Saturday, 28 August 2010

Oxford Branch Map Updated

Yesterday since I was at Cust, I had a look at Google Earth coverage and noted that it has now been considerably improved, the Spot footage being replaced with Geoeye dating from last December. The much higher resolution led directly to me revising the Oxford Branch map.

The major change to this map is shown below with the revision of possible locations for the Oxford-Sheffield section.

View Larger Map

The Quail Atlas was used as a guide for this task. The need to revise the map came about from the realisation that the line coming north off the Waimakariri Gorge bridge faced a major obstacle in the form of a river terrace that needed to be surmounted. My earlier map design put the railway into a position that was impossible to achieve since it would have faced a sharp change in height to get over the terrace. Thus it was logical to conclude that the route was taken over by the highway for a much longer distance than I had previously thought: as far as the approximate location of the Bexley station that can be seen above. Previously I had thought that the route of the railway was most likely alongside the next road to the east. This road called Watsons Reserve Road has a reserve alongside it, which shows up on maps, and which can be mistaken for the old railway reserve, but I am guessing that there was probably not any relation in fact. It is of course rather difficult to be sure of the exact route of the line that closed such a long time ago, some 80 years in all.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Waiau Branch Railway album on Picasa

As alluded to in a previous post, I have been busy today creating a single Picasa web album for all my Waiau Branch photos. This of course includes all Weka Pass Railway photos. At the moment the album is just over 400 photos, all of which have been geotagged. The next step is to remove duplicates (the same photo with two different names) and after that to caption every photo. Once those tasks are complete the album will be ready to share – whether directly with people, or through inserting photos or maps into postings on this blog. As already alluded to the earlier series of posts relating to the WBR / WPR will be altered to use the photos from the album instead of duplicating with the pictures being put into Blogger’s album.

This is quite a big step and is roughly comparable to putting together my big Otago Central album about a year ago, although there is a big difference in that the OCR album has got many older pictures rescanned at a larger size (up to 1600 pixels), whereas all the Waiau pictures are without rescanning. I don’t intend to rescan anything for the Waiau album at this time as it is quite a major job, and the pictures which were captured off video can’t be made bigger anyway. The Waiau album includes a small number of scans from other sources, video capture images from the videos I made of the 1999 and 2001 Waipara Vintage festivals, lots of photos and a small number of slides that I took at various times.

UPDATE: Some of the photos will be rescanned at a later date to get them into Panoramio (minimum 500 x 500)

UPDATE 2 - 21/8: The album now has 373 pictures in it. I expect this could drop to around 350 as there are still some duplicates that haven’t been weeded out yet. Over the past week I have managed to caption 250 of the pictures.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Waiau Branch Railway album on Picasa

As alluded to in a previous post, I have been busy today creating a single Picasa web album for all my Waiau Branch photos. This of course includes all Weka Pass Railway photos. At the moment the album is just over 400 photos, all of which have been geotagged. The next step is to remove duplicates (the same photo with two different names) and after that to caption every photo. Once those tasks are complete the album will be ready to share – whether directly with people, or through inserting photos or maps into postings on this blog. As already alluded to the earlier series of posts relating to the WBR / WPR will be altered to use the photos from the album instead of duplicating with the pictures being put into Blogger’s album.

This is quite a big step and is roughly comparable to putting together my big Otago Central album about a year ago, although there is a big difference in that the OCR album has got many older pictures rescanned at a larger size (up to 1600 pixels), whereas all the Waiau pictures are without rescanning. I don’t intend to rescan anything for the Waiau album at this time as it is quite a major job, and the pictures which were captured off video can’t be made bigger anyway. The Waiau album includes a small number of scans from other sources, video capture images from the videos I made of the 1999 and 2001 Waipara Vintage festivals, lots of photos and a small number of slides that I took at various times.

UPDATE: Some of the photos will be rescanned at a later date to get them into Panoramio (minimum 500 x 500)

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4I


This road gave access to loading banks and the goods shed at the north side of the yard. 1986

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4H


The goods shed in 1986 with one of the old railway houses visible left background. The shed was removed the following year.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4G


The Waikari yard from the west end in 1986.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4F


Heading west out of Waikari in 1986. The track at left is the limeworks siding, part of which was left in place after the line closed. In the background is Singleton Street crossing.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4E


1986 view of the main line heading west out of Waikari, with a trolley stand and some foundations. Today this is a public walkway.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4D


1986 view of the main line looking up the line towards Waikari. There was a small cutting here as the line ascended a short sharp grade of 1 in 100. At the left is the limeworks building which had its own siding.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4C


The Waikari station platform with the goods shed to the right in 1986.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4B


The Waikari station building and platform in the 1960s. The white post was probably for a tablet exchanger as Tyers Electric Train Tablet was in use until 1971. The building is looking a little the worse for wear and was officially assessed in 1975 to be "beyond repair". It was sold in 1983 to a Christchurch resident for a nominal sum and removed. Photo by Paul Markholm

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4B


This 1986 shot shows the weighbridge at the Waikari flour mill.

Waiau Branch : Waikari - 4A


White’s Aviation aerial photo of the 1960s.

Waiau Branch : Part 4 - Waikari

Waikari is the first station up the branch. The route from Waipara traverses the Weka Pass, climbing for 12 km on gradients as steep as 1 in 47 with curves as sharp as 7 1/2 chains radius, and then dropping for another 2.5 km down into Waikari on grades of 1 in 80 to 1 in 100.  Because of these severe grades, in steam days, trains were banked over the "hill" in either direction, there being a locomotive stabled at the Waikari engine depot for this purpose. Trains from Waipara were banked right through to Waikari; for trains heading in the opposite direction, during the operation of the tablet system, the bank-engine key was used to help lift the train up to the summit after which the bank locomotive returned to Waikari. This system became unnecessary on dieselisation because two locomotives could be coupled together and operated by one crew. The bank-engine key from Waikari is now held in the collection of the Ferrymead Railway.

Waikari also had a flour mill and lime works, served by private sidings; the former building is now a private residence. The station building was sold by tender in 1983 to a Christchurch resident and was removed early that year. In 1983 the Weka Pass Railway purchased the entire track from Waipara to the Hurunui River and the goods shed was removed in 1987. All remaining track in the yard was removed mid-1991. Today the site remains as open land, possibly for public recreation, although several years ago a medical centre was developed on some of the former housing land. A couple of houses are on the old site, but it is not known if they are the original railway houses. The station platform remains, along with the old turntable pit, and the former flour mill and limeworks buildings. 


The station plan as published in the NZ Model Railway Journal some years ago.


The gradient diagram for the section of track covered by the photographs which will be posted in subsequent posts in this series.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3V


A Colin Duthie shot of the “last train” running through the Weka Pass on 15 January 1978. However trains continued to run on the line for several more months after this.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3U


Origin of this photo is unclear but it is thought to have been published in the Frog Rock Times. An almost completed embankment above the concrete culvert that took Archer’s Stream underneath.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3T


Taken at the old viaduct site, we see the culvert as it passes under the road, and the climb in the road level up to the site of the former level crossing. The railway track was on a level grade at this location. Photo taken 1991.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3S


Herberts Crossing is just north of the old viaduct site and this view would have looked directly onto it before 1936. The height of the embankment on the road side is considerably less than on the right side. As the road climbs to the level of the track around the curve to the left, the grade was evidently eased by building the new road at a somewhat higher level. This photo was taken in 1991, at which time trains were not operating on this section of track.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3R


Road formation alongside the viaduct site. The road crossed the railway behind the photographer then descended to the bridge site among the trees and then curved sharply to the right to pass under the viaduct.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3Q


This concrete culvert was built in 1936 to take Archers Stream under the viaduct so that the embankment could be built to replace it. The way in which the viaduct was filled in in its latter stages by trains was a similar system to that used by the Public Works Department to build railways around the countryside before the availability of modern road machinery.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3P


This is the site of the old bridge that crossed Archers Stream alongside the viaduct. Road formation is still visible from alongside the track.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3O


The old viaduct at 10.5 km in 1936 during filling in work. Horses and drays were used to move spoil to form an embankment that steadily crept up beneath the viaduct and eventually enclosed its piers and footings. The superstructure was removed in order to complete the filling in job which was finished the following year.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3N


Not long after lifting the track, August 1990, here is a view of the trackbed between The Corner and Princess St, Waikari.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3M


A 1990 photo of track recovery by Weka Pass Railway members on the line between The Corner and Waikari station.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3L


Recovering track near Waikari, this photo was taken in 1990 and published in the Frog Rock Times.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3K


Just downhill from the Waikari SH7 crossing approaching Waikari in 1986. Due to the track circuiting required by the automatic crossing alarms, the track was joined with insulating wooden fishplates, one of which was broken, probably due to a heavy machine being driven across the abandoned line.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3J


Waikari (The Corner), the end of the line approaching the road crossing. The track at left was removed from the crossing. Looking west in 1985, this area is now the terminus of the Weka Pass Railway.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3I


Looking east from the west side of the Waikari SH7 road crossing in 1986. The crossing was removed in road improvement works in 1980. The small shed to the left housed the equipment for the automatic level crossing alarms.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3H


A train crossing the road at Waikari (The Corner) heading for Waipara. Photo published in the Frog Rock Times.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3G


Terminus of the Weke Pass Railway at Waikari (The Corner), 1999. The roadway at left is the original formation, which can be seen continuing on towards Waikari township in the background as a walkway. As the original route is on a 10 chain curve the Weka Pass Railway eased the curve at this location for the relaying of their line.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3F


Terminus of the Weka Pass Railway at The Corner, Waikari.

Waiau Branch : Weka Pass - 3E


The area of the highway crossing at Waikari (“The Corner”) in 1988 following the removal of track and the filling in of the cutting. This area is now the terminus of the Weka Pass Railway.

Waiau Branch : 3D


This is a view of the cutting at Waikari road crossing after the removal of track to allow road fill to be placed in 1988. This was a beginning towards the work that was needed to start forming the terminus, however significant other formation works were needed before the line was reopened in 1999.

Otago Central Railway : 2A


The NZRLS Convention excursion of October 1987 crossing the Flat Stream Viaduct in the Taieri Gorge, October 1987. Located 36 km from Wingatui, the viaduct is NZR Bridge No. 17 and is 121 metres long and 34 metres high.

The Otago Central Railway – 2 : Wingatui to Middlemarch

The first section of the line, construction began in 1879. It was opened to Middlemarch in 1891. This section incorporates the spectacular Taieri Gorge which contains 18 bridges and 10 tunnels in 35 km of track. There is a major summit at Salisbury at the entrance to the gorge and another at Pukerangi at the gorge exit.

Kilometrage: 0.00 to 66.95 (for the purposes of this page; Middlemarch station is at 64 km)

Gradients: The line is at altitude 34 metres at Wingatui dropping to 28 metres at Taieri Industrial Estate. It then climbs to the first of five summits at Salisbury (148 metres), dropping again to 54 metres at Parera and then climbing to a second summit of 250 metres at Pukerangi. Middlemarch is at 201 metres. The major inclinations are either side of Salisbury being 1 in 50 in both directions.

Bridges: There are 19 major bridges in this section ranging from the 16 metre Notches structures in the Taieri Gorge to the 197 metre Wingatui Viaduct, which is also the highest at 47 metres. Total length of these bridges is 1020 metres. One road and rail bridge exists from the original NZR line at Sutton Stream. The TGRL has also converted a rail bridge in the Gorge for use by road and rail traffic.

Tunnels: There are 10 tunnels in this section, ranging from the 55 metre Machine Creek to the 437 metre Salisbury. All of these are in the Taieri Gorge. Total length of these is 1491 metres.

Stations: There are 29 identified locations in this section. These include stations, sidings, service locations and proposed locations for the above, that were never actually developed. Some locations in the Taieri Gorge historically had limited or no road access. The geography of the gorge was a challenge in the provision of station facilities particularly crossing loops. Some facilities have been reinstated by the Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd. Middlemarch is the major population centre and is where the TGL ends and the rail trail begins. The station and environs at Middlemarch have been restored.

Current Status: The line is owned between Taieri and Middlemarch by the Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd and is in regular use. The Central Otago Rail Trail begins at the end of the line.

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Waiau Branch : 3C


The two bridges that are on the Weka Pass Railway are both near Waikari (if you exclude the buried viaduct a little further down the line). In this view looking towards Waikari we can see the Archers Stream bridge No.1 and the overbridge No.2. At the time this photo was taken, around 1988, the line had been closed for some months due to poor track conditions. It was eventually reopened in 1999.

Dunback & Makareao Branches : 1B


The OETT excursion to Makareao of January 1988 is here crossing State Highway 1 just north of the station as it turns inland onto the branch. In the distance you can see the DJ locomotive with just the far side of it, the boiler chimney of East Otago High School. These days, an old semaphore signal is located alongside the school entrance, but I do not know if it was the branch home signal or came from elsewhere.

Ballast Pits on the Waiau Branch

In the course of putting together recent articles concerning the Waiau Branch and in drawing up the maps previously for the NZ Rail Maps site I have become aware of the locations of various ballast pits in the area, most notably because of Google Earth coverage as well as Google Maps and NZTM maps showing property boundaries. This knowledge has also been checked against information contained in “The Great Northern” which is the published history reference of the branch line. It would appear that all known or possible locations identified to date were between Hawarden and Waiau.

In TGN some of the ballast pit locations are described as being a certain mileage in reference to the known location of stations. To clarify this, the table below shows the information which was published in the book having been obtained from various Working Timetables. This is compared with the Curve and Gradient diagrams shown on the NZ Rail Maps site which were published in the mid 1960s.

Station Name TGN C & G Diagram
Amberley 33 m 40 ch (33.5 m)  
Waipara 40 m 36 ch (40.5 m)  
Waikari 49 m 43 ch (49.5 m)
9 m 7 ch (9.1 m)

9.0 m
Hawarden 53 m 20 ch (53.25 m)
12 m 63 ch (12.75 m)

12.75 m
Medbury 57 m 3 ch (57.0 m)
16 m 47 ch (16.5 m)

16.5 m
Balmoral 61 m 78 ch (62 m)
21 m 43 ch (21.5 m)

21.4 m
Pahau 65 m 69 ch (65.85 m)
25 m 33 ch (25.4 m)

25.3 m
Culverden 68 m 75 ch (69 m)
28 m 40 ch (28.5 m)

28.4 m
Achray 74 m 14 ch (74.2 m)
33 m 59 ch (33.75 m)

33.6 m
Rotherham 76 m 2 ch (76 m)
35 m 47 ch (35.5 m)

35.5 m
Waiau 81 m 61 ch (81.75 m)
41 m 25 ch (41.3 m)

41.2 m

It would appear that the distances from Christchurch have not changed greatly but I have not attempted to check if they have since the remeasurement of the line in more recent years. There are probably some changes in distance resulting from the three significant deviations in the line between Christchurch and Waipara (Kainga, Ashley and Balcairn) but I do not believe these would be significant.

The main issue found with the locations at TGN is simply that there appear to have been two other locations in the Medbury area that could have been used as ballast pits, or if not, other kinds of pits, if we assume that their location directly alongside the railway track was not coincidental. Google Earth helps us to find these locations these days.

Let us now consider the possible locations as they occur going along the line. First up we have the statement on TGN page 185 relating to two known pits in the Medbury area. Firstly that at “55 miles 22 chains 77 links, some 1 miles 60 chains south of the station”. This location is shown in the map below.

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As there is not much in the way of visual clues, all we have to go on as of now is the map view which shows us there was a widening of the property boundaries in this area. This might have allowed for a siding or loop directly alongside the track at this point although the book states that two sidings existed.

Going further north we have the location shown directly adjacent to Gilberts Road crossing, about a mile further on. If it had not been for the actual mileage being given for the first pit I would have suspected a measurement error. I have seen this area and it is clearly lower than the surrounding land in a way that suggests excavation. The regular boundary along the eastern side tends to suggest this is a man made division that would have supported a siding spreading out from south facing points at the south end.

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As we continue north we find this location just on the north end of the Waitohi River bridge.

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What you can see on the left of the railway embankment is old river terrace. The location to the right which is suggested as a possible ballast pit is on a separate land title. Again the triangular shape suggests that a siding could have run along this boundary with the north facing points at the north end.

Carrying on into the Medbury station yard we have the well known pit quite visible, this was used for road gravel or similar in the 1980s when I first went to Medbury. After the Weka Pass Railway lifted the tracks in the yard, the pit was extended through the former station site. However this site is now closed.

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However the description suggests the siding points were half a mile further on which is a considerable distance. It does seem unlikely to me that there were two pits very close together, but obviously it could be possible.

Moving north we have the knowlege of the “Balmoral ballast pit”. The first possible candidate is shown below:

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In the main, this location is to support the description given in TGN p.190 but no corroboration has yet been found.

The second location is shown below:

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Evidence to  support this location is found on the curve and gradient diagrams which show a “ballast siding” 1 mile south of Pahau, and on maps which show that the rectangular land area is on a separate title. The large rectangular area obviously is able to be visually identified as matching the description of a pit as well.

The next location that can be determined with any certainty is just at the north end of Culverden yard and is shown on diagrams of the area and as below.

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The pit at this location is shown on TGN page 194 and briefly referenced there and on TGN page 41 but without substantive description other than that it closed in 1959. I presume that other locations such as Glasnevin south of Waipara, must have been used to supply further ballast needs since it appears all the ballast pits on the Waiau Branch were closed by 1959. There is a specific Railways file found by searching Archway that references the adjacent Culverden school (which can be seen next to the pit site) as well.

Continuing north from Culverden we have this undocumented location about 2 km south of Achray:

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The depressed area is on a separate title from the rest of the area. It is of course hypothetical without corroboration.

Finally there is the reference in TGN p214 to a ballast pit at Waiau. The most likely location for this seems to be the gravel pit clearly visible on aerials, as seen below.

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The general area is currently a rubbish transfer station, and prior to that may have been an actual landfill for the area. The process of local government reorganisation starting in 1989 resulted in most municipal landfills in Canterbury closing and if there was one here it likely closed in the 1990s.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Dunback & Makareao Branches : 1A


The OETT excursion of January 1988 to Makareao is seen here at Palmerston about to depart for Makareao. The station building was on the other side of the line at this location. As the junction points were just north of the station the train would have run only a hundred metres or so before turning to the left to cross State Highway 1. Palmerston at this time was little used apart from storing stone train wagons between trips up the hill to the limeworks; these days the yard is full of traffic from Reefton, where gold ore is loaded to be transported to the Macraes mine inland from Palmerston for extraction.

Waiau Branch : 3A


This photo was published in the “Frog Rock Times” a few years ago and shows a 1960s view of the old viaduct site as DJ 1202 hauls a freight train with AB 753, up the Pass, coming off the curve. It is possible to walk down into the trees and find the abutments of the small bridge where the road once crossed the stream.

Main South Line (going to Otago Central)


This feeder train was operated from Christchurch to Dunedin for the 1987 NZRLS convention. It is here seen exiting the No.4 Tunnel on the South Island Main Trunk Main South Line near Dunedin.

Main South Line (going to Otago Central Railway)


In 1987 the NZ Railway and Locomotive Society held its annual convention in Central Otago and hired the OETT to provide carriages for a train trip from Dunedin to Clyde and return. The outgoing train is here seen here approaching the Wingatui Tunnel (note the slide edge has been torn as seen at left). The locomotive DE 1412 was retired from NZR service about this time, and sold a short time later to the Diesel Traction Group who have preserved it at the Ferrymead Railway in Christchurch.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Otago Central Railway – 1 : Intro

Much of the article was originally written some ten years ago and is largely unaltered and has not been revised or rechecked, although some photos are of very recent origin.

Brief History

The Otago Central Railway was one of the longest and most fascinating inland branch lines in New Zealand. When completed in 1921, 236 km of track had been constructed in 42 years, an average of only 5.6 km per year. Within that length were 97 bridges and 13 tunnels, also five major summits, the highest at 618 metres above sea level being 590 metres above the lowest point near the junction. The traverse of the Taieri Gorge in the first 45 km of the line alone required 19 bridges and 10 tunnels.

As the line never served any major settlements, its largest centres being the towns of Middlemarch, Ranfurly and Alexandra, its future fell into doubt in the middle years of the 20th century. However like some other branches the line got a late term reprieve for a major construction project, in this case the Clyde hydro-electric dam, which began in the late 1970s. This saw the section from Clyde to Cromwell closed with a new terminus at Clyde geared around the requirements of the dam project.

From its inception in 1978, the Otago Excursion Train Trust, of Dunedin, ran regular excursions on the line, particularly in the Taieri Gorge, and the Blossom Festival trips to Alexandra became a regular annual feature. From 1987 the OETT began the operation of a daily passenger excursion to Pukerangi, the Taieri Gorge Limited, using its own newly constructed passenger cars with the regular OETT carriage stock.

When it was announced that the line was to close from May 1990, the OETT ran a number of special excursions over the line in its last 12 months. These included a "Photographers Special" to Clyde in September 1989, and the April 1990 special with the Diesel Traction Group's DG 772, also to Clyde. Following the closure, the OETT and Dunedin City Council formed a joint venture, the Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd, to buy the track to Middlemarch. Track on the rest of the line was removed over the next couple of years and this section has become the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Features of the Line

The OCR formerly began at Wingatui. The first 4 km of this line remains part of the national rail network and is operated by Toll Rail Ltd as the Taieri Branch to serve local industry. The present day Taieri Gorge Railway begins at the 4 km peg and almost immediately begins a climb to Salisbury (145 metres altitude) at the entrance of the Taieri Gorge passing through the 437 metre Salisbury Tunnel. The exit of the Taieri Gorge is reached at Pukerangi, 45 km from Wingatui, after passing through 10 tunnels (total length 1491 metres) and crossing 19 major bridges (total length 1020 metres). Shortly after Pukerangi the line reaches a summit at 254 metres altitude, the railway then runs across the Taieri Plains to its terminus at Middlemarch, 64 km from Wingatui, passing over a further two major bridges including the Sutton Stream road/rail bridge.

The Otago Central Rail Trail begins at a level crossing just north of Middlemarch. This trail has been developed as a walking / cycling / riding trail on the old formation and is a major tourist attraction in the area. The line from this point gently climbs to Hyde, shortly thereafter reaching the summit at 353 metres and continues through undulating country to reach the major township of Ranfurly. Thereafter a long climb to the highest point on the line, 4 km beyond Wedderburn, is commenced, this being where the line crosses the Rough Ridge mountain range at an altitude of 618 metres. In this section, the line makes 15 major river crossings and passes through one tunnel of 151 metres length.

From the Wedderburn summit the line drops into the Ida Valley and Poolburn Gorge passing through some rugged country, making several major river crossings and passing through two more tunnels totalling 430 metres in length. After Omakau the line climbs slightly to its last summit at 341 metres and then traverses the Tiger Hill, a major descent lasting 12 km, dropping to 160 metres at Galloway. It then passes through easy country to the major township of Alexandra, and thence to Clyde. The line on entering Clyde formerly crossed the main highway to enter the township, whereas from 1980 it was deviated to a new terminus on the outskirts. From Clyde to Cromwell, the railway ran alongside the main road in the Cromwell Gorge. This section was noted for its "sawtooth" gradient profile with many steep but short climbs and descents of up to 1 in 33. This section was the first part of the line to be closed, in 1980, when it was decided to construct the Clyde Dam, as the formation was inundated when the dam filled.


There is only a selection of photos on this blog and for the full range of photos (almost 400 at last count) you should view my Picasa web album for this line.

All of the photos were taken on four occasions that I have visited the line. Twice I was able to travel the full distance to Clyde, the first occasion being an NZRLS Convention excursion as part of their visit to Queenstown over Labour Weekend, October 1987. The NZRLS party left the train at Clyde on the Saturday and returned the following Monday; while the train was in Clyde, a local excursion was run for the public of the area. The NZRLS convention also featured a special overnight passenger train from Christchurch to Dunedin and the use of a DE class locomotive from Dunedin to Wingatui.

The second time I travelled to Clyde was with a party of 16 members and associates of the Ferrymead Railway in Christchurch. We block-booked a group of seats in the OETT's September 1989 "Photographers Special" excursion, which made the maximum use of daylight and a train limited in size to only 200 passengers in order to get as many photostops as possible. This train was a day excursion to Clyde, returning mostly in darkness to Dunedin.

There are also some photos shown of a trip to Middlemarch on the Taieri Gorge Railway in their 1995/96 passenger season. By this time the development of the Otago Central Rail Trail was well underway; it has since fully opened.

The most recent group of photos were taken when I travelled on the Taieri Gorge Limited again in 2009. Some photos just a year or two earlier than this were taken by my parents on their holiday on the Rail Trail. I have not myself travelled beyond Middlemarch since 1989.

The Dunback and Makareao Branches – 1 : Intro

This article is largely unaltered from its original publication in 1999. As I have not visited the area since then, except for a brief visit to Palmerston earlier this year, I am not in a position to be able to verify changes that may have occurred since 1999.

The Dunback Branch was a 15 km line that left the South Island Main Trunk at Palmerston, 51 km south of Oamaru and 63 km north of Dunedin, heading inland and north-west to the small town of Dunback. The line was opened in 1885 as the Waihemo Branch and was renamed later. It was at that time a typical rural branch line but could have gone much further, well into Central Otago, had not the route taken by the present Taieri Gorge Railway been chosen instead.

At Inch Valley, 11 km from Palmerston, a second line known initially as the Inch Valley Railway but later to the NZR as the Makareao Branch, was constructed up a hill to the Makareao Limeworks some 4 km to the north-east, opening in 1900. In later years the "stone trains" as they became known, rakes of highsided 4 wheel wagons carrying limestone to the Burnside Cement Works at Dunedin thrice weekly (earlier permitted to run up to five days per week as required), became the major traffic on this line and the Dunback Branch. The section from Inch Valley to Dunback was closed on 1 January 1968, after which the Palmerston to Inch Valley section became part of the Makareao Branch.

As the Clyde Dam project drew to a close in the late 1980s, the declining cement requirements contributed to the December 1988 closure of the Burnside works, removing the major traffic on the line, which closed the following June. In later years (by 1952 or earlier) the maximum permitted speed on the entire branch was a mere 30 km/h; during 1988 this reduced further to 20 km/h. Some members of the Otago Railway and Locomotive Society and the Pleasant Point Railway made a trolley trip up the line in February 1989, six weeks after the last train was run. The month before the line closed, a major auction of plant and equipment was held by Milburn Cement with one of the three days onsite at Makareao. After Milburn Cement’s owners, Holcim NZ, closed Burnside Cement Works, they reassigned the Makareao limeworks to another subsidiary, Taylor’s Lime, who continue to operate it today to supply industrial needs.

Today the remnants of both lines are still easily traced. A notable feature of this line is that from Palmerston to Inch Valley, most or all of the bridges are still in place, ten years after closure. The line left the SIMT at Palmerston a few hundred metres north of the station, crossing the main road and running through the township, then making its way towards Highway 85. After crossing this road, the formation more or less follows the south side of the road through the Meadowbank and Glenpark station sites, en route crossing several bridges, to reach Inch Valley where rails from a set of points are still present at the far end of the yard. The first bridge after crossing SH85 still has rails and sleepers on it; the rest are bereft but otherwise complete.

From Inch Valley the Dunback Branch continued on the south-west side of the highway as the road took a gentle left-hand bend, passing along some notable stone walling above the highway, and over several stone culverts. It then crossed SH85 again before heading down into the Dunback station yard. Some bridge abutments and cuttings can be seen in this area. Also of some interest between the crossing and Dunback is a stone arched road bridge hidden by trees on the opposite side of the road from the railway formation, where the road was deviated some years ago.

From Inch Valley the Makareao Branch crossed SH85 at the bend referred to above and then crossed McLew Road to be on its western side for the run to the river. It crossed the Shag River on a 15 span wooden bridge. This bridge was demolished by the army in the 1990s as an official exercise. If you drive across the McLew road bridge and then turn left immediately after the bridge onto a farm access road, you come to the site of the bridge, with the embankment continuing on your right up the grade and disappearing through a cutting. From the road, some rails are directly below the near approach and the abutment (made of rails and [apparently] sleepers) on the opposite side of the river is visible.

It appears that at the crossing of this farm track, the hump has been levelled as the embankment is rather higher at this point. It is also very obvious at this point how rural the line really was, even as close to Palmerston and the main trunk line as was the case. The Makareao Branch between Inch Valley and its terminus ran almost literally through the middle of nowhere. There is no major road up to Makareao, only the unsealed Limekiln Road, and the formation of the line passes through otherwise wide open country with no road access to much of the route. Makareao is not a typical station serving population, just an industrial site in a sparsely populated area, in contrast to the rest of the route close to main roads and population centres.

Between the bridge and the limeworks the line climbs steeply at grades of up to 1 in 35 to reach the terminus. The occasional excursion train was run to Makareao in the line's last years and I was a passenger on one such trip run by the Otago Excursion Train Trust in January 1988. Some photos from this trip are included. The line officially closed in June 1989 although the last stone train ran in December 1988.

Details of Route, Curves and Gradients


On the above diagram, numbers in circles are the bridge numbers. Numbers under the grade line are the gradient, the number to be divided into 1 e.g. 330 is a gradient of 1 in 330. The top scale is in miles; the bottom scale in kilometres. The curve diagram shows the curve radius in chains.

The line left Palmerston north of the station with the points facing south. It was on a track that paralleled the main line before turning left to cross State Highway 1 on a 7 1/2 chain curve and then running along the east side of Stour Street to its intersection with Factory Road. After crossing the latter, the route then curves left at 10 chains radius to head towards Highway 85 in a more or less easterly direction. There was an initial short downgrade at 1 in 50 maximum with mostly easy upgrades to Inch Valley. As the highway drops down the hill and takes a left turn, the formation can be seen coming in from the right. After crossing, the first of two 40 chain right hand curves brings the line parallel to the road but some distance out to the left. The second curve just before Meadowbank brings the route right alongside the road.

From Meadowbank to Glenpark the track is almost completely straight except for a 120 chain left hand curve just before the latter station. The road and the railway are then very close together the rest of the way to Inch Valley in which there are a number of curves up to 7 1/2 chains. The Inch Valley ballast siding, on the right hand side of the line, was probably on the opposite side of the road from the station where gravel pits are shown on the map.

Just north of Inch Valley station yard where the road curves to the left, the two lines split with the Makareao Branch going around 90 degrees to the right, immediately crossing Highway 85, followed closely by McLew Road, and heading for the 15 span wooden bridge across the Shag River. After making the crossing it climbed at 1 in 35 to level out at Bridge No.2, then the grade returned to a peak of 1 in 35 for the remaining distance to the terminus, crossing Limekiln Road twice. There were only a few curves on this section, none sharper than 10 chains. The Dunback branch formation continued to hug the left side of SH85 for about 2 km out of Inch Valley, climbing at 1 in 69 for the first 1.2 km and then dropping briefly at 1 in 60 followed by easy upgrades. It ran along the top of stone walling, passing through several cuttings and along high embankments, then it crossed the highway to follow its east side to the terminus. There were a number of curves in this section including several of 7 1/2 chains radius.

Stations and Sidings

Stations and siding facilities etc were as follows (from the NZRLS 1952 South Island Working Timetable reprint). Italics indicate a former facility at an open station. Distances are taken from the NZ Railway and Tramway Atlas and may vary from those printed in working timetables. All orientations are with regard to the direction in which the kilometrage runs. All stations on the branches themselves were unattended flag stations except for Dunback. It is possible that in some cases empty rakes of wagons were propelled up the grade from Inch Valley to Makareao with the locomotives at the rear of the train. The Working Timetable makes provision for such operations as well as allowing trains to be propelled without a guard's van as the last vehicle.


Palmerston (Junction)

0 (314 km from Christchurch) 15 m
  • Loco coaling / watering
  • Train examining
  • Refreshment rooms
  • Officered station
  • Engine shed (disused)
  • Turntable 62 feet (disconnected)
  • Goods shed
  • Station building (disused)
  • Passenger halt for Southerner
  • The turntable was sold to the Feilding and Districts Steam Rail Society and travelled north early in 2002.


4.38 km 19 m  
  • Loop (14 wagons)


7.23 km 27 m
  • Passenger platform (RHS)
  • Goods shed 30x20 feet
  • Loading bank
  • Loop (31 wagons)

Inch Valley

11.35 km 37 m
  • Passenger platform (RHS) - it is probable that the fence between the yard and the road is not on the railway boundary as this would leave little room for a platform.
  • Shelter shed
  • Loading bank (not listed in 1952 Working Timetable)
  • Ballast siding located 100 metres before the station on the right hand side, probably on the opposite side of the road where the map shows gravel pits beside the river (points facing Dunback). Overhead loading stage.
  • Ballast wagon loop (39 wagons)
  • Backshunt in pit (6 wagons)
  • Backshunt in pit (35 wagons)
  • Loop (15 wagons)


15.20 km 52 m
  • Flag station with caretaker
  • Loco watering
  • Passenger platform (LHS)
  • Goods shed 60x30 feet
  • Loading bank
  • Stockyards
  • Loop (19 wagons)
  • Goods shed loop (19 wagons)
  • Water vat loop (17 wagons)
  • West side loop (13 wagons)
  • Cattle yards backshunt (11 wagons)


15.06 km 105 m
  • Lime bins
  • Loop (26 wagons)

Photos in subsequent postings are numbered as series 1 (lower section, from Palmerston to Inch Valley) and series 2 (upper sections above Inch Valley).

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The Waiau Branch – 3B


A Colin Duthie scene of a train passing the well known landmark of Frog Rock. The train passes through a cutting behind Frog Rock which is hewn from solid rock. Frog Rock was the location where the body of a murder victim was found sometime in the early 1980s. The Weka Pass Railway established a small platform there and it has often been used as a stopping place for trains, due to its easy access from the road. The train shown is operated by DJ and DG class locomotives and was the last official train to operate on the line on the day it closed in 1978, although trains continued to operate daily for several months to clear out the contracted logging traffic.

The Waiau Branch – Part 3 : Weka Pass

This article is revised from the original that was published on the Railways of New Zealand website.

The division of the gradient diagram and the locations of photos are purely for the purpose of allocating the coverage of the series of articles and bear no relation to the physical boundaries of the “Weka Pass Railway” organisation. This website is not and does not purport to be any kind of official representation of the Weka Pass Railway Inc.

Since 1983 the Weka Pass section of the Waiau Branch has been the home of the Weka Pass Railway. Just past the summit at 7 miles 22 chains (11.8 km) there is a road overbridge (No. 2) and a small bridge crossing a creek (No. 1). No.2 bridge was in a poor state of repair even in its NZR days and Railways looked at eliminating it in 1982. However it is understood that the Weka Pass Railway is no longer responsible for this bridge. The WPR began operating its own trains in 1984, reaching Waikari Crossing in 1985. However the entire Weka Pass line had to be closed temporarily in 1986 due to damage caused partly by bad weather and accumulation of deferred maintenance from NZR days. The line was re-opened to the 5.5 km peg in April 1987, and in stages after that. In 1988, track was lifted in the Waikari cutting where the formation was in poor condition from slipping, so that the cutting could be filled in and the grade and a yard area levelled. Within a couple of years, however, the formation was in a similar waterlogged condition again and more slips had come down, so that extensive remedial work was needed. This work was necessary due to the fact that the track at Waikari crossed an area of blue papa, a notoriously unstable soil type responsible for many problems in railway construction throughout New Zealand.

At approximately 10 to 10.5 km, a location known today as "Herberts Crossing", there was originally a lengthy curved wooden viaduct, beneath which passed the main road and a small stream. The viaduct was on a level grade and curved on a 12 chain radius, was 266 feet long and 40 feet high. It cost £1994 to build in 1882. In the early to mid 1930s the road was deviated to somewhere near its present location over a new concrete culvert, allowing the viaduct to be filled in, which was begun by a contractor in 1936 and finished by NZR the following year. It is possible to walk down into the trees in this area and find abutments for the small bridge where the road crossed the stream as well as the culvert which carries it under the present railway embankment and road.

It took some 12 years for the Railway to be reopened to Waikari which occurred at the official opening in September 1999.


The gradient diagram pertaining to the section of the line which this page addresses. We can see that in the diagram, the line levels out for a short distance before resuming this climb. This small level piece was the site of the former viaduct, as it has often been observed in New Zealand that many of the larger bridge structures are built on the level. The line then resumes its inexorable climb to reach the summit (VC = Vertical Curve) before beginning the descent into the Waikari station. The present day terminus of the Weka Pass Railway is roughly at the point where the gradient eases from 1 in 80 to 1 in 100, although for WPR purposes the line was built up to ease the gradient to 1 in 200 at the terminus.