Well one of the things (among many) that is going to come out usefully from the Retrolens imagery is to more exactly show the details of the Nelson Section. A key point of contention has always been the route the line took past Glenhope, particularly the incomplete formation, and given there are a significant number of aerial photos from a series that was flown in 1943, only about 12 years after construction ceased, it does look like I can actually improve my maps quite a lot. At the same time other parts of the route prior to Glenhope will also be made more accurate.
I have not checked any other books apart from “When Nelson Had A Railway” so have no idea what has been documented already by book authors.
Obviously a very key points of interest is exactly how far south did the line finally get. For example is this photo below showing the incomplete formation approaching the site of a bridge.
This actual location is called Longford and according to legend is supposed to be about as far as the line actually ever did get to.
Given the somewhat speculative nature I would end up marking this as a hypothetical route on the maps when I get round to updating them but it is still worthwhile doing. I think an informed guess might support the contention that that is the railway formation.
There does seem to be a suggestion that an approach was made onto the site of a never-built bridge for the Mangles River just a little further on and it is about there that it becomes much more difficult to spot much more evidence of any sort of formation work. We do have a reasonable knowledge that the permanent way never really got any further than Gowanbridge, the rest was PWD construction and was not completed, so there is no real trace of any permanent bridges or anything past there. I have previously in the past attempted to bag some culverts in paddocks just past Owen River bridge but these could just as easily be leftovers from a realignment of the highway.
What will be interesting also is to hopefully find as many aerial photos as possible depicting the line from Belgrove to Gowanbridge in particular the major bridges and where it ran in relation to the road as the road of course has been altered a lot since the line closed (which is after all more than 60 years ago) and the intention of the maps is to try to document as much as we can. But I definitely won’t do any yard layouts as that is a very slow part of any process.
Unfortunately there is not any coverage from the time the line was open of Glenhope itself or any of the route through from there to Kawatiri but there is an aerial from 1973 which looks quite good so this will be the basis of the map of this piece of the line. As I understand it the highway realignment about 15 years ago has eliminated most remaining traces of this piece of corridor.
One useful map I have found is the Kaka limeworks tramway and so I can put that on properly as well. Although I think I may have already marked it from an NZMS1 map possibly. But what can be most certainly stated with accuracy is that the route shown in the Quail Atlas is a total joke.
One thing I can be sure of is that the old bridge the abutment of which can be seen here is an old highway bridge. It is certainly not any former railway bridge. There is in fact no evidence one was ever built here. The highway was only straightened and rebridged about 10 years ago at this site.
This is Granity Creek a bit south (or west) of Gowanbridge. In 1943 when this photo was taken it looks like road realignment works were underway at that time, with a new bridge built across the creek. As I understand it the highway took over the rail route and it seems odd this was done such a relatively short time after the railway works had been constructed. In fact the rails to Gowanbridge and beyond were only lifted the year before this picture was taken.