Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fonterra’s North Taieri Sidings

In recent years the NZ major dairy company Fonterra has become a major rail customer and are building up their extent of rail traffic as they construct new facilities which have rail sidings in them. One of the recent developments in 2010 is a new facility on Taieri Industrial Estate at North Taieri near Wingatui. It is served by the Taieri Industrial Line, which is the first 3.5 km of the former Otago Central Railway from Wingatui on the Main South Line. The siding begins at about 2.5 km, just north-west of the Silver Stream Bridge, where it branches from the TIL. The northern end of the siding ends in a backshunt at the Dukes Road North level crossing.

The Taieri Industrial Estate has been developed over many years and is adjacent to and incorporating part of the Taieri Aerodrome site. The airfield was first developed in the 1920s and the first rail sidings were completed in 1943 when the Royal New Zealand Air Force established its station at the aerodrome. The main airport at Dunedin was developed at Momona, further south, in 1962 resulting in a downgrade of the airfield which now serves light aircraft and also houses the local rescue helicopter service. The Taieri Aerodrome sidings were used regularly until 1958 for passenger trains and freight which included aviation fuel deliveries. The industrial estate has been served for a number of years by the former aerodrome sidings which were re-opened for service in 1978. The major occupier at North Taieri in recent years has been Fisher and Paykel, which purchased it in 1986, who have at some stage used the siding to rail in raw materials such as steel. In 2008 F&P announced that the manufacturing plant would be closed down and moved to Mexico.

Immediately to the west of the Fonterra site is the former Silver Fern Farms (PPCS) Silverstream plant now owned by Scales Group, while on the southern boundary beside the original railway siding is the premises of Odlins, who at some time used it to rail in logs. The Silver Fern Farms site was originally developed by Fortex as a freezing works in 1990. It was sold to PPCS in 1994. In 2008 SFF sold it to Scales Group, the owner of Polarcold. SFF continue to lease part of the site for meat processing while Polarcold have taken over operation of the coolstores there. In the days of Fortex they used the rail siding to send out export containers of meat. The private Otago Business Park is being developed on the north side of Dukes Road North opposite Polarcold/SFF and is likely to incorporate several of Fonterra’s suppliers which are finding it convenient to relocate adjacently. In recent years there has been extensive residential development along the south boundary of the Taieri Estate/Aerodrome (Silver Stream) towards Mosgiel and this is ongoing with the Silver Springs subdivision in Wingatui Road.

In October 2008 F&P and Fonterra announced that they had reached agreement on the sale of the North Taieri factory complex, including the rail siding and an adjacent undeveloped site. Fisher and Paykel completed the closure of its facilities at North Taieri in March 2009, continuing to lease the site for another four months. Fonterra was compelled to relocate to this site when their premises at Awatea Street, Dunedin, were required to make way for the city stadium development.

The rail sidings have been developed in recent months and incorporate a siding alongside the main line in Stedmans Road up to Dukes Road North and two new spurs crossing Stedmans Road along the northern boundary of the site. The original rail siding remains at the south boundary and may be extended to service a container yard development, and further extensions to the factory buildings are also planned. It is expected that the first stage of development will require four shunts per day from the Edendale dairy factory in Southland. These services will be fitted around the Taieri Gorge Railway’s usage of the Taieri Industrial Line, which has a junction with the TGR at the 3.5 km peg just north of the Dukes Road North level crossing, and will result in a significant increase in industrial rail traffic on the Main South Line and associated routes around Dunedin. The sidings came into operation in October 2010 with the first shunt service taking several containers of milk powder to Port Chalmers for export loading. Fonterra has suggested further development of the area as an “inland port” which will act as a container transport hub for Port Chalmers.

View Larger Map

The map shows the general area with some of the past and present development. The red line running north-south at a slight angle is the Taieri Industrial Line which used to be the Otago Central Railway. Towards the north edge of the map the lower of two green arrows shows the junction of the Taieri Gorge Railway which continues as the purple line to Middlemarch.  The upper green arrow is where the original junction of the two lines was planned in 1990. The white circle next to it is the location of the Taieri Gorge Railway’s North Taieri station. Just north of Dukes Road North the white star and green line indicate the approximate location and route of the former Taieri Ballast Pit siding which was opened in 1886 and used to construct the line as far as Pukerangi. Continuing south across Dukes Road and coming alongside the Fonterra complex another white circle indicates the original Taieri Aerodrome siding. The white square further south indicates the location of the Silver Stream Rail Bridge, which in the time of the Otago Central Railway was numbered as Bridge No.1 and is 65 metres long and 3 metres high.

Turning our attention now to the complex and associated developments we can see the three sidings coming off the Taieri Industrial Line and crossing Stedman Road. A single ended siding has been laid alongside the Taieri Industrial Line next to Stedman Road and the three siding spurs are connected to it (blue lines). The original aerodrome siding is at the south end of the site and it has a spur still in place which curves around to run between the Silver Fern Farms/Polarcold site and Fonterra’s site, while two new sidings run into the Fonterra premises at the north end. The adjacent green lines show hypothesised siding sites which are based on aerial examination of ground features. Whilst Fortex used the siding shown in white alongside their plant, it is purely speculative to show a green line suggesting there might have been further sidings inside the plant boundaries or into what may been a loading shelter. A white i on the north side of Dukes Road North shows where the Otago Business Park is sited. In the south western corner of the map we can see recent and ongoing residential development of the area with a white i indicating the Silver Springs subdivision.

The map is incomplete as regards the actual degree of railway development at North Taieri until such time as either a detailed site plan is available or Google Earth coverage is updated.


HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES / RESEARCH TOPICS: Who owned the North Taieri complex before Fisher and Paykel? Possible candidates could include defunct whiteware manufacturers Shacklock and Champion. However this is pure speculation on my part and I have no evidence whatsover to date to confirm this hypothesis.