Kiwirail have announced the SOL will be leased out to Forgotten World Adventures who will hire adapted golf carts for people to take rides on the route. This is similar to a thing that some outfit are doing on the Rotorua Branch as well. The line can be taken back by Kiwirail if they need it to bypass the North Island Main Trunk or if there is a significant freight opportunity developing such as a coal mining development (which I think is unlikely as it would have happened by now, the coal in the area is generally low grade and only used for local industry in the past).
Apart from the map at the bottom of this article here are some photos of Tangarakau which is one of those very remote locations typically served by the SOL railway. A fascinating series of blog posts describing part of the construction of the SOL and the Egmont Coal mine nearby can be found on Bren Campbell’s blog. He also talks about his time as a locomotive driver, including WW2 experiences helping to operate railways in the war zones of the Middle East, and his career in the engineering business. Several of these photos were taken by the late Phillip Capper (1944-2011), an Englishman who emigrated to New Zealand about 40-50 years ago and lived for a number of years on the South Island West Coast. His Flickr photostream contains over 12 000 photos.
This photo is from the NZETC, which means some old document that got scanned in, and as the caption says it was taken by an official NZR photographer. Actually all of today’s photos are of bridges. I would guess this photo dates from the 1930s.
Phillip Capper’s photo of the old road bridge at Tangarakau in 1968. As he writes, the farming of the area faced dubious economics and even in this period farmers were being forced off the land. As Steve’s recent photo on his Flickr page shows, this bridge has now been dismantled and has not been replaced. Any road access in the area appears to be achieved by fording the river. (Phillip Capper’s photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).
Another Phillip Capper photo, this time a suspension bridge in Tangarakau area. The caption of the original photo on Flickr is well worth reading.
The map is below. It is currently being updated and at the time of writing only part of it has been converted to the new symbols. The line colours have been changed to designate its new status. I am also updating the Open Street Maps coverage of this route. You may have wondered about that since at the beginning of this year I said that I wanted to do everything in OSM. In fact the two modes will be complementary and will be simultaneously developed. Each has its own strengths and the opportunity of one will be used to improve the other.
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