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.