So last year I wrote some posts about Rotorua, specifically the old railway station in the middle of the city. I also wrote I didn’t expect to do any more of the ECMT for a while. Well here I am nearly 8 weeks later writing about the ECMT again. This is because at the moment I am working on maps of the Kinleith Branch and Tokoroa.
Kinleith Branch is an interesting line with an interesting history. The first part from Morrinsville to Putaruru was originally the Rotorua Branch and opened in the 19th century. Then along came an outfit called the Taupo Totara Timber Co, and they built a bush tramway from Putaruru to Mokai, which is near Lake Taupo. This crossed the Waikato River on an interesting wooden suspension bridge, which was eventually replaced with a steel structure. The idea was that the government might later take over the tramway and convert it into a railway to Taupo. This never actually eventuated as such, but just after World War II, when the TTT was looking to close down its rail operation, the government did buy the full line and they reconstructed the first 30 km of it to become the Kinleith Branch from Putaruru to Kinleith, where a forestry mill was built that operates to this day. Tokoroa became the principal service town for the mill and has developed from a mere siding and industrial plant (not sure what for exactly) in the middle of bare land, into the sprawling metropolis that it is today. The other 52 km of TTT line was lifted and the bridge over the Waikato, which would have become submerged below the waters of hydro Lake Whakamaru was, we assume, dismantled.
Fast forward a little and with the opening of the East Coast Main Trunk itself to Taneatua in 1928, the inadequacis of the main line route via the Karangahake Gorge became apparent and pressure developed for an improved route to increase capacity. Thus the Kaimai Deviation was born and took shape in the 1970s. The new route, opened in 1978, joined the Rotorua Branch at Waharoa, resulting in the first part of the Branch becoming the main line, and at the same time, the Branch section from Waharoa to Putaruru was reincorporated into the Kinleith Branch, now 65 km in length. The Rotorua Branch origin was thus relocated to Putaruru and its length was reduced to 50 km.
What we know today is that the Kinleigh Branch over its last 30 km can be mapped against the TT Co route because full aerial photos were taken in 1944 of this first part of the route. This means I can use this coverage to be able to draw in where the line was deviated when it was adapted into a railway, and publish maps showing the old route. Unfortunately there are considerable gaps in TTT coverage south of Kinleith but parts can still be seen on some older aerial photos, and this will be incorporated into these maps wherever possible.