This is a brief update to work ongoing to produce Volume 5 to Basic level of maps.
Volume 5 covers the Palmerston North Gisborne Line, which is 390 km long, and two branch lines – Ngatapa Branch and Moutohora Branch – plus associated sidings etc.
The work of mapping the main line corridor and various stations and sidings has been completed, as has the work on the Ngatapa Branch. Work is currently continuing on the Moutohora Branch, currently having been completed as far as Otoko, about two thirds of the complete length of the branch.
The use of the current aerial photography background for all rail corridors – current and historical – necessitates almost complete realignment of mapped data with the aerial photos, as the maps in the past were drawn without access to the aerial photography and therefore often does not line up with what is actually visible on the ground. We also have the benefit of the Retrolens historical aerial imagery at a reasonable scale for mapping general locations of corridor and stations. It is not sufficiently large scale in most cases for drawing track layouts but that is not an issue at Basic level, and features can be copied into the map by hand.
The pictures for today are all comparisons from the Moutohora Branch. The historical aerial photography dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s, when the line was still open (it closed 1959). The route followed by the Moutohora Branch was rugged backblocks country with a lot of hills to be traversed and, by railway standards, extremely challenging gradients and curves made this a difficult route to operate, with inclines of 1 in 30 in places. There were four tunnels, all of which still exist today in some form. The main road of the area was similarly very cheaply constructed, and after the branch line closed, not too many years passed before major highway improvements saw much of the railway formation taken over and repurposed. This makes it difficult to trace the entire route today.
All the historical views below are from 1952 and compared with the 2015 aerial photography as viewed in the maps, with various historical features drawn in.
Waikohu station was 23 miles from Gisborne (near the intersection of SH2 and Whakarau Road) and was approached from the east by crossing a combined bridge – the only example of such on the Moutohora line. The bridge remained in use for some years after the line closed until the highway was realigned with its new bridge. The goods shed still exists as a historical relic at Waikohu.
At the Waihuka River No.3 highway bridge between Waikohu (23 miles) and Otoko (31 miles) and at the confluence of the Waihuka River and Hihiroa Stream, the highway formerly took a series of sharp curves to go around the side of a hill and crossed the railway line on the eastern side, then the railway passed underneath the highway at the western side by means of Tunnel 3. When the highway was straightened and cut through the hillside, the Waihuka River was diverted and the old river bed and site of the railway bridge were filled in. This is now one end of the Otoko Walkway which follows the old railway. The bridge is believed to be the one shown in the Auckland Weekly News photo below taken in March 1910 (“Dreadnought Bridge”). (Photo from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries)
Otoko (31 miles) was approached from the east after crossing a large steel viaduct of a similar design to those constructed on the North Island Main Trunk in a similar timeframe (c.1910). The highway in the 1950s passed under the west end of the viaduct before looping around two sharp bends around what were probably railway houses. The highway then followed the route of what is now Makaretu Road. After the line closed, the railway formation was taken over by the highway for several kilometres to the west. The old railway buildings were relocated onto a nearby farm as shown. When the railway was demolished the viaduct piers were purchased by a concrete company in the Gisborne area, but one of the piers was abandoned in place and can still be seen at the site today.