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.

View Larger Map
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.