petone Railway Workshops as a brass fitter. The interior photo shows that it was a former Wellington & Manawatu Railway carriage (taken over by the NZR in 1908). 4 of these carriages still survive, 3 in Wellington & 1 at MOTAT in Auckland. There is a well know photo of Mr Godber taken in the Auckland car.