Main North Line [1]: Parnassus

While I am still revising the article on the Otago Central Railway, actual mapping work has come to a halt on the section Cromwell-Oturehua because all the work that is needed to inform the article writing has been completed. The exception to this is Alexandra, where I am waiting to hear from Archives New Zealand about the three aerial photos referred to in a previous article. Whilst that is happening (or not) for mapping I am tidying up the maps elsewhere in the country because the whole mapping project has to be finished by the end of the year, not just the Otago Central.
So the specific significance of Parnassus to Ward is the aerial photo coverage that was taken after the earthquake last November and because it is of such a high resolution it is great for revising the maps because there are always issues like the length and placement of bridges for example as they aren’t always correct in the Linz data service layers that I use for much of the map data. And also I need to put in distances for some of the stations.
Another thing that will be put into the maps is to trace the major slips that have happened from the earthquakes onto the maps. Whether there will be more aerial photography to enable tracing the changes to road and rail routes before I reach deadline remains to be seen.
So I am juggling the MNL maps in between sessions of working on the Otago Central article and checking the maps of that line as well as a few things still need to be put into those maps but I am just getting some variation away from the Otago Central for a bit of variety to alleviate boredom in this part of the project.
I am really not sorry to be finishing the maps as, although I have really enjoyed it and could keep it going forever, it is time to move on to new things in my life that will have a more meaningful longer term impact and involve a lot more people than could ever be the case with such a niche interest as railways let alone railway maps.

Now let’s have a look at Parnassus. Because an aerial photo was available from 1972 and with the aid of the Linz aerial photography I have drawn in a basic station layout in the maps that are included in this post.

Parnassus was at exactly 133.0 km. Because of that, the map doesn’t have the 133 km peg marked separately as would usually be the case. It used to be possible to still see things at the site which had some track remaining in place (sidings) even though the main part of the station closed in 1981, it was kept as a crossing loop for some time afterwards but I don’t know exactly when the loop was finally taken up. I remember a visit there in 1986 as the sidings had bullhead rail in them and I have a vague recollection we may have found a turntable pit (Parnassus was a railhead for many years, from 1912 until about 1940 when the MNL extensions north resumed).  1940 was also about the time a new rail bridge was put in across the Waiau River just south of Parnassus reverting the combined bridge to road-only usage, in which role it continued until a new highway bridge was opened about 1980. At that same time as part of that project SH1 was bypassed around Parnassus and an overbridge just north of the township replaced a level crossing. Since the closure of the station however the local government of the area have had a local road put across the railway line going close to the station site probably also affecting some of the remains of the station. However there are a number of traces if you know where to look and these are documented in the maps and photos, including the bufferstop of the siding and the bridge in the yard.

 South of Parnassus, the approach onto the old combined bridge. This was opened 1912.

 Combined bridge which was used used by both road and rail traffic until about 1940 when the new rail bridge was built just alongside. The bridge was then used only by road traffic until about 1980 when the highway was moved onto the new bridge at the bottom of the map. In its latter years traffic lights were fitted on the old single lane bridge and weight restrictions meant heavy vehicles had to travel via the inland route through Waikari, Culverden and Waiau, using the Leader Road to rejoin SH1 just north of Parnassus.

 Coming off the north side of the old bridge. The highway carried on at the western side of the bridge as it ran through the middle of Parnassus originally.

 Coming into Parnassus from the south. The best location I can come up with for the turntable pit, would be just south of where the road originally curved in to meet the railway station (where the word CLOSED appears at lower right).

 The main station facilities are all visible in this photo. The bridge had a double width section for the main and loop which is still fully in place, and a separate section for the siding which still has the abutments in place but the span removed.

 North end of the yard showing where the buffer stop is still visible, and where also the line originally was intended to go inland via the Mendip Hills.

 Showing the overbridge at this location. Since this was not built until after 1980 it seems oddly convenient it was able to be numbered as Bridge 84.

 A small scale map showing the entire Mendip section. This was never operated as the formation works and bridge were never finished. There is still a lot of formation work that is visible even today virtually 100 years later.

Whites Aviation view of the station yard in 1972.

At 134 km, 1 km north of Parnassus station, there used to be this level crossing over the railway. This was probably closed when the highway went through. Although the highway improvements were bundled in with the new bridge across the Waiau River, the overbridge was finished about a year after the Waiau bridge, so this crossing probably stayed in use until then.
Part of the interest factor at Parnassus is also that the MNL was originally expected to go further inland from where it does now and some formation work and abutments for a bridge across the Leader River was done going north from there. The remnants of that construction including the south side bridge abutment can still be found today. Part of the reason for the delays going north was finding the correct route. Here we can see where the inland going route went off to the left, passing behind the school.

Two photos taken from the Leader Road where the inland route formation works crossed this road. The first photo shows a cutting through a river terrace, the second shows the embankment going onto the bridge that was to cross the Leader River. If one was to walk along that embankment the concrete bridge abutment and the first pier would be found still in the riverbed as illustrated on the aerial photo below.

 Station as seen as a 2016 aerial photo.

 Bridge in Parnassus yard as seen from the railway yard side. the abutments for the siding clearly visible.

 Bridge seen from the other side, i.e. the old roadway inboard of the present highway.

 Site of the old station. The station building was at the side of the road and the goods shed was just opposite it.

Auckland Weekly News photo of the Waiau River bridge under construction in 1911.
Christchurch City Libraries photo of the Waiau River bridge under construction in 1910.
Photo from the A P Godber collection of the ghost bridge at the Leader River on the proposed inland route, with the big cutting clearly visible in the background. About 1917.