Sunday, 25 April 2010

Seasider photos

I have just finished editing my photo album with the pictures of the Seasider trip that I went on so these can now be viewed. There are over 200 photos, all geotagged, all along the line. On the way back I was able to stand on the rear platform of the train so there are many photos of track features in the latter part of the album. The promised third article will be coming some time this week.

Remnants of the Little River Branch Today

The branch line to Little River joined the Southbridge Branch at Lincoln and headed out onto Banks Peninsula, finishing up at the Little River township near Lake Forsyth. Like the Southbridge line it was very easy to build running through mainly flat open country with easy curves and gradients. The first section to Birdlings Flat opened 1882 and the remainder in 1886. Like the Southbridge branch, it closed in 1962.

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The Little River Branch has been reopened to public access as a rail trail between Motukarara and the terminus. Although the rail trail is being extended back to Christchurch, it follows mostly a different route from the railway north-west of Motukarara.
We begin our exploration at Lincoln. The station yard is no longer accessible, having been developed for housing. It is therefore necessary to make a start by observing this area at the Mews in South Belt before heading east to Ryelands Drive, following this to Southfield Drive, and heading out to Edward St. Along the way, at the corner of Southfield Drive and Ryelands Drive, you can see a fence, which is roughly on the western boundary of the former rail corridor; this is as close as you can get to something that physically identifies the railway at its beginning. Turning right onto Edward St and heading south-east, after 1 km turn right into Ellesmere Road. 2 km further on, approaching a 60 degree left hand bend in the road, the railway crosses over from the right to run on the left hand side of Hudsons Road. Proceed along this road for about 2.5 km you come to the Greenpark township where there was a railway station, presumably south of the level crossing. Continue south-east on Hudsons Road, whereby after 1 km the railway veers away to the left. 1 km further on there is an optional side trip up Geddes Road to the crossing. At the same intersection take the next exit into Ridge Road and after another 1 km follow Ridge Road in a 60 degree turn to the right. You are now alongside the railway formation again. Around 1.5 km further on you come to the site of the Matthews Road station. About 1 km further along Ridge Road follow the 40 degree curve to the right and continue another 3 km to a left hand curve across a narrow bridge. On the far side of this bridge, turn left into Canal Road and follow the river bank to the old railway bridge site. You can see a bridge at this site but this is unrelated to the railway; it appears that this bridge has a connection to the rail trail. Turn right into Park Road and drive alongside the railway route for 1.5 km to pass the original Motukarara station site on your left.
As you approach the intersection with Fiddlers Road, you can see the entrance to the rail trail ahead. The Motukarara station building has been relocated onto this site. The best course from here as far as the rail trail goes is to travel it in its own right, and therefore I am going to confine my road experience to the minimum amount of driving needed just to reach Little River as close as possible to the rail route. Therefore head towards SH 75 at this point and follow this southwest for the next 4 km until it comes alongside the railtrail. The road veers left and right while the railway is nearly straight along the edge of Lake Ellesmere for many km, giving views of rail trail features like this bridge. Approaching Kaituna with another railtrail bridge on the right, the road rounds a prominent headland with the station site to your right, the railtrail taking a slight detour. Continue along the scenic highway route with occasional glimpses of the trail out to your right as it follows the edge of the lake, such as this very long bridge. As you approach Birdlings Flat both routes are side by side for the remaining 9 km alongside Lake Forsyth.
After taking the left hand bend at Birdlings Flat, continue now north-east on SH 75 past the station site. As the hills close in, the railway runs along the Lake Forsyth shore on a stone faced embankment, prominent in views like this. A rest area at Catons Bay gives an opportunity to explore the trail on foot and view a small bridge. Continuing on SH 75, around 2.5 km further on, the railway crossed SH75 to the west side, while the rail trail stays on the east side.  The rail embankment can soon be seen to your left in the trees. At Morrisons Road you can make a short side trip to the level crossing. The railtrail ends on the opposite side of the highway. Back on SH75, 50 metres after the intersection the line enters the old Little River yard crossing another side road. As you continue up the main road you can see the preserved station building on your left. Either stop at the station or take the side road to the left to enter the station yard at its end. Take some time to explore the large yard which includes the goods shed, loading banks and preserved rolling stock and artefacts.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Remnants of the Southbridge Branch Today

This line left the Main South Line at Hornby, on the outskirts of Christchurch, heading to Southbridge on the north bank of the Rakaia River. The entire line was opened in the same year, 1875 which makes it one of our earliest railways. The section from Southbridge back to Lincoln closed in 1962, then Lincoln-Prebbleton closed 1967 with the remainder being redesignated the Hornby Industrial Line. Prebbleton was later taken over by the short-lived “Southern Rail” museum project which for a time occupied the main yards. The yards were cleared sometime around 1988 and the track was subsequently lifted back to the north side of the Springs Road overbridge. The bridge itself was removed in the mid 1990s. For operational purposes the industrial line currently finishes just short of the Marshs Road crossing with the line beyond there mothballed.

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As shown above the line is the left hand of the two branches, the line to Little River which joined at Lincoln being on the right.
We begin our exploration on the outskirts of Prebbleton, in Marshs Road where we can see the disused and overgrown track on both sides of the crossing. Go east to Springs Road and turn right. As you drive towards Prebbleton, you can see the line coming in diagonally on the right. Optionally you can stop and hunt out the disused track amongst the weeds. At the overbridge site, you can see back along the track towards Hornby. The former Prebbleton station yard site lay vacant for many years but has very recently been developed for a housing subdivision. Continue along Springs Road until you reach Tosswill Road and turn left, after 150 metres reaching the level crossing site with the view north into the Prebbleton yard. Return to Springs Road and turn left, heading south. After 500 metres take a left turn into Birchs Road. As you approach the intersection of Trices Road, the railway comes in on your left. Continue south on Birchs Road, the railway route clearer after Hamptons Road, hard on the left side. As you approach the Robinsons Road crossroads, the site of the Ladbrooks station can be seen to your left with a loading bank still visible. Continue south along Birchs Rd until you reach Tancreds Road on your left, where you can observe that rails are sealed into the road. Continue 1 km further south on Birchs Road to approach Lincoln. As you enter the township, the railway veers away to the left through residential housing. At the T intersection of James Street, Gerald Street and Edward Street, go right into Gerald Street, and then take the first left turn into Kildare Terrace. Stop at the level crossing site and follow the path through the trees to your left. This crosses over a footbridge that is built on the concrete abutments of the railway bridge. Return to your vehicle and continue in the same direction (this is a one way street) until you reach South Belt and take a right turn. As you pass the entrance to the Mews, the railway crossed over the road here to enter the Lincoln yard to your left. Proceed along South Belt until you reach Douglas Street and turn left into it and drive to the end. Lincoln yard was to your left, the line crossing diagonally across it following the line of power poles.
Return to South Belt turning left, then turning right into West Belt, and then left back into Gerald Street, the main road. Now heading west, as you pass Lincoln University, you can take an optional side trip down Springs Road to the level crossing. Continue west now on Ellesmere Junction Road with another optional side trip possible down Days Road. 700 metres past its intersection, take the left turn from Ellesmere Junction Road into Leeston Road, heading south for 1.2 km to reach the level crossing with the Springston station site to your left. If public access is possible into the site you may see the former goods shed here. Continue south and south-west on Leeston Road about 2 km to reach East Maddisons Road on your right (with an optional side trip en route in Mounces Road). A side trip of 600 metres on East Maddisons Road to the level crossing site may give a view of an intact bridge on the north-east side of the crossing. Return to Leeston Road turning left and take the next right turn into Goulds Road, reaching the site of the eponymous station after 600 metres (to your left); there are no remains here now. Return to Leeston Road and continue south-east for 3.5 km until you come to Bethels Road on the right. Drive down this road for 1 km to the level crossing site, with the Ellesmere station yard to your left, where an old loading bank can still be seen. The line here was curving round towards the river, following the line of trees. U turn and return 250 metres back along Bethels Road to the intersection of Old Bridge Road North, follow this road for a short distance to view the approach of the railway onto the Selwyn River Bridge. This was also the site of the old road bridge for many years. As the road, now blocked off, took the left turn to go onto the bridge, the railway came right alongside it on the far side. U turn and go back to Bethels Road returning to Leeston Road, turning right to continue south-west. 500 metres after the Selwyn River bridge, you can see Old Bridge Road South to your right. A trip up this road will show you the point where the railway curved away from the bridge to continue southerly as before. The bridge was in the middle of an S bend that left the railway continuing on in a similar direction as that in which it had entered it.
Continue south on Leeston Road, after 1 km coming to the intersection of Selwyn Lake Road and turning right. Proceed 800 metres to the level crossing where, on your left, the Lake Road station was located. A substantial building is still present, and this was apparently served by its own railway siding. Continue westerly on Selwyn Lake Road until you reach Lake Road South on the left and follow it back across the railway, where rails are still embedded in the seal almost 50 years later, to Leeston Road where you turn right. 500 metres further on make a right turn into Brookside And Irwell Road and travel 800 metres west to reach the Irwell station site on your right. Several small bridges are apparently still remaining north of the station but are probably inaccessible from public land. However either of the small bridges immediately to the left and right of the road may possibly be built on former railway abutments. Return to Leeston continuing south-west for 3 km, with an optional diversion possible on Hanmer Road. As you approach the Doyleston township on Leeston Road, take a right turn into Petticoat Lane and follow it to Railway Terrace, which in both directions runs alongside the railway yard. Turn left and follow Railway Terrace to Drain Road, taking time to observe the excellent state of preservation of railway remnants in this yard, still almost unaltered after 48 years. At Drain Road, take a right turn to view the end of the yard and an old railway house; the road crossing still has rails sealed into it. U turn and carry on down Drain Road back to the Leeston Road, into which you make a right turn. After 1.5 km, as you approach Leeston, the railway crosses diagonally from your right. Take the left turn into Station Street to run alongside the railway as it approaches (along the left hand side of the road) the Leeston station at the far end; one of the buildings may possibly be the former goods shed. Turn left into Leeston And Lake Road then take a right turn into Woodville Street and go right into Flannery Street to access the public reserve through which the line formerly passed. Return to Leeston And Lake Road, turning left, and turn left into High Street; the racecourse immediately on your left also backs onto the railway route.
Proceed 1 km south-west on High Street then turn left into Southbridge Leeston Road. After 1 km turn left into Beethams Road and turn right just before the level crossing to drive alongside the railway to the Hills Road station site. Take the right hand bend in Hills Road to return to Southbridge Leeston Road, turning left. 700 metres further on take a left turn into Bealey Road, crossing the railway after another 700 metres, and continue along the road to a right hand bend which takes you southward to the Cowans Road intersection. Optionally take a side trip up Cowans Road to the level crossing, where your only clue is the line of poles, and return to this intersection. Continue westerly onto Southbridge Sedgemere Road for 1 km to the level crossing on the outskirts of Southbridge. The road curves around to parallel the railway as it straightens up at the entrance to the station yard. Continue now on Taumutu Road to Cryer St and turn left then travel about 100 metres to reach the station site on your left, although nothing of railway significance now remains here.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Remnants of the Kurow Branch Today

The Kurow Branch went inland from the MSL at Pukeuri, close to the south bank of the Waitaki River, except for a short extension to Hakataramea on the north bank. It was opened in stages from 1875 to 1881. Kurow-Hakataramea closed 1930, the rest in 1983. Kurow is close to the site of the Waitaki Hydro Dam and the line carried significant traffic related to that and subsequent hydro works.

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In this view, the Ngapara / Tokarahi Branches are seen directly below the line of the Kurow Branch. When I first did the map in Google Earth, I used L&S and found it extremely difficult to decipher some of their instructions. Eventually I concluded that there must be some mistakes in their written account. The symbols on the map, cross referencing multiple sources, are, I believe, the most accurate interpretation of their account against the other sources.
We begin our exploration at Pukeuri, directly opposite the freezing works. The line curved away from the MSL here to cross SH1. Go south to the intersection with SH83 and head inland to follow the branch.  Within the first km the routes close in. Continue west on SH83 with the railway 200-300 metres north. At Papakaio turn into Cameron Road to view the level crossing, then follow the sealed road parallel to the railway to reach the Papakaio station site which the road appears to partly occupy. Return to SH83 continuing west, turning into Gibson Road after 2 km and head north 1.5 km to Gibson station site. Continue north on Gibson Road to Peebles Siding Road turning left into the latter, continue west 1.5 km to view the Peebles station side slightly north-west of the intersection with Peebles Road. Continue west on Peebles Siding Road to Jardine Road and turn right, travel 1 km north to Irvine Road and turn left to view significant bridge remains 150 metres further on. Continue in the same direction on Irvine Road to eventually return to SH83 and turn right. Take the next right turn, Wilson Road, and travel 1.2 km to the level crossing near Aitchisons station. Continue north on Wilson Road until you come to Aitchison Road and turn left, crossing over the line shortly thereafter, and continue west and then around a sharp 60 degree curve to reach Uxbridge station. If you wish you can follow Uxbridge Road alongside the water race heading west, just be aware that you will need to ford a stream further on (this being the site of a bridge on the railway directly alongside). Alternatively Aitchison Road continues south back to SH83, as does Uxbridge Road eventually.
Continue west on SH83. About 3 km from the Uxbridge Road intersection another bridge remains in place, then another 400 metres further on, a now-private road leads north to the site of Black Point station.  After another 1 km the railway comes right alongside the road, diverging again 500 metres further on near Bortons station. The railway then continues in a straight line while the road goes left, and then comes right to close in again. As you near Duntroon, crossing the Maerewhenua River, the old combined bridge was about 100 metres downstream. Road access is possible to both ends of the former site. Opposite Middleton St in the township you see the Duntroon station building still on site beside the road. Continue west on SH83, the railway now further away to your right. The road veers left 3.2 km further on as the railway comes right alongside, turning south and then back west; you can see bridge abutments in the middle of the second curve. 600 metres further on was the Waikaura station. Road and rail continue alongside for another 1.2 km then split as the highway climbs up the side of a hill; 2.5 km further on, the railway crosses SH83 on a skew, then remaining close alongside as the road turns to follow it. Crossing the Otekaieke River on the outskirts of the township, the old rail bridge was only 30 metres to the left. The station site was about 300 metres further west.
Onward, westward, on State Highway 83. The next station 6 km further on was Strachans. In between are at least four bridge sites - 1, 2 (the largest at the Otiake River, where piles remain), 3, 4 - and another crossing of SH83, at which the road has been straightened. The current highway route thus cuts through the formation before passing the former crossing site on the right a little further on. Routes are right next to each other for almost all of the 3.2 km to the next station, Hilles. Several hundred metres further on the railway veered left to cross over SH 83 again, right on the south bank of the Kurow River – there is no apparent trace of the bridge today. As you approach Kurow, take Ferguson St on the left and then Gordon St on the right to drive alongside the railway formation as it approaches the site of the Kurow station. As you continue along Gordon St the line starts to curve around for the short run north to Hakataramea. Turn right into Ranfurly St and cross over SH83 onto SH82 for the crossing of the Waitaki River; the railway comes in on the right. The bridge, originally a combined road-rail structure, still stands at the time of writing, but a replacement project has commenced so it may not be here much longer. It appears that the Hakataramea station was probably in this area immediately north of the bridge. U-turn and drive back to Kurow, this time take the station road next to the Waitaki Hotel to reach the station site and building.

Remnants of the Tapanui Branch Today

The Tapanui Branch is somewhat misnamed, as the eponymous locality is about halfway along the branch, instead of at its terminus. Leaving the Main South Line at Waipahi, it was opened to Kelso in 1880, Heriot in 1884 and Edievale in 1905. The last section was closed in 1968; the rest of the line closed in 1978 due to damage caused by massive flooding. Kelso township was abandoned following subsequent flooding and today the railway goods shed is the sole remaining building in the area.

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The other line you can see upper right is, of course, the Roxburgh Branch, and it is interesting that the Tapanui line got within about 10 km of the former. At the time that Edievale got its railway, it would have competed with Lawrence as the railhead for the area. Subsequently the Roxburgh Branch was opened to Big Hill in 1910, Beaumont in 1914 and Millers Flat in 1925.
We begin at Waipahi on the Main South Line, 50 km west of Balclutha. The branch headed away east and then north from Waipahi, paralleling the MSL at the level crossing just off SH1 on West Otago Road. Take West Otago Road north out of Tapanui; as you cross the Waipahi River after 200 metres, the abutments and piers of the old railway bridge are visible 100 metres east. After about 300 metres, take an optional side trip to the right on Old Main Road to the level crossing site 200 metres further on. Returning to West Otago Road, the railway is now on your right for the next 1 km, about 300 - 500 metres due north, following the Waipahi River, before both routes turn in opposite directions. Continue on West Otago Road for the next 7 km to reach a level crossing with a small bridge still in place just to its south. The railway embankment at this location gives public walkway access to the No.1 tunnel about 600 metres south. Continuing north on West Otago Road, the Conical Hill station site is just past the level crossing on your left. Another level crossing of Conical Hill Road is soon encountered, then about 300 metres further on you pass the Pomahaka River Bridge on your left, which remains substantially complete. An option is to take the right hand turn 300 metres further on to River Road, which runs back south on the opposite bank to the railway in its stretch between Waipahi and Conical Hill alongside the Pomahaka River. However it is mostly unsealed and you will have to double back at the confluence of the Pomahaka and Waipahi Rivers, after 2.5 km.
Heading north on West Otago Road which has become Pomahaka Road, 1.5 km after the Pomahaka River bridge, we come to the Conical Hill sawmill site on the right. In its time this was connected to the railway by a private siding which must have crossed the road. The railway formation alongside the road is quite well defined as you drive past the sawmill site. There could have been sidings alongside this raised edge just outside the present fence but I really have no idea. This is just opposite the point where the railway passed in front of a local substation. As you continue north, the road and railway both take an S bend, left then right; 100 metres after the intersection of Koi Flat Road on the left you pass the Pomahaka goods shed. Road and rail are then parallel close together for the next 2 km until the railway turns away on the approach to Glenkenich station. The road turns eventually to parallel the railway, which crossed several bridges, one of which appears to be semi-intact in some form today. The station site is just north of the intersection of Pomahaka Road with SH90, which the railway crossed on the level, but there is nothing to be seen there. Continue north on SH90 with the railway just to the left of the road until the latter turns rightward towards Tapanui. We recommend that you take a left turn into Duncan Road South which keeps you closer to the railway although it is still diverging rapidly. About 1 km further on take a left turn into Station Road and proceed west for about 700 metres to a level crossing and the Tapanui station site. From here you can see the route heading north as it heads for the Pomahaka River. You, however, must U-turn and head back to Duncan Road South, turning left to head north-east and rejoin SH90 after 3 km. After another 1.5 km, turn left into Wooded Hill Road and drive west for 3 km until you encounter the level crossing on the outskirts of Kelso, just before a small bridge and 90 degree bend in the road. Now heading north, you pass a bridge site before coming to the Kelso station site on the right, where the goods shed is the only remaining building in the township; the remainder was demolished or relocated after two devastating floods, including the one in 1978 that closed the railway.
Wooded Hill Road soon takes a sharp left hand turn before reaching a T intersection with Ardmore Road; turn right into the  latter and continue north. The railway is now some hundreds of metres out to your right. At Park Hill Road you can take a side trip to the level crossing with a small bridge apparently still in place 300 metres north. Stay on Ardmore Road as you head north, passing another intact bridge opposite Kelso Settlement Road. Black Gully Road West leads to another level crossing on the approach to Heriot, where the road and rail are parallel throughout the township. Turn into Mathesons Corner Road, close to the station site, to follow the railway route. At a right angle bend the railway veers away. Continue east and take the left hand turn at the intersection with Cabbage Road. Continue until the intersection of SH90 and turn left, heading north. Drive another 5.5 km until you come to a right hand bend in the highway, going straight ahead into Edievale Road. Passing some old houses and abandoned shops, 200 metres further up you can see the Edievale station site on your left, where there appear to be no substantial remnants.
For an alternative trip back to Heriot, continue on down Edievale Road to McHutchon Road, turning left, continuing straight ahead into Dunrobin Road, which eventually leads to the northern outskirts of the township. The rail route is at the foot of the immediate hills in this Dunrobin Road view near Heriot.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Industrial Sites of the Ngapara-Tokarahi Area

In the course of my recent article on the Ngapara and Tokarahi Branches I read about a considerable part of the industrial history of the area. The main features are summarised below.
Limeworks have long been a feature of the areas. NZRTA shows that McDonald’s Lime had an operation at Weston, but does not give any more detail of it. The best possibility I have been able to come up with for a possible location is this location, without any clues at all, and purely based on looking from above and presuming that there might have been an industrial operation at this site. For which I have no confirmation whatsoever at this time. McDonald’s is now a majority owned subsidiary of Holcim and operates exclusively in the North Island.
Taylor’s Lime is a bit easier to pin down. They used to operate two quarries further up the Ngapara line, at Cormacks. One of these quarried Oamaru stone for the domestic building trade, and the other was for agricultural production. Taylor’s, which operates exclusively in the South Island and is also a Holcim subsidiary, own the Dunback (Makareao) limeworks, and they chose to consolidate their operations there with the construction of a new plant in 1990. Obviously, they didn’t need a rail siding to Makareao any more. They then sold the operations at Cormacks to Parkside Quarries, who continue to produce lime and stone. Here is the Cormacks works. The railway line used to go along the front of the site, and as it stands now, the route of the old branch would be inside the fence.
Holcim may have sold off its operations at Cormacks, but it now seeks to establish a new cement works right alongside. In railway geography terms it will be about halfway between Cormacks and Lorne stations. The industrial site is smack bang in the middle of that field you can see, and the limestone quarry will be in the escarpment right behind it. In order to get the cement out, Holcim has called for the reinstatement of the old Ngapara Branch as far as its site. This means that the line will have to come along the front of the old Taylors works at Cormacks, so they will have to move that fence back in to leave room. At this stage a decision as to whether to build the Weston cement works is still in the pipeline but is expected later this year, if it happens it will replace the Westport works which took over from Burnside when that closed in 1988.
Holcim also wants to establish a sand quarry at Windsor for the cement works. This sits right next to the old Tokarahi Branch and part of it will be used as an access road. This is roughly a view of the area where the quarry will be (here it is on an overhead).
The third part of the Holcim Weston Option equation is the opencast coalmine to be opened at Ngapara. The area has a previous history of coalmining which operated until about 1970. The mine is to be in the hills just north of Ngapara and coal will be trucked to the cement works.
When I was digging around I also became aware there was a small limeworks operating at Tokarahi. As seen here and here. About it I don’t know much else. We don’t know without further research whether there was any lime railed out of the area. There used to be a Pringles limeworks in the area for many years. Was it the same site? This one looks like a small scale operation at least for the present. There is a Tokarahi Lime company based in the township below this hill, which is listed in a business directory as having 1-4 employees.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Remnants of the Ngapara and Tokarahi Branches Today

The Ngapara Branch left the Main South Line at Waiareka Junction, the first station south of Oamaru. This line was constructed for the usual rural development reasons, as well as traffic of lime which is still produced in the area today. Work on construction began 1874 and the 24 km of track was completed three years later. The branch was cut back to Cormacks, continuing to serve a local limeworks, in 1959, and was closed outright in 1997. There is a proposal under consideration at present to construct a new cement works at Weston, the first station up the line. This would utilise Cormacks limestone and so require the reinstatement of the line to there. Coal for the plant would be mined at Ngapara and sand quarried at Windsor, both of which were stations on the full branch line, although there has as yet not been any suggestion of relaying the full length of track to these locations.
The Tokarahi Branch joined onto the Ngapara Branch at Windsor Junction and headed south and west for a distance of 19 km. It was opened also in 1877 and closed in the depression in 1930. This line was originally intended to go to Livingstone, a few km further on from the final terminus. Due to the fact that it closed 80 years ago, relatively little is known about the Tokarahi Branch, and the first three editions of the NZ Railway and Tramway Atlas failed to show any intermediate stations, while all editions to date only show one of the two tunnels that were constructed on the route.

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We begin our journey on Weston Road railway overbridge, crossing over the Main South Line at Waiareka. Looking north, we can see the branch formation curving around to the left. You should drive west from here 100 metres to the insection of Saleyards Road and then head north for another 100 metres to the former level crossing. The formation is easily seen, especially on the west side. Turn around and return to Weston Road, heading west. In the Weston township you can access the formation at former crossing sites in Essex Street, Gordon Street and Main Street; rail is still embedded in the road at the latter two. After crossing the formation at Main Street, continue north following a curve to the left onto Weston Ngapara Road. Weston was formerly the site of a limeworks and the location while unconfirmed could be in the Meek Street area alongside the railway route. Continuing west on the main road, 1 km further on the railway, very clearly visible as a raised embankment, approaches and  crosses over from the left side. 500 metres further on, you come to the Cormacks limeworks. The road dips as it approaches the works, leaving the rail embankment high above the road level. As the embankment gives way to farmland,  you can see that the rail route has diverged from the road, going close in to the hills. This situation lasts for about 3 km, when the route comes back towards the road to another crossing, which was via an overhead road bridge. This remains largely intact at the north side of the road, because the roading authorities chose to straighten the road by bypassing the bridge completely, cutting through the rail formation in the process. The formation is seen gradually curving away as you continue west on the main road.
A little further on there was a medium sized bridge, although nothing remains today. The road then takes a 1 km diversion away from the railway, during which you pass Coal Pit Road on the right, while immediately opposite the intersection you can see, apparently, the relocated Enfield goods shed and station. The road then sweeps left again to rejoin the railway on a long right hand curve where the formation was hard up against the left hand edge just outside Enfield. You can see another level crossing at Wellington Street. Continuing west on Weston Ngapara Road, the routes diverge rapidly and separate by as much as 1 km, although side trips are possible down Elderslie and Pine Hill Roads, the latter leading you to the general vicinity of Elderslie station. Further along the main road, Pig Island Road provides another optional diversion, while Windsor Road is recommended because it takes you to the eponymous station, which was the junction of the Tokarahi Branch. Turn right into Peaks Road and you can view the station area and the nearby junction. Head back to the main road and continue westward. Finlays Road on the left brings you to the site of Corriedale station. The road and rail remain separate by about 300 metres until the main road closes in at Queens Flat, the railway clearly seen after an S bend in the road. A small culvert is possibly seen at the approach to QF station. The rail now remains right alongside on the left of the road all the rest of the way to Ngapara. As you enter the township an old flour mill is on the right. I believe that the station itself was located just on the far side of Tokarahi Ngapara Road, alongside Railway Street.
You should now continue south/west on this road about 6 km to the triangular intersection at Island Cliff with Island Cliff-Duntroon Road. Continue on T N Road as it takes a left turn, heading south. After 1.5 km you come to the point where the Tokarahi Branch crossed this road. The Island Cliff railway station was in the trees on the south side of the road. Continue another 3 km to Tokarahi with the rail line just out to your right, on the way observing stone culvert abutments. The terminus was apparently in a paddock alongside some houses. Livingstone is about another 5 km due west. Continue on T N Road for another 300 metres to the intersection of Tokarahi Tapui Road and take the slightly left turn to the south. After about 1 km the road turns through 90 degrees to head east, and a further 2 km on, as the road dips down towards a signposted S bend, you see the rail route again in a cutting to the right. The line then curves around to run alongside the road as it zig-zags up the hill, clearly seen in cutting in the vicinity of Tapui station, where a house which may have a railway heritage remains. At the intersection with Cants Road continue on the right, crossing the formation after another 100 metres. Rail and road now diverge but the formation is visible at times higher up the hill by the lines of trees it follows. Drive 2.5 km to the intersection of Conlans Road and proceed up the hill about 500 metres to the point where it crosses over the top of the No.2 Tapui Tunnel. Continue up the hill to Peaks Road and turn right, driving another 3 km to the intersection of Tunnel Road, and proceeding another 1 km downhill to an S bend which crosses over the top of the No.1 Rakis Tunnel. This route should, in theory, give you good views of the railway formation below. Then continue down Tunnel Road to Victoria Hill Road and turn left into it. The rail route is further up the hill and is not too close until you approach Windsor, where it is seen sweeping round a couple of long bends as it runs towards the junction. Turn left into Peaks Road to view the station site, junction and a few hundred metres of the Tokarahi Branch until it disappears around the first bend.   

Remnants of the Dunback and Makareao Branches Today

The Dunback Branch left the Main South Line at Palmerston and headed inland to its eponymous terminus 14.2 km inland. Opened in 1885, the line was originally expected to head into Central Otago but these plans did not eventuate and it remained as a short branch until it was closed in 1968 beyond Inch Valley. This station had in 1900 been connected with another branch of 4 km to lime works at Makareao and this “Inch Valley Railway”, which took in the entire length from Palmerston after 1968, was later renamed the Makareao Branch. This line became known for the “stone trains” of limestone being hauled down to the Milburn Cement works at Burnside (Dunedin), which constituted the entire traffic of the branch in later years. After the Clyde Dam was completed in the mid 1980s, the output of the cement works declined significantly and it was closed at the end of 1988. Trains on the branch were suspended at the same time, and formal closure occurred on 1 June 1989.
The Makareao Branch is one of the few branches I have examined to have had substantial bridge structures left after the track was lifted. I photographed many of the bridges between the first crossing of SH 85 and Inch Valley in 1999, when I traced the line in detail. All of the bridges on the line were wooden beamed right up to the time that it closed; unlike many other branches, steel girders never made any appearance on this route. This probably accounts for the exclusive use of DI and DJ locomotives with their light axle loading on the stone trains in the diesel era. Most of the bridges were wooden beams and piers, but some had stone piers. Beyond Inch Valley there appear to be no bridge remnants on either line; the first bridge up to Makareao, the lengthy crossing of the Shag River, stood for several years after closure but was demolished in the mid 1990s; the second much smaller bridge appears to be gone as well. On the upper Dunback route, what bridge sites you can find are just abutments, including a small bridge or culvert in the Dunback yard. With the passage of time, it is of course likely that most of the bridge remains will disappear.

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Beginning at Palmerston railway station, you should drive north on SH1 for about 400 metres to the intersection of Stour Street, which crosses the highway on a north-south alignment. The branch line left the MSL about 50 metres before this intersection and curved around to cross SH1 on the far side of the road and then follow its eastern side. A slight embankment hump can be seen alongside the road approaching East Otago High School. At the school entrance is an old semaphore railway signal, resited, which may have been the old home signal for the branch, which if there was one, would have been close by. The embankment becomes very prominent after Brough Street and the first bridge is located near the road bridge a few hundred metres further on, which in April 2010 still had the beams in place, well hidden in the trees. The line continued straight along Stour St and crossed Factory Road, whereafter it curved around westward and crossed a second bridge which appears to have been removed (no public access). You should turn left and drive along Burraness Street towards SH85 and turn right. The road takes a slight left hand bend after about 300 metres and the railway converged from the right, about 100 metres away in this view of the vicinity of a small bridge, which was still in place in December 2007. After another 300 metres the railway crossed SH85 at a small angle and then curved to run along the left hand side. Both approaches are currently used as farm tracks. Hughes Road intersects on the left 100 metres further on, just beyond which the No.4 bridge can be seen, largely intact. 400 metres further on. Bridge No.5 can be seen opposite Switchback road. If you drive down Switchback Road you may see on the left the possible site of a ballast pit just before crossing the river, which was in use for gravel extraction in 2007. The first part of the Dunback Branch was originally built to access ballast reserves alongside the river in this vicinity, which would have required connecting sidings, the routes of which have not been determined.
Continuing north-west on SH85, the railway route is diverging from the highway at this location and the next bridge site is hidden behind a house, the route then closes into the road as the valley narrows. As the road veers right the railway was right alongside on the left, following a line of greenery. The stockyards 200 metres further on are at the site of Meadowbank, the first station after Palmerston; the railway formation is the dirt track in the foreground. About 500 metres past Meadowbank, the remains of No.7 Bridge can be seen to the left. The river this crossed could have been another possible ballast source; there is a hypothetical pit site about 100 metres away on the east side of the highway. Road and rail continue to run close alongside up past the intersection of Munro Road and McElwee Road, with a crossing fence still visible on the latter. About 250 metres further on, you come to the site of Bridge No.8, well hidden in the weeds. The formation is now clearly just behind the fence as you continue north-east on Highway 85. A side road at a slight angle on the right leads to a site that possibly could have been a ballast pit. Just before a left hand curve in the road, you pass the site of Glenpark station, followed closely by the site of No.9 Bridge, which still has the beams and a centre pier in place. The hills close in fairly quickly after this point and the road and rail stay close together, the latter becoming a farm track hemmed in behind a fence as the routes pass through a spectacular limestone formation. About 500 metres further on you pass the intersection of Craig Road on the right, the rail rises above the road and a solid stone culvert can be seen under it. Further limestone formations are seen just beyond the railway here, along with further cuttings becoming more necessary as the hills close in. About 300 metres after the intersection of Blair Athol Road on the left, the road crosses the signposted Downlands Creek, with the old railway bridge No.10, now decked over for farm access, clearly visible on the left. As the road exits the S bend you are now approaching the site of Inch Valley Junction, 500 metres further on. As you approach the southern end of the station there appears to be another stone culvert passing under the formation. Inch Valley is denoted by a widening of the formation, there otherwise being little to see here with most of the remnants that could be seen ten years ago having disappeared, such as the loading bank that used to be present here. In NZR days, Inch Valley had a siding connected to it which led to a ballast pit, and this was probably the large gravel pits behind the poplars directly opposite the station in the river bed, although I haven’t confirmed this.
As you leave Inch Valley on SH85, the road takes a left hand bend. The railway passes through a small cutting along the side of the hill, and then just as the road begins to curve, the branch to Makareao curved away to the right, crossing the highway and heading for the river. On the left, the line continued on towards Dunback. As the highway approaches a 90 degree curve, the railway veers further left, the embankment clearly visible as it curves to follow the road. As the valley narrows, the formation rises above the level of the road and then, as the road begins a sharp curve to the right, the railway route enters a rock cutting. At the inside of this curve, the line emerges onto solid stone retaining walls right alongside the road (2). Road and rail both pass through further rock outcrops and then the rail route becomes an embankment again on a right hand curve. As the road straightens, the formation continues to curve round to a crossing over the road, just before this you may see what appears to be an old crossing gate opposite a signposted rest area. About 600 metres past the SH85 crossing you may be able to see bridge remains in the riverbed next to a highway culvert; aside from this there is very little trace of the railway on the north side of the highway. At a long right hand curve on the road you can see the old road on the left, and I recommend you make a stop to view a solid stone arched single lane bridge that used to be part of the highway. You may also find rail bridge remains on the opposite side of the highway.  As you pass the intersection of Domain Road on the right, the rail formation becomes distinctly visible again on the right side of the road and is now seen clearly for the last 500 metres into Dunback. As you approach the station you can see a loading bank in the yard along with a railway house next to the road. You may be able to spot a bridge abutment just past the house. Continuing past what appears to be the local war memorial on the left, make a right turn into Murphy Road to view the end of the rail yard including stockyards and another loading bank.
Now retrace your steps, heading back east on SH85. After about 700 metres, take the left hand turn into Domain Road, crossing over the Shag River. 300 metres further on, turn right into Grange Hill Road, then 350 metres further take a left hand turn into Limekiln Road. After another 2.7 km the road crosses a small bridge over a gravel riverbed and then turns sharply left, bringing you directly alongside the Makareao Branch formation on your right. As the road approaches the limeworks, the formation is incorporated into the road. There are substantial historic remnants of the limeworks at this site, but it is on private land. As you return back down Limekiln road, you should be able to see the formation separate as it drops down a steep 1 in 35 gradient. The grade from Inch Valley was relentless between the first bridge and the limeworks, apart from a short level stretch for the second bridge. As you reach the road bridge, you may care to walk 500 metres down the stream bed to reach the site of the second rail bridge, although there appears to be little to see today. When you reach the intersection of Grange Hill Road, turn left this time and head down the Shag River valley on the opposite side from the highway and Dunback Branch. After about 800 metres go right to cross the Shag River (the straight ahead route is a dead end that heads into a gravel pit). After the right turn, turn left back onto Highway 85. Now drive about 500 metres towards Palmerston and take a left hand turn into McLew Road to cross over the Makareao Branch formation after 150 metres. Continue on the road to make a left hand turn onto a farm access road just after the bridge and drive about 300 metres to the east abutment of the 15-span Bridge No.1, of which only the abutments remain. On the near side (the road has been cut through the embankment) you can see the line disappearing up the grade towards Makareao as it approaches a pair of cuttings.