Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Nelson Railway: A Virtual Exploration, Part 2

Well, we’re back on the elusive trail of the Nelson Railway and covering its second half down from Tapawera towards Murchison. The main difference here is that most of the area covered has no Street View at all. So even though the first half was only half covered, the second half is practically uncovered. Anyway we leave Tapawera heading west, along a prominent curved embankment towards the Motueka River which until 1977 still had the old former road-rail bridge there for traffic. Tapawera is where an outfit called the Grand Tapawera Railroad Co got started back in the 1980s. Hence the replica shelter and trackset on the west side of the street where there is now the Kiwi station building. In time, the GTRR Co reinvented themselves as the Nelson Railway Society and moved to Founders Park where they operate today. Once across the river it’s off down the Tadmor Valley, heading south again, the direction that the line takes for most of the rest of its course, having been going north from Kohatu to Tapawera and now having turned through another half circle. Things roll along pretty flat till Rakau when the hills are starting to close in. The actual formation isn’t always that visible so we have to guess the general location and all the maps I drew up till now turned out to be wrong – the railway ran next to the road instead of being some distance to the east. Here, therefore, I had to take a break from writing to to redraw the map from Tapawera up to Tadmor. Now that’s sorted, let’s carry on into the hills.
After Tadders, things twist and turn a bit, the line crosses the road three times, a couple of small bridges can be seen about here – and in general the formation is easy to see from above. The road and rail close in about now, the rail right alongside but lower than the road as they squeeze between a hill and the river. This pattern is repeated for a few more km before breaking out on the approaches to Kiwi, the rail now on a lower river terrace. As the country gets heavier we see more bridges and culverts, of which the latter (as buried pipes) are still largely existent, fulfilling their traditional function under a disused but extant embankment. Rail is hemmed in alongside the river again until it takes a big curve out to the west and then back south as it approaches Tui. And there we’ll leave it for this part – I’d hoped to get further than I have, but I have done a lot of mapwork this time as well, so we will continue with the next (and hopefully last) instalment tomorrow – though the way things are going, this could stretch out to a fourth or even fifth part.