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.