Walsh Memorial Library

The Walsh Memorial Library is a reference only Auckland library which is located at the MOTAT Great North Road site.  Access to library resources is between the hours of 10am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday. Research requests can also be emailed through to the library.

Named after New Zealand aviation pioneers Leo and Vivian Walsh, the Memorial Library is as old as MOTAT itself and having been set up in 1964 with support from the Walsh Memorial Trust and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

For almost two years, 2013-2015, the Library had been housed offsite, but is now back at MOTAT in the lower level of the newly refurbished Pioneers of Aviation building.

The library has an extensive collection of material reflecting the MOTAT objects collection. The strength of the collection is in aviation and other forms of transport, trams, rail, road transport along with steam, engineering, communications, printing, military, mechanical and technical topics. Social history is also reflected in the collections as it played an important role in the development of transport and technology. The collections also tend to focus on the older technologies as they have evolved over the years.                             

The Library material inks, archival material, manuals, photographs, periodicals and oral history recordings. This collection is available for use by researchers. We also have a dedicated children’s collection.

The Walsh Memorial Library cataloger is not yet available online, but a partial selection of our collection has been imported into Te Puna, New Zealand's national bibliographic database which can be searched here http://natlib.govt.nz/librarians/te-puna/te-puna-search.  Library staff can help you with your search if you do not find what you are looking for.

*Please note the Walsh Memorial Library is closed on Public Holidays.

Library Digitisation

The Library is progressively digitising collections and providing access to a wide range of transport and technology material via the MOTAT Collections Online webpage.

We have recently completed work on the Mannering Collection, which contains classic photographs of National Airways Corporation and Air New Zealand aircraft fleets. There are many fine views with dramatic landscapes in the air-to-air sequences as well ground shots of historic events and activities of these airlines from 1962 through to the 1990s. The original collection material of approximately 2,600 items is a mixture of large and medium format film and photographic print.

The Mannering Collection: air to air photography

In August 1962, National Airways Corporation (NAC) management decided to commission new photography of its aircraft fleet for a range of promotional material. Prior to this time, NAC had few photographs because of a fire at head office which had destroyed its historic photo library and the change of aircraft livery meant that any remaining photographs were out of date. The early 1960s was a new era for international tourism which provided an opportunity to promote inbound travel and NAC’s domestic services throughout New Zealand.

NAC decided to commission new photographs with attractive New Zealand backgrounds to provide publicity material for magazines and newspapers, sales displays, television commercials and inflight magazines. The flights were mainly integrated with regulatory flying by Friendship, DC3, Viscount and Boeing 737 after overhaul.

Over several weeks prior to each flight, I planned the best route from Christchurch Airport over the Canterbury foothills to Mt Arrowsmith, Mt Tasman, Tasman Glacier, Mt Cook, Mt Sefton, Lake Ohau, Benmore, Timaru, Ashburton, Banks Peninsular and Christchurch City. We planned to operate these flights to get the best light on both the aircraft and background scenery. In the Mt Cook region we flew up to about 10,000ft to get the best scale of the scenery. The flights were subject to weather conditions and there were occasions when they were postponed and rescheduled for another date.

To overcome reflections in the passenger windows and emergency escape hatches, the glass was removed so that the target aircraft and surrounding landscape could be clearly seen. I had a microphone and earphones to communicate with aircraft flight crew while coordinating manoeuvers along the route and to relay progress to the cameramen. Over specific landmarks we performed ‘racecourse circuits’ sometimes in different directions to get a variety of photographs.

We contracted Guy Mannering and Pat Dolan from Mannering and Associates, who had done excellent photography for NAC Engineering at Christchurch. Guy was no stranger to aerial photography as he had already photographed gliders over Mt Cook. We specified large format colour and black and white film, so they used 5 x 4 inch cameras with lenses slightly wider than normal to provide a pleasing perspective. They also employed medium format cameras which were used on some flights but more often for ground event work. In addition we invited cameramen from the National Film Unit to take 35mm film for stock use in television and for other movie requirements. Pat and Guy were mainly using slow 50ASA colour film in difficult light conditions with shutter speeds as fast as possible to counter vibrations from the aircraft. The camera filters were not screwed onto the lenses before take-off as pressurization later in the flight could have made them difficult to remove.

Guy Left to right: Guy Mannering, Pat Dolan, Tony Williams and Richard Williams

08/117/2370: Guy Mannering, Pat Dolan, Tony Williams (National Film Unit cameraman), Richard Williams (NAC) directing the filming and Brian Shennan (National Film Unit cameraman), 1973

Filming from a DC3 with the windows removed was noisy and cold despite the cabin heating but we forgot this when photography was underway in proximity to other aircraft in close formation. With the landscapes passing by below, photography decisions had to be made very quickly. We also had to plan ahead to update the photographers on upcoming sequences. From time to time the cameramen needed to change lenses and film and this gave me an opportunity to take photographs with my own 35mm camera. Each aircraft type that we photographed had its best classic angles, and we maximized our selection of these whenever possible. The high speed airflow outside the open window positions was fairly clean, nevertheless by keeping the cameras back just inside the cabin we found that we could still achieve a variety of view angles.

Before we went to the Mount Cook National Park region I warned the National Park rangers of our intentions that two aircraft would be flying low over the mountains. They in turn alerted any climbers in the area. On one particular flight we saw huge avalanches coming off Mt Tasman and Mt Elie de Beaumont, possibly caused by engine vibrations from our aircraft. The photographs and film we took on these flights were dramatic against the clear air over the Southern Alps.

On one occasion, a person in South Canterbury phoned the Control Tower at Christchurch airportand told them that two aircraft seemed to be in trouble while flying together. The control tower operator allayed their concerns and told them of the photographic flight.

NAC Viscount over the Waitemata Harbour, Auckland 1966

08/117/908: NAC Viscount over Waitemata Harbour, 1966

We operated about twelve NAC air-to-air photographic flights over the Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura Peninsular, Wellington Harbour and Auckland over the years with good results. Following the NAC merger with Air New Zealand, I arranged and managed more air-to-air flights involving Boeing 767/300 and Boeing 747/400 over the Seattle area filmed from a Lear Jet followed by a Boeing 747/400 photographed from a Boeing 737 over the Southern Alps.

The flights were successful due to the enthusiasm of many individuals - pilots, line engineers, flight operations, traffic staff, air traffic control and meteorological staff, and involved very careful planning and precision work by all those concerned.

Richard Williams, October 2015

The Les Downey Rail Collection

Les Downey (born 1930) was a MOTAT volunteer for many years, and was one of the team of expert railway modellers who put together the MOTAT model railway display. He was a ‘train spotter’ from his youth, taking photographs of steam trains and related subjects from the mid-1950s onwards. He later became a professional photographer, a useful occupation for someone who had a lifetime obsession with recording the New Zealand railways.

Les Downey

Les’s interests were driven by his passion for model railways - photography was one means of recording the actuality that later could be incorporated into models. In Les’s case this actuality extended to the smallest details of railway operations: sleepers, buffers, fire extinguishers, level crossings, fences, bridges, platforms and buildings of all types. His approach to locomotives and rolling stock was no less detailed, often studying the bogie arrangements, and he always tried to obtain wagon, carriage and locomotive numbers.

Most of the original photographic prints in the collection are in black and white, but there are a considerable number of colour images from the 1970s and 1980s. In addition, Les collected images particularly of locomotives, from calendars, postcards and other sources. At the same time, anything to do with the railways that crossed his path, such as news items and magazine articles, was collected and filed.

Being resident in Auckland, Les focussed initially on the rail lines north of Auckland, and southward to Papakura. As his reputation as a collector of images grew he began to receive material from other enthusiasts. This led to his collection gradually covering a much wider field.

When NZR abandoned steam and began closing down branch lines and stations, its records became redundant. Before they could be dumped, Les and his friends gained access to many of these records and photocopied them. NZR plans of locomotives, bridges and station layouts can be found throughout the collection. They have been assembled from smaller photocopies of large-scale plans, or photographed at reduced scale. There are also many items such as operational orders that have been photocopied from NZR manuals and other records.

In addition to NZR sources, Les assiduously copied or cut out material from model- makers’ newsletters and magazines and filed them under his various categories. For modellers there is much special material in the collection, such as specific guides to making a particular model. Les often went to great pains to adjust technical drawings and plans to a 3/16ths modellers’ scale. He also took many measurements of small details such as window spacing, carriage ventilators, cattle car door hinges, sign sizes and so on, and drew sketches recording these details. So, although Les’s collection was intended to be a resource to assist railway modelling, it has ended up as a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of NZ railways, particularly at a detailed level.

Warwick Brown, September 2014