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Ferrymead Post & Telegraph Society




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Site last updated:
Apr 30, 2018




GENERAL. The Society was formed in 1977 to preserve all facets of Postal, Banking and Communications history in New Zealand. The Postal service goes back to the early days of settlement in NZ and the Savings Bank was formed in 1867.
On the 1st January 1881 the Postal Service and Bank amalgamated with the Electric Telegraph Department to form the Post & Telegraph Department. On 1st April 1959 the name was changed to the New Zealand Post Office.
On the 1st April 1987 the service was divided into three State Owned Enterprises, New Zealand Post, Postbank and Telecom.
history_clip_image002_0001The Post Office Society is based in an early dwelling built in 1876. This house was originally in Durham Street central Christchurch where it was used by the Justice Department.  It has been extended and the front redesigned to replicate a small country Post Office of the early 1900’s. The Hanmer Springs Post Office building bears a similar frontage. In the early 1900’s, many P.O buildings also served as the Postmaster’s residence but often small P.O’s were in shops and such, even hotels. 
 PUBLIC FOYER. This area displays public notices that were displayed for other Government Departments and also has a display of Savings Bank Books, money boxes and P.O. advertising etc.  The office has official status as a New Zealand Post Agency.  The Post Office sells stamps, envelopes, stationery, postcards and collector’s items. A large range of commemorative covers, used stamps and other memorabilia are available.
 Letters may be posted here and all mail is franked with the distinctive Ferrymead Postmark.  It is believed that this Postmark was the first to indicate the New Millennium.
 Across the counter will be seen the staff area where mail is sorted either to other areas or into Private Boxes. A Lamson Wire for sending telegrams out to the Telegraph operating room will be noted above the counter.  Telegrams can still be sent from here but delivery is now by letter post owing to a shortage of Telegram Delivery Boys with bicycles.

POSTMASTER’S OFFICE.  This room, although furnished as an office, has been used to display many of the staff photographs the Society holds. Many visitors find a friend or relative amongst the numerous photographs.  Note that there is a door between the Postmaster’s Office and the Public Foyer.  Many country Postmaster’s also undertook work for the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.  Marriages were conducted by the P.M. in his office, but as a wedding is a public ceremony this door was to remain open during the marriage service.

MANUAL TELEPHONE EXCHANGE.These “magneto” switchboards, staffed by operators, were used in many small towns with some not being phased out until the 1980’s.  This exchange consists of three “Subscribers” and one “Toll” position.  Each “Subs” position has one hundred lines making a total of 300 lines.  Great use of “party-lines” as widely used in rural areas, can increase this capacity easily up to 600 connections or more.  If there is more than one phone on a line then each number is allocated a letter as a suffix. This letter is then rung as Morse code and although all phones on the line ring, only the person whose code is rung answers. (Although the rest can “listen in”)  Many stories exist of the secret goings-on with party-lines.

HALL OF PHONES.Over 200 telephones are displayed in this area, dating from the original Bell/Blake phones through to the early model cell phones. Others models include large Ericsson Wall and Desk phones from around 1900, “Candlestick” phones and early automatic dial and the more modern Push-button phone. Although there were hundreds of different phones manufactured, the Post Office had a policy of standardisation, so many models remained standard for over 20 years. Some of the early Ericsson magneto wall-phones were in service in country houses for over 50 years and even then were only removed when the area changed over to Automatic.

This model of Automatic Exchange was the backbone of Automatic Switching in New Zealand from 1920 until the early 1950’s, from when most new installations were of the British Post Office “Step by Step” or Strowger system. The first Rotary Exchange cut-over in Masterton on 31 May 1919 and the last was removed from service in 1985. The Oamaru Exchange ran from 1922 until late 1984, a period of over 60 years. This system was first produced with a reversed numbered dial and as a consequence NZ was the only country to retain this dial as standard This working model can be switched on so that visitors can make calls from demonstration phones and watch the calls go through.

TELEGRAPH OPERATING ROOM.This area displays all forms of telegraph communication from the early Morse Key and Sounder through to the latest Teleprinters. The first Telegraph line in NZ opened on 1st July 1862 between Christchurch and Lyttelton with an intermediate station at Heathcote (known as The Valley) One of the original Varley Morse keys used on this line is on display.  Most of the Morse and Teleprinter circuits are connected so visitors can try their hand at sending Morse code. Test Equipment and a Telegraph Test Board complete the display.

PABX ROOM.On display are several types of small Automatic Exchanges used in offices etc. Although these are small they still use the same type of equipment used in the large public exchanges.  Included in the display are examples of the “Step by Step” type of system developed for the British Post Office in the 1930’s and used throughout NZ until the introduction of the “Crossbar” system in the mid 1970’s. Other examples include an earlier type of Strowger, Crossbar and several types of Interphone Systems. All these systems are “hands on” and calls can be made between various phones.

LINE YARD.A short distance from the P.O. is a large Line Shed & store. Wire, insulators, pole arms & all types of line hardware are held. The Society has three Line Vehicles restored in the pre-1975 Grey livery. The Society maintains open wire pole lines around the park and maintains the internal telephone system and an Octagonal Public Coin phone outside the Post Office. The line-yard can be opened on request.

MEMBERSHIP. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in Postal or Communications History.  Membership is $24 per annum. For super gold card holders and students - membership is $18 per annum. Membership year starts at 1st September. Members and families have free access to Ferrymead Heritage Park.  Members are especially sought to open the Post Office Counter to sell stamps and handle mail. Presently the Post Office is open Thursdays to Sundays and Public Holidays. Other opening times can be arranged.

ARCHIVES.Many Telephone Directories and Historical staff records are held. For a small donation members can search these records for Genealogical research.

For further information write:- 

P.O. Box 41177, Ferrymead, Christchurch 8247, NZ. 

Ph. 384 1876. or use Contact Us. (top of page)

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