Friday, 22 May 2015

Te Karaka Railway and Highway

An old archival shot of Te Karaka, a station on the Moutohora Branch north of Gisborne, which was opened to traffic on 13 April 1905. The particular photo was taken in the vicinity of No.2 Tunnel and the Waipaoa River came in close to the railway on the left at the time.
The tunnel and the positioning of the highway were most likely driven by the location of the river at that time, hard up against the formation on a big bend. As part of flood control works in the early 1950s it was possible to move the highway further out on the south bank of the river and today the land has been reclaimed in this area for farming. Therefore the overbridge shown above and the crossing of the highway back across the eastern portal of the tunnel were able to be eliminated while the line was still open.
This photo is from Gisborne Photo News and is believed to show the western portal, over which the highway crossed at that time. This photo was taken in February 1959, only six weeks before the line closed. The train was an excursion organised by the Railway Enthusiasts Society. The closure of the line afforded the opportunity for the Highways Board to have the western portal of the tunnel demolished and filled in, so allowing the highway to be lowered. Although travellers in the area can still clearly spot the eastern portal beside the road, it is blocked off for public access and the approach cutting has been filled in. The keen geographer can readily pick out where the road used to go around the hillside just east of this location and cross back over that portal, and therefore about where the long-departed overbridge in the first photo used to be. Post-closure the highway at Te Karaka itself was realigned to bypass the town by reusing the railway formation. Like so much of the Moutohora Branch, and in a lot of other parts of New Zealand, road improvements have swallowed up a great deal of the old railway.
Construction photo believed to be at the western portal from the Auckland Weekly News of August 1906. The next section north (geographically west) from Te Karaka, as far as the next station, Puha, opened for traffic on 3 June 1907.