Rangiora is the major intermediate station in the former tablet section from Addington (Christchurch) to Waipara (junction of the Waiau Branch). It is also one of the largest towns in rural North Canterbury. It is 30 km from Addington, almost exactly halfway between there and Waipara.
The Great Northern Railway from Christchurch reached Southbrook, 3 km to the south, in 1872, and was then in the broad gauge of 5 feet 3 inches (c. 1600 mm). It was opened to Ashley (c. 3 km north of Rangiora on the north side of the Ashley River) in 1875, then to Balcairn in the same year, and to Amberley in 1876. This was the maximum northern extent of broad gauge in Canterbury, and it was converted to the NZ standard gauge of 3 feet 6 inches (1067 mm) in 1878.
Rangiora was from 1874 to 1959 the junction for the branch line to Oxford, which from 1884 to 1930 had an extension to Sheffield (a station on the Midland Line) via the Waimakariri Gorge bridge, which is still in use today as a road structure. The Oxford branch line also joined at Bennetts Junction with a line from Eyreton (Kaiapoi) that was first opened in 1878 and progressively closed between 1931 and 1965. The working of these branch lines required a locomotive depot at Rangiora and the turntable used to turn the steam engines remained long after the end of branch services into the 1970s at the north end of the station yard, while an engine shed was closed some time earlier.
Rangiora’s passenger station has been at its present site for decades. A branch train platform behind it was still in place in the mid 1980s, but seems to have been demolished about 30 years ago. The importance of freight traffic at Rangiora can be seen in the extent of the sidings, nearly all removed including several private spurs on the west side. Rangiora’s main importance today is as a passenger halt for the Coastal Pacific service, and for crossing freights.
The aerial photos are in sequence from 1942, 1975 and 2014.