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.