The first line I looked at when I decided to reinstate my web site was the ECMT on discovering new Google Earth coverage. Now having determined the very recent addition of CNES/Spot coverage to GE I went back and tidied up all the rest of the ECMT files as the whole of the area covered by the lines can now be viewed. (Incidentally Google is now purchasing coverage from all three of the major space imagery players: Digital Globe, Geoeye and Spot)
Some of the points of interest are summarised and depicted as follows:1. The Mt Maunganui Branch
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Mt Maunganui Port has one of the most extensive siding developments of any NZ port (depicted in blue lines above). The green lines suggest possibilities for mainline deviations in several places.
2. Whakatane Board Mills Line
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The Whakatane Board Mills line was a private industrial route from Awakeri (formerly ECMT and later Taneatua Branch) to the factory on the outskirts of the town. An exact date of closure is not clear but it became disused in the 1990s, latterly worked by Tranz Rail rather than the Board Mills company, and it has been lifted. Google Earth shows all the bridges in place but the date that the imagery was taken is unclear. It’s apparent the line could not ever be reinstated in the future as the land it ran on was not a properly designated rail corridor.
3. Taneatua Branch
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This map shows the overbridge which is a short distance east of Taneatua. Earlier in the 2000s, Transit NZ had repairs carried out to the bridge, and this has resulted in the bypass road that can be seen to the left of the bridge being built at that time. But now it is closed again, and this is rather a curious state of affairs overall. We now know that NZ Transport Agency which took over Transit’s role has a project on the books for this bridge, for which $500,000 has been allocated. But at this stage I cannot find out more about it. I would guess that the proposal will be to remove the bridge outright and take the kink out of the road by cutting straight across. A second proposal is to realign the highway alongside the rail route to bypass the township altogether (black lines on the maps show road options). Street View coverage of the Peketahi road rail bridge shows that the rail has been removed on the approaches to the bridge although it is still present on the bridge itself.
A date for the “closure” of the Taneatua Branch is also unclear because it has not been formalised. Rather than actually “close” some national network lines, they have simply been mothballed. But I would guess that the last train would have run sometime in the 1990s as well. Unlike the WBM line, the track has been mostly left in place. However Google Earth appears to show damage to a bridge near Edgecumbe. Youtube has footage of “wheel5800”s LIV trip up the Taneatua Branch in 2002 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)
Both of the Main Line and Other Lines files for the ECMT have been updated in this latest pass. As always I recommend you download the files from the site and open them in Google Earth if you want to see the most detail, as Maps does not reproduce all the colours properly.