Thursday, 15 April 2010

Remnants of the Ngatapa Branch Today

Well, here is my second article about the Ngatapa Branch this week. I hope that at times a number of the branch lines which we know about from new Google Earth discoveries will be documented in articles on this blog. The only substantive body of work that we have on branch line remnants is Leitch and Scott, and that is more than 10 years old, and it was written without the benefit of the availability of Virtual Globes like Google Earth. Thus there is scope for a lot more to be written about ghost railways, especially when it seems that with the authors retiring, we may never see another book like L & S.
This map below shows the whole line from start to finish.

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That other line going out of the map at top right is the Moutohora Branch. These two branch lines were intended to both be the main line north and south of Gisborne (out of the frame at bottom right), which was to be an intermediate station between Napier and Tauranga. As it transpired, neither route was completed and both were later closed; since 1943 Gisborne has been the northern terminus of the Palmerston North Gisborne Line.
The key points which you can see on the map today are as follows:
  • Makaraka Junction. From here the line ran due west to the Waipaoa River. Almost all of this part of the route is followed by a line of power poles.
  • Piers of the Waipaoa River bridge. Just before the bridge the line turns towards the north. From the west side of the bridge to a point 7 km further on, the route is impossible to confirm from above. It is rather likely with the history of the Waipaoa River that part of the bridge approaches or pier remains have been washed away or damaged. In time the remaining parts could be buried in silt. There is no public  access to the bridge site unless you walk upstream in the river from the nearest road bridge. The nearest public road is 500 metres away with the SH2 bridge being 1.5 km downstream,.
  • A possible site for the Repongaere station may exist at the end of the green line shown on the map. There is a building at this location but any railway connection is unconfirmed. It is believed that the railway followed the foot of the hills west of this location as it headed inland to Ngatapa. At odd locations some formation work can still be seen. Repongaere was the site of a quarry and the location of one that may have been connected to the railway by a tramway can be seen here. Hills Road parallel to Wharekopae Road may be on the former railway route.
  • A bridge or bridge remains further west may be part of the rail route but has not been confirmed as such. Another bridge close by also is worthy of further investigation.
  • At Ngatapa the remaining building on site is the goods shed.
Referring to the closeup of the Waikura section below:

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  • The route parallels Totangi Road for about 2 km before crossing it at the horseshoe curve at the very top of this map.
  • A substantial embankment still exists at the next horseshoe a km or so further on.
  • The route then parallels Turnbull Road for most of its length before turning to run alongside Wharekopae Road.
  • The last part of the aqua line shown above, immediately above and left of the word “Ngatapa”  is what appears to be “complete” or “continuous” as far as formation goes. Beyond this location, the green line indicates that discontinuous works exist, making it difficult to confirm the route that the railway would have followed at these locations. The possible tunnel locations etc have been further described in the preceding article.
Finally in order to complete this article we do need to have a look at the section of line at Frasertown, just outside Wairoa.

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The NZRTA4 suggests only 1.6 km was completed, this brings the line up alongside the airport runway for a short distance. There is some suggestion that there might be embankment there. That is really the only trace that can be seen on Google at all.