Wellington to Johnsonville section: Around the Wellington Yards a remnant building from the old WMR Thorndon station complex still persists just north of the now partly demolished Davis Street foot-bridge. Up until a few years ago this wooden single story structure was the studio for the NZR Publicity and Advertising Branch. The embankment up to the bridge across the Hutt Road is still original although the bridge itself has been replaced because the original lovely hardwood truss spans were severely damaged after being struck by an over-height load on a motor lorry in 1984 (sound familiar?) The north abutment of this bridge carried a marble plaque celebrating the inarguation of the WMR which was removed during the rebuilding and I believe is now in the possession of the NZRLS. I understand the wording is now very much deteriorated but it was quite readable when still in place in the late 1970s.The right-of-way from the bridge to Johnsonville still retains much of its original character although formerly there was no Wadestown Loop. In WMR days the only stations on this section were Ngaio (in WMR days called Crofton) and Khandallah. It was possible a few years back, when there were no Sunday services to walk the line, (with proper permission of course) and these forays presented fascinating insights into the engineering techniques employed. One can only wonder that such a line of railway was ever contemplated. It is easy to see why the Government of the time wished to be relieved of the costs and responsibility and it must have been with relief that they passed it over to the WMR to complete. Approaching Johnsonville the line deviates from the old alignment slightly and runs across an elevated embankment as it approaches the new station. There is nothing left of the vast stockyards that once were a feature of the station area. The tunnels on the Johnsonville line are No.1Outlet (126m), No.2 Kaiwarra 98m), No.3 Gorge 151m), No.4 Lizard (199m), No.5 Ngaio (127m), No.6 Kaka (104m) and the one between Raroa and Johnsonville is No.7. Tui (119m.) Since electrification railwaymen sometimes say about this truncated section. "7 miles, 7 tunnels, 7 stations"Johnsonville to Porirua section: As most of us know the Johnsonville on-ramp to the motorway follows the original line of railway north from Johnsonville. The old formation crossed what is now the motorway at a small angle and entered a cutting on the north side some 500 metres from the where the on-ramp joins the motorway proper. This cutting is still obvious although now choked with scrub and is blocked completely after 50 metres or so by fill used for road construction when the Paparangi sub-division was being developed.The next obvious sign of the old right-of way are the two concrete abutments where the Belmont Viaduct once stood. The northern abutment is still easily seen but the southern one, now in a backyard, is vine covered and needs a little study to discern its location. In the gully the old concrete footings and some rusted ironwork can be found if one wishes to fight through the undergrowth. The right-of-way north from here can be discerned heading in a shallow curve towards a hill that once had a cutting running through to the motorway and was obvious until a few years ago when it too was filled for more development. The line then cuts across the motorway at a sharp angle and continues along its west side but slightly below road level. It is not continually visible from the motorway but because of the heavy earthworks needed in the hilly country the line can be easily traced on foot as it slowly descends through a succession of cuts and fills.At the Takapu Road off-ramp the line swept in a big curve to the east, before crossing the Takapu Stream. The north Takapu bridge abutment used to be easily seen on the service road running up to the reservoir and was used by local contractors as a loading bank. The Takapu stream was piped and filled over during motorway construction so that little else remains. From the site of the abutment a good view can be obtained of the line as it approached the curve from the south along sidlings and through cuttings. All traces of the line as it curved to the west from this abutment are now buried under the motorway but some remnants are visible as it curved to the north again around the hill at the upper end of the Takapu reserve. Sadly this old abutment was removed in 2002 for no other reason than a local contractor needed some handy fill for a road maintenance job.From here the line descended towards Tawa Flat along a sidling immediately above the existing NIMT and was easily visible until a few years ago from the Old Main Road. Much of the line is now in backyards and some housing has taken advantage of the earthworks for building. I know two houses at the bottom of Florio Terrace, a side street off Taylor Drive, are built on the old right-of-way. Trees and scrub shield most of it these days but during the winter when foliage is less dense it is still possible to view parts of it. The lower part of this sidling curved to the east slightly and descended down part of Taylor Terrace then along Duncan Street to the old Tawa Flat station. Some of the platform seal and part of the station retaining wall were still visible above the railway in Duncan Street some year's back but I do not know if they can still be seen. From here the line continued more or less along Duncan Terrace until joining the existing right-of-way opposite Tawa College and near the tennis club. The site is grassed and remains prominent despite the passing of some 64 years. From here to Porirua nothing of any interest remains although the old Porirua station was moved to a back yard in Linden and could be seen, over a fence, close to Linden station until it was destroyed by fire a couple years ago.Porirua to Pukerua Bay section: Sad to say betterments and relocation have all but obliterated anything worthwhile. An old WMR iron gate existed in the small copse just north of Porirua station a few years ago but as this became a hang-out for street kids for a while I do not know if it is still there. A short section of rock revetment that protected the seaward side of the old alignment remains just north of the over-bridge connecting SH1. A small length of the old embankment that twisted around the shore of the harbour is visible near Romedale Road and other traces of the embankment can be found here and there. The original WMR bridge was sited immediately east of the present road bridge at Paremata and was approached from the south through a charming little cutting in what was then a rocky headland jutting into the harbour. The SH1 bridge now occupies the approximate location of the old harbour bridge. Most of the old formation was eliminated when the line was duplicated in the 1960s and the land reclaimed as far seaward as the existing main line. On each side of the road bridge part the tall concrete abutments of the old WMR bridge were preserved by a sensitive MOW civil engineer when the road bridge approaches were altered about 1987 but these were finally destroyed when the bridge was duplicated in 2002 and now nothing remains for posterity.The old single-track right-of-way from this bridge was partly destroyed during construction of the Mana marina and finally completely annihilated when the ill-fated fast ferry terminal complex was constructed. Small parts of the old embankment are visible from Ngatitoa Domain but from the BP service station the old right of way remnants which used to form a walking track alongside the road as far as the Plimmerton road crossing, have now been almost completely obliterated by widening of State Highway One at this location. On the Plimmerton bank remnants of the old single track line (pre 1940) can still be seen at various places, especially above Black Bridge (Airlie Road) curving through gullies, but they become less obvious as vegetation becomes more verdant.Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki section: Just above South Junction broken bricks and the remains of the original contractors brick kiln can still be seen. This was where most of the bricks were made for lining the nearby tunnels. It is of interest that some of the bricks used on the portals of the abandoned Tunnel 12 have an arrow mark showing prisoners at the old Te Aro jail made them. Nearby are the old foundations of the explosive storage shed. From South Junction to North Junction the line down the hill, except for the overhead wire, remains much as it must have been in WMR days. At the north end of No.5 tunnel the original dead-man post used to lower locomotives and wagons down to the beach during construction remains imbedded in the ground. (See picture on page 32 in Hoy's West of the Tararuas and page 33 in Cassell's Uncommon Carrier) The rockslide protection shed endures over the south end of No.6 tunnel, probably maintained and renewed over the years but still there. Also still evident from the road below is the spread of the spoil from the muck tipple at the seaward end of the central adit used to speed construction of this tunnel. Some years ago the old No.12 tunnel (abandoned in 1900) could be explored from both ends although blocked by a rock fall halfway along. This tunnel also had a marble commemorative plaque on the north portal but it was removed illegally at some time and its whereabouts is not known. It is believed to have been souvenired. Recent weatherproofing works on the hill above the Bean Fence necessitated demolishing the north end of the old tunnel but the south end remains untouched but is partly blocked and now unsafe to enter.The first tunnel out of Wellington on the contemporary route is Tawa No.1 (1238m) followed by Tawa No.2 (4323m.) On the Paekakariki Bank they are No.3 Pukerua (153m), No.4 St. Kilda (290m), No.5 Seaview (278m), No.6 Brighton (244m) and the small one at the bottom is No.7 Neptune (59m.)The old ballast quarry near the Fisherman's Table, originally opened by the WMR, can still be seen and explored. Some of the old loading machinery still remains but as this was also worked by the NZR one cannot be sure if any of the equipment goes back to WMR days. This siding was still noted in NZR Working Timetables right up until the about 1960.Paekakariki used to be a treasure house of old WMR artifacts but no longer. The WMR contracted out refreshment services and it was known that much of the old crockery had been buried when the NZR took over. A few years ago some crockery was unearthed in the Paekakariki yards. Only a few entire pieces were recovered. The writer has some broken pieces from this dig in his collection.Paekakariki to Manakau section: Generally, between these two points, the railway follows the same route it always has. Wainui a stopping place near Mackay's Crossing existed for a few years but its exact location is not now known. The first reminder of the WMR is found at the memorial cairn at Otaihanga erected in 1986 to commemorate the centenary of the completion of the line. A stopping place existed here with a short backshunt on the south side of the road crossing but was closed in 1901. The original old bridge pier foundations are still evident in the Waikanae River while the old abutments and some of the piles can sometimes be seen in the Otaki River after flood scouring. The site of Hadfields station and crossing loop remains very evident where the road curves around the old yard at the turnoff to Pekapeka Beach. Even more evident is the site of Hautere Cross station and yard where the road again curves out and back again opposite the Hautere vegetable stores. Hautere Cross, incidentally, was the name of the settlement that used to exist at the junction of Gorge Road and Te Horo-Hautere Cross Road, some 6k towards the hill. Old Hautere Road was the only access as Gorge Road did not exist at that time. Bob Meyer stated that a shelter shed was erected on the east side of the line immediately north of the Old Hautere Road crossing. Both these station precincts have been recorded in the Kapiti District Plan as sites of historical significance.At the smaller stations WMR buildings were not replaced by the NZR but added to as necessary. Eventually, however, they were demolished or sold. The last remaining, as far as I know, are the one moved to the Tokomaru Steam Museum, and the old Te Horo station building, which has now been fully preserved and refurbished in a most sensitive way and opened in 2002 as a high quality accommodation site similar to that available at Ormondville station. It is operated as an adjunct to the Wineera Pottery. I understand that the Forest Lakes bridge is a WMR original but with modern strengthening as is the bridge over the road underpass at Manakau.Manakau to Shannon section: I am not aware of anything connected to the WMR between Manakau and Levin other than that the line of railway follows the same route as it originally did. Levin station, however, has its iron verandah supports constructed from old WMR rail stock and a study will show the brand WMR is easily discernable. The only other place I knew that used old WMR rails for construction supports was the Taumarunui Loco sheds and they have been long since demolished. A deep gully is evident on the west side of the line as it passes through the centre of Levin. This gully is artificial and was excavated as a large borrow pit from which fill and shingle ballast was recovered to build embankments both north and south of the town. The line from Levin over the Koputaroa hill follows the original route but in many places it has been widened over the years ready for possible double tracking if ever thought necessary.The next place of interest will be found a few kilometres south of Shannon beneath the Buckley Road over-bridge. This was the junction of the construction supply line built to bring rails from ships berthed at a nearby jetty in the Manawatu River and was known, I think, as the Buckley siding. The line of the old formation can be seen curving away around the toe of the hill and the farm track heading towards the river is built over the original right-of-way. Doug Hoy expressed some doubt that this formation actually carried the siding as it curves north and the original connection was thought to have curved south. On the other hand construction materials were needed in both directions and as this formation has the characteristics of a railway grade then it is probable there was access to the main line from both directions. Some borrow pits are evident further south but there is no road access.Shannon to Linton section: Much of the line from Koputaroa to Linton was built through swamp country. South of Shannon this was overcome by both fill and extensive drainage works. Shannon station is, in essence, a WMR original structure and is well on the way to full preservation. North of Shannon it was necessary to dredge out the foundations for the track and build up the embankment with hard fill. Borrow pits are evident on the hills, in many places, along this stretch of line from where solid fill was obtained. This is especially apparent above the Makerua curve where the hill has been heavily excavated and cut back considerably. These hills were once coastal prominences before the flood plains developed. Just south of Makerua, before the Opiki road turn-off the bridge over the old Miranui flax tramway underpass is vintage WMR. The old flax tramway formation is very evident here on the east side of the highway. At Makerua the old platform was still alongside the line a few years ago and may still be there. The station shelter now serves as a hay barn on a nearby property on a the first side road off Tamatarau Road. One kilometre south of Tokomaru the short overbridge crossing above Ashlea Road is also an original WMR structure.Linton to Longburn section: A couple of kilometres north of Linton station the new Manawatu Bridge and deviation built in 1960 made much of the old line redundant. A remnant remained in use as a stores siding serving Linton Military Camp until finally closed and lifted about 1986. The right-of-way can still be walked for a kilometre or so along the old camp siding to where it curved towards the old bridge. Since the prison has been built nearby exploration of the rest of the siding has become a little intimidating. River works and other constructions have completely obliterated any signs of the old permanent way beyond here in any case. A small stopping place and loop known as Whitmore Siding existed on the south side of the former bridge. Possibly, like the sidings at Otaihanga and Wainui it was only used as a construction depot. Whitmore was surveyed in blocks in the hope a settlement would rise here but now all that remains is the Whitmore Road leading to the old site south of Linton.Across the river the old embankment can be easily seen coming in to join the new alignment a little south of the old freezing works. This embankment can be walked if one has the inclination as far as the northern abutment.I have never been able to find anything of interest at Longburn but there has been so much redevelopment around the railway that perhaps this is not too suprising.
I intend to come back to this in future once having spoken to Nic again regarding some of what is stated. I am very interested in the Johnsonville to Porirua section in particular as any remaining formation for the most part being within a wide motorway reserve may be waiting to be rediscovered as time goes on, although this becomes less likely over time due to constant development, mostly in housing subdivisions and motorway upgrades.
At the time of writing this some mapping has been done of the Johnsonville-Tawa section in particular, the results seen below.
I am writing Nic’s comments as I received my copy of Rails Through The Valley and while it is a good collation of historical data it does not make any real attempt to determine what remnants exist today of the original line. Some data may be found on the Glenside Progressive Association’s website here however.