Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Historic Waiau Branch 1: Waipara [1]

The branch line to Waiau closed in January 1978 - almost 38 years ago. The 29.5 km section from Waipara to the Hurunui River Bridge was sold to the Weka Pass Railway which initially proposed to operate with an extension to the Hurunui Hotel. For various reasons these plans were soon abandoned and the line beyond the Highway 7 road crossing at Waikari was eventually lifted. The Weka Pass Railway now operates on the first 12.5 km of the former branch.

In 2015 the interest for all closed branches for railway enthusiasts remains in what can be traced on the ground. The main focus for the updating of the maps has been in the identification of historic rather than  currently present features. The maps will be presented in this series of articles along with some photos from my collection.

None of the maps feature detailed layouts of any station as this information is still to come with possibly historic aerial surveys to be obtained in the future and used as they have in some other places. The track diagrams produced by the NZ Model Railway Journal are however included.

We start traditionally from the junction end of the line, however the maps sequence on Flickr goes the other way because they are always arranged from north to south.

Waipara is the junction station and of course is still operational on the Main North Line. It is the base of the Weka Pass Railway. For Kiwirail its operational purpose nowadays is as a crossing location for trains. The Waipara township population was boosted significantly by railways employees at the height of operations in the 1970s because various maintenance gangs were based there. Even after the Waiau Branch closed these gangs still worked on the Main North Line and I remember in the 1986 census which I worked on that Waipara was really a railway town at the time. Since the reorganisation of the railways around that period, all of the railways employees got moved elsewhere. The township enjoyed a second renaissance of sorts when the Weka Plains irrigation scheme was developed in the Weka Pass bringing water into what was traditionally a very dry area. This kickstarted grape growing developments and lifestyle blocks and has boosted the area with vineyards.

Firstly we have four maps showing the historical track layout of Waipara. The current layout is not depicted and will be left for another time.

Starting at the south of the township just past the 62 peg the first siding started on the east side of the line. Highway 7 never crossed here originally because the junction with SH1 was further to the west, since until 1972 Highway 1 went through the township of Waipara.

On the next slide you see a few more sidings but not much else of note.

Here's the main part of the yard. We can now see a lot of tracks. At the south end the distinct group of tracks on the east side were for the locomotive depot. Then there is another group of parallel tracks on the west side and the gap in the middle was the island platform of the station. We can also see the turning triangle, and freight shed tracks, but unfortunately I have not marked any structure on this diagram. The cross track near the top of the diagram is misdrawn as it should actually show the footbridge.

Continuing to the northern end of Waipara we have the junction with what was the Waiau Branch and now is the Weka Pass Railway. There were several tracks alongside the first part of the branch which connected it into the Waipara yard. The present day junction is actually not as shown as the diagram is incorrectly drawn - the Weka Pass Railway line goes onto a siding before it joins the main line.

Today we are focusing on Waipara as it was in the mid 1980s. You will see some references to the Weka Pass Railway but that is not the primary objective of this post. Unless otherwise stated all photos are by myself.

The north end of Waipara seen in 1986 with a freight arriving from the north. The home signal is set at clear. At this time the station was still staffed by a traffic operator who attended for most trains but was not there all of the time. The branch line to the left is still as it was when the Waiau line was open with extra connecting trackage into the service sidings to the left.

A Colin Duthie photo at the north end of the yard shows the main line and loop and the original goods shed with loading bank to the right. In the distance is the Way and Works depot. The turning triangle is to the right with one leg visible behind the goods shed. This photo would probably be late 1970s.

Some of these photos which I scanned a very long time ago might get rescanned one day from the negatives. Anyway here we have the double slip that connected the triangle into the yard at the north end. The footbridge had been taken down by the time of this 1987 shot. The small white building on the right is the later goods shed.

Another small scan, this one taken 1985 is from the footbridge with a NZR freight coming through on the main. A couple of tracks over you can see some Weka Pass Railway rolling stock. In the distance, carriages are being turned on the triangle.

Taken the same day as the previous photo we can see the Weka Pass Railway turning their locomotives and carriages on the Waipara triangle.

The station footbridge seen in 1986. It was demolished soon after.

Looking across the apex of the triangle towards the station about 1987. The triangle was pulled up some time in the 1990s. The tracks ran out almost to the footpath at the side of the main road and there is still a narrow strip of the corridor left open today.

Late 1980s and you have the south end of the station platform. The tracks on the right side were removed early 1980s. At the platform is an excursion returning from Kaikoura.

Part of the way and works depot at the south end, here is the trolley shed.

Part of the works depot with a light track for material trolleys to be loaded.

Towards the south end and you can see the trolley shed in the distance.

I am considering rescanning some of the old photos to add to what can be seen here. In the meantime this is what is getting published today.