Palmerston North Gisborne Line [4B]: Makaraka, Matawhero & Muriwai [2]: Gisborne junction Station

As we are getting into the more intensive research around Gisborne railways, we keep discovering new information, and so this series of articles has been extended further. We originally planned three parts, but we currently predict five, possibly more if needed. The main reason for extension is discovering more information about stations in the Gisborne area. There won’t be such an intensive focus on any other area of Volume 5, but there is a lot of history around railways in Gisborne and due to some family connections we have a lot of interest in this area.
This second part in our series takes a look at the station originally called Northcote Road. At the moment we know very little about this station. The only information we really have about it is the references in Juliet Scoble’s publication “Dates and Names”, which mentions it on page 86 as being a part of the Gisborne Section. This cross references to Gisborne Junction on page 36. The entry for Gisborne Junction states that it was opened “before 1941” and that it closed to freight “before 1943” but does not give any information about a date when it may have ceased to be used for passenger traffic. The name of the station is said to have changed from Northcote Road to Gisborne Junction “c.1/1943” and it is shown as closing in 1959 when the Moutohora Branch closed.
Gisborne’s railway network was developed starting in 1900 and eventually encompassed four sections:
  1. Gisborne Section, which ran from the city to Moutohora, and was intended to be part of the Gisborne to Auckland trunk line.
  2. Gisborne Wharf line, which opened in 1933 with the completion of the bridge across Gisborne Harbour, and by 1957 was incorporated into Gisborne station limits.
  3. Ngatapa Branch, which was originally intended to be part of the main line going south to Napier. Constructed 1911-1914, it became part of the NZR network as a branch terminating at Ngatapa in 1924 following the Government’s decision to adopt the present route south.
  4. Palmerston North Gisborne Line, which was constructed in several stages: From Napier to Wairoa 1912-1939, Wairoa-Waikokopu 1920-1923 and Waikokopu-Gisborne 1936-1943.
The current situation of today is that: the line to Gisborne Port is nominally under the control of Gisborne Port Company and not under Kiwirail jurisdiction; the Ngatapa Branch closed in 1931 and was lifted in the later 1930s; practically all of the Gisborne Section became the Moutohora Branch, which closed in 1959, and of which a short section was reopened as the Makaraka Branch; and the Palmerston North Gisborne Line, since 2012, was completely closed between Napier and Muriwai, however in 2019 the line was reopened between Napier and Wairoa.  The section of the PNGL between Muriwai and Gisborne, since 2011, has been leased by Gisborne City Vintage Railway from Kiwirail to operate heritage steam trains, and these services also run on occasions to Gisborne Port.
All of the lines were joined together but not simultaneously. The Gisborne Port line joins to the PNGL at Gisborne Station; the Ngatapa Branch joined to the Gisborne Section just west of Makaraka; and in the late 1930s, a new junction was formed at Northcote Road to bring the PNGL through from the south into the city. This directly led to the new name, Gisborne Junction, in 1943. It is located 1.88 km, or 1.15 miles, south-west of Gisborne (the measurements were made at different times and do not mathematically convert). In imperial days, it was 240.29 miles from Palmerston North, which today is expressed as 388.52 km. Again, these two measurements do not mathematically convert correctly and are not required to. This point is made because the Quail Atlas appears to use direct mathematical conversions of distances, which we consider erroneous; however, Gisborne Junction does not appear in the QA 4th edition.
Since we have very little official information about Gisborne Junction, we can only post a couple of S&I diagrams that were also put into the previous part of this series, and the maps we produced for that station. Here they are.
S&I diagram 1102 of 1965, the earliest historical S&I diagram we can access. By this stage the Moutohora Branch has closed, and switchlock No. 5A, controlled from the Gisborne Station signal panel, is used to gain access to or from “Park Racecourse” Siding. To enable this, the signalman at Gisborne must release lever No.5 which controls all of the switchlocks 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D to the various sidings which are all within Station Limits which at that time more or less ran to a little south-west of Gisborne Junction. The Makaraka Branch, at that time, was considered to be within Gisborne station limits, just as the Port line was. Lever 5 could only be released if Levers 4 and 6, controlling all the signals with numbers starting with the same digits, were in the Stop position, which meant that effectively, the line was blocked to trains from Gisborne to the junction except for shunting purposes, controlled by the low speed lights 4RB and 6LB. Signal 4L was the Up Departure signal and Signal 4R was the Down Outer Home signal.
Next available S&I is No. 2125 dated June 1988. This diagram is similar to 1102 except that by that time, Gisborne station limits has been extended to Matawhero, and south of Matawhero, Track Warrant Control is now in effect, replacing Single Line Automatic Signalling which was previously used. Note that the Makaraka Branch is now shown as “Racecourse Park Siding”.
The next signalling diagram was produced only a few months later in March 1989, No.2146. This one brought about a change in the naming of switchlocks, so 5A became WL5A, and the other switchlocks therein followed suit. The general appearance on the diagram was unchanged from the above and we have not included it here. South of Gisborne Junction, a significant change was that Matawhero Station, formerly a fully interlocked switch-out station yard, became a set of uncontrolled sidings, with one connection to the main line controlled from Gisborne using paired motor points. This will be covered more in a later part of this series that focuses on Matawhero Station.
With S&I diagram 2185 of February 1991, the names were removed off the diagram of all the sidings between Gisborne and Gisborne Junction indicating probable closure. The switchlocks were also renumbered in the WL2 series. This was reproduced essentially unaltered in the next diagram in October 1995, numbered 2457.

The last two S&I diagrams currently available for Gisborne are No. 2785 dated December 2003 and 2861 dated September 2006, the main differences being the former was issued by Tranz Rail and the latter by Ontrack, with a consequent change in the terminology used. We have reproduced the latter above. As we can see, the term “Old Makaraka Branch” is used for the first time, as well as the information that the points are permanently fixed at normal. This statement, as well as the way the Makaraka Branch is drawn on the diagram (a thin black line beyond the thick lines representing the controlled sections of the PNGL, indicates that the Branch is closed or mothballed, and not part of the Ontrack (now Kiwirail) network. There is one other key difference in diagram 2861 compared to 2785 and that is an extended diagram showing the whole of Gisborne Station yard, which indicates that the Port line is controlled by Gisborne Port Company, and that a section of the yard is controlled by Gisborne City Vintage Railway. The switchlock WL2A is now the only switchlock within Gisborne station limits, the other sidings all having been removed.
The earliest aerial map for Gisborne Junction (then named Northcote Road) we can produce is from mid-1942. Immediately south-west of the junction, we can see some buildings on the under-construction PNGL, but we do not know the purpose of them. At far left, near Stanley Road level crossing, we can see some sort of works adjacent to the railway line. These may have also been construction related. Northcote Road, after which the station is named, meets Endeavour Street in the lower part of the map, directly in line with the access road into the station.
1948 aerial map. The main change is the apparent removal of the buildings seen in the 1942 map. The station access road appears to be overgrown or closed.
Aerial map for 1968. The station access road has reappeared. A major change is the installation of new sidings for Farm Products, Sheepfarmer & BP between the junction and Stanley Road. New houses have been built next to the junction, probably on former railway station land.
Gisborne Junction 1977. More development has occurred at the premises served by sidings between Stanley Road and the junction. The 1986 map is essentially the same and has not been included in this post, but is available in the online map sets for the Moutohora Branch.
The last aerial map for today shows Gisborne Junction in 2017. The sidings at Stanley Road have all been pulled up, although many of the siding served buildings are still in place.
Here is the diagram map for Gisborne Junction.