Maimai (~50 km) is a small locality on the Stillwater Ngakawau Line, near Reefton (~62 km). It is divided from the latter by the Reefton Saddle. Suttons Mill operated at some past time to the north of Maimai with a bush tramway. Maimai is just before a 70 degree bend in both the railway and State Highway 7 which are parallel at this point. Just downline from Maimai is the bridge crossing the Mawheraiti (Little Grey) River. Maimai is the last location before Reefton that is in the valley of the Mawheraiti River, therefore the last bit of flat land before a train has to climb the Reefton Saddle, pass through the Tawhai Tunnel and descend again to Reefton.
Birchfield Coal established an opencast coal mine at Giles Creek in 1984 and the operation has developed to produce 500,000 tonnes of annual output. The mine is situated in the Rotokohu Coal Measures at an altitude of about 200 metres on an escarpment directly overlooking the Inangahua River Valley. Due to the topography and lack of bridges across the Inangahua River, road access to Giles Creek Mine runs on a north south alignment, towards Maimai, rather than heading east towards Reefton (or more correctly, Cronadun). From Maimai, the route goes north for the first ~7.5 km on the sealed Maimai Road. Reaching the turnoff to the mine, the road climbs steadily through forest to reach the mine after about another 7 km. All of the mine’s output is trucked via Maimai as there is no other road access. Here is an area map of the country between the Mawheraiti and Inangahua Rivers.
Due to the proximity of the railway line to Maimai and the desire to rail coal for customers, a loading facility has been established at Maimai, consisting initially of a loading bank made out of old highsider wagons (similar to the loading bank at Waimangaroa for Denniston coal traffic that closed in the mid 1990s) with a single ended siding. The map below shows the layout.
Fonterra has contracted to bring coal from Maimai by rail to its new dairy factory at Darfield. The siding is now being redeveloped and may have a different final layout to that shown above.
Maimai is one of numerous locations on the Stillwater Ngakawau Line and Midland Line and their branches where coal is or has been historically loaded for customers. Some of the other locations for coal loading include Stillwater, Rapahoe, Dunollie, Rewanui, Reefton, Westport, Rahui, Cascade, Waimangaroa, Conns Creek, Ngakawau, Granity, Summerlea, Seddonville, Mokihinui Mine, Ikamatua, Ngahere, Blackball, Brunner. As of today, active locations include Ngakawau, Reefton, Maimai and Stillwater, while Rapahoe may be mothballed due to closure of the Spring Creek Mine (except for other possible Solid Energy production such as at Strongman or future new production at Rewanui). Sergeants Hill is proposed as a loading point by Bathurst Mining which is establishing new opencast production at Denniston.
Acknowledgements to the Newzealandlocomotives group for contributions.