All Aboard! The Ernie Webber Railway Collection


Ernie Webber, portrait photograph, c.1930. In 1941, New Zealand-born Cyril Ernie Richard Webber (1905-1983) was living in Hong Kong. While there, he was in partnership with Francis Arthur Sutton, a famous one-armed old-Etonian munitions dealer, who had, prior to World War One, built railways in Argentina and Mexico.

Webber was also a railway enthusiast, joining the Railway Locomotive Historical Society in 1918, aged 13. Through his career in finance and investments, Webber was able to travel through many parts of the world, mainly by rail. And as he travelled he collected. His collecting was focussed, with an emphasis on blue prints of rolling stock, rules, regulations and manuals pertaining to railways and railroad systems, working timetables and their stations, posters and publicity, maps, and numerous books and pamphlets. In short, he formed a history of transportation, specific to Colonial Railways.

While in Hong Kong, he lost a large portion of his railway collection. Resident in Auckland during the 1950s, he not only rebuilt his ‘lost’ library but amassed a larger library of some 40 linear metres, which he dubbed ‘Pamaero’. Webber died in Dunedin in August 1983, and bequeathed his collection to the University of Otago, which he regarded as ‘New Zealand’s leading university’. His collection of personal papers and non-railroadiana is housed at the Hocken Library (MS. 3333).

All Aboard! is the first exhibition of Webber’s large collection and is by necessity selective. Notable items on display include his scrapbooks compiled around personal rail trips, letters to and from book dealers, rare and scarce railway publications, including many railway magazines, and large, colourful publicity posters. Please enjoy.

Cyril Ernie Richard Webber, born in Dunedin on 7 December 1905, and died in Dunedin on 15 August 1983, aged 77. Here Ernie (as he preferred to be called) is, at 25.

Ernie Webber, portrait photograph, c.1930. MS-3333/34.