Amberley in 1987 was the last station on the MNL before Waipara. It was almost closed by that time with the yards mainly storing track materials.
Amberley’s station building was a relatively new replacement of one that perhaps had burned down – I don’t recall the details. There was a main line going down the yard side of the platform, and a loop going down the opposite side of the platform – technically making it an island platform, though not in the usual sense – where an island platform is used to serve multiple passenger trains on the opposing tracks. I don’t recall if any passenger trains stopped here at the time – although the Coastal Pacific did stop at Papanui and other smaller stations in this section on demand. I used to walk or bus from my home to catch the train at Papanui to Waipara when I was travelling regularly to Weka Pass Railway to work there during this period.
Here we can see the loop and main going down the yard towards the bridge, which was within the home signals. The siding to the left served stockyards, which had a movable ramp that ran on rails of its own set into concrete. A trap points and indicator can be seen to the left.
The bridge is 200 metres long and there must have been wires for the home signals along the side of it. I believe the sign said “Shunt limit” or something like that, but it was still something like halfway across the bridge to that point.
Off the south end of the bridge you have the two home signals. Although there were ground levers at the station platform, these would have been to control the home signals at the north end. There appears to have been a set of ground levers next to the loop to main points just at the north end of the bridge, to control these signals.
The S&I diagram showing Rangiora and Amberley. There were several other stations in between, but they were all closed by this time: Ashley, Sefton, Balcairn, and Grays Road. The diagram probably correlates well with the state of the yard in 1987. As you can see, there were also colour light distant signals outboard of each pair of home signals, which would have been electrical rather than mechanical, therefore the wires, if any, to connect them to the signal panel would have been simpler to arrange than the mechanical cables needed to connect the home signals.
By 1987 Amberley like most of the stations between Addington and Waipara was switched out at weekends, and trains were being crossed only at the extremeties of the tablet section. Between Addington and Waipara a system called “safeall” was used when the stations were switched out. The home signals at each end of the station would be pulled off as these signals were interlocked with the mainline points at each end of the respective yards, thus guaranteeing that the points were safe for trains to proceed. Safeall replaced the tablet system which was still nominally in operation between Addington and Waipara, which I believe was the last use of tablet north or west of Christchurch (except possibly the Otira Tunnel) at the time.
This was a period when Booz Allen had just produced their report for NZR recommending freight terminal rationalisation. Between Addington and Waipara, Belfast Kaiapoi and Rangiora remained open for some level of freight traffic into the 1990s, with other stations closing outright. Track Warrant equipment replaced the semaphore signalling and tablet in the section in 1989 but was not actually commissioned for another few years. With the further loss of freight customers due to Tranz Rail's policies in the mid 1990s as well as closure of some premises, I believe the freight traffic originating in this section in recent years mainly consists of some log loading at Rangiora and a private siding at Ashley. The two freezing works at Belfast both closed their private sidings in the mid 90s and the Kaiapoi works closed outright around that period; the Belfast works are subject to further rationalisation at the present. Waipara kept a public siding when the yard was rearranged in the late 1980s but I don’t think there is any traffic to it now.
Click here to see a Streetview of Amberley in 2009. As you can see it is all gone. There is virtually no remaining trace of the former station site, although the bridge remains in more or less the same state with wooden piles.