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New Zealands Branch Railways


In 1950 New Zealand had a railway network of about 5700km. In 1990 we had a network of about 3500km. We had lost 2200km of railways. The sole reason for this (with only one or two exceptions) was the competition with road transport. Rail simply could not compete with the efficiency of trucks and cars. The branch railways had been running at a loss all their lives. For a long time road transport was not allowed to compete with rail. In the 1940s this was replaced with a piece of legislation known as the 40 mile (60km) limit. This meant that goods carried by road could only be carried up to 60km if they could go by rail. This kept the railways open as most were over 60km long. The majority of branches was over 60km long so this did not affect them. The 40mile limit was slowly phased out over the 40 years from 1940 to 1980 when it was finally removed. At each change of protection level more branches closed. The final removal of all protection eventually closed the remaining lines , most were over 100km in length. The last significant line the Otago Central closed in April 1990.


Branch Closures from 1879 onwards :

Branch Name Location Date of Closure
Moeraki Hillgrove - Moeraki Oct 1879
Kumeu - Riverhead Kumeu - Riverhead 18 July 1881
Taonui Taonui - Direction of Colyton 14 August 1885
Ormondville Deviation Ormondville 9 Jan 1907
Te Aro Old Lambton St - Wakefield St 1917
Fernhill Abbortsford - Fernhill 20 Feb 1930
Tokarahi Windsor Jnc - Tokarahi 14 July 1930
Ngatapa Makaraka - Ngatapa 1 April 1931
Grahamstown Whangarei - Onerahi 30 June 1933
Shag Point Shag Point St - Shag Point 1934
Johnsonville - Tawa Flat Johnsonville - Tawa Flat 19 June 1937
Cape Foulwind Wesport - Tauranga Bay 1940
Mt Egmont Quarry Waipuku - Quarry 1941
Saddle Hill Walton Park - Saddle Hill 24 Jul 1944
Turakina Deviation Turakina - Aramaho 7 Dec 1947
NIMT - Longburn Section Longburn - Terrace End 21 Oct 1963
Outram Mosgiel - Outram 5 Dec 1953
Waiho Downs Waimate - Waiho Downs 11 Dec 1953
Hedgehope Browns - Hedgehope 24 Dec 1953
Greytown Woodside - Greytown 25 Dec 1953
Eyreton Wetheral - Horrelville 26 May 1954
Melling - Haywards Melling - Haywards 26 June 1955
Nelson Nelson - Glenhope 3 Sep 1955
Rimutaka Incline Featherston - Mangaroa   29 Oct 1955
Springburn Mt Somers - Springburn 26 Mar 1957
Walton Park Geddes - Walton Park 1 May 1957
Springburn Mt Somers - Springburn 29 Mar 1957
Moutohora Makaraka - Moutohora 15 Mar 1959
Oxford Rangora West - Oxford 19 April 1959
Waikaia Riversdale - Waikaia 16 May 1959
Ngapara Taylor's - Ngapara 12 July 1959
Kaihu Dargaville - Donnellys Crossing 19 July 1959
Foxton Longburn - Foxton 19 July 1959
Whitecliffs Darfield - Whitecliffs 31 Mar 1962
Southbridge Lincoln - Southbridge 30 June 1962
Little River Lincoln - Little River 30 June 1962
Waikaka McNab - Waikaka 9 Sept 1962
Wyndham Edendale - Wyndham 9 Sept 1962
Blackball Ngahere - Blackball 21 Feb 1966
Waimate Studholme - Waimate 1 April 1966
Seaward Bush Invercargill - Tokanui 1 April 1966
Conns Creek Waimangaroa - Conns Ck 6 Aug 1967
Lincoln Prebbelton - Lincoln 1 Dec 1967
Mt Somers Frasers Rd - Mt Somers 1 Jan 1968
Browns Winton - Browns 1 Jan 1968
Dunback Inch Valley - Dunback 1 Jan 1968
Heriot Heriot - Edivale 1 Jan 1968
Waiuku Glenbrook - Waiuku 1 Jan 1968
Raetihi Ohakune - Raetihi 1 Jan 1968

The branch closures up till now had been the small insignificant branches which carried little traffic. The 40 mile (70km) limit was now raised to 60 miles (100km). The branches to close from now on had carried reasonable amounts of traffic which was now cheaper to be transported by road.

Farlie Washdyke - Farlie 1 Mar 1968
Roxburgh Clarksville - Roxburgh 1 June 1968
Orawia Tuatapere - Orawia 1 Oct 1970
Catlins River Finegand - Takahopa 28 Feb 1971
Waimea Plains Gore - Balfour 31 Mar 1971
Mokihinui Mine Seddonville - Mokihihui Mine 10 Feb 1974
Balfour Spur Lumsden - Balfour 15 Jan 1978
Opunake Kapuni - Opunake 31 July 1976
Methven Rakaia - Methven 31 July 1976

In 1977 the 100 km limit was rasied to 150 km. In 1984 the limit was abolished altogether. Most of the branches which had survived closure up until now closed during the final years of the 70s.

Waiau Waipara -  Waiau 15 Jan 1978
Tuatapere Thornbury - Tuatapere 15 Jan 1978
Old East Coast Main Trunk (Paeroa - Waikino & Waihi - Apata) Paeroa - Waikino and Waihi - Apata 13 Sep 1978
Tapanui Waipahi - Heriot Dec 1978

In 1980 the 150 km limit was abolished altogether. The railways now had to compete for traffic in a completely deregulated enviroment. Few branches remained now and almost everything was closed by 1989.

Geddes Burnside - Geddes 1 Jan 1980
Cromwell Section Clyde - Cromwell 13 April 1980
Ross Branch Hokitika - Ross 24 Nov 1980
Seddonville Ngakawau - Seddonville 3 May 1981
NIMT - Mangaweka Mangaweka - Utiku 18 Nov 1981
Kurow Pukeuri - Kurow 7 June 1983
Mossburn Mararoa - Mossburn 13 Dec 1983
Kingston Makarewa - Mararoa 13 Dec 1983
Rewanui Runanga - Rewanui 19 Aug 1985
Kaikohe Otiria - Okaihau 1 Nov 1987
Makareao Palmerston - Makareao 1 July 1989

By now the only major remaining branch was the famous Otago Central. The only other branches which still existed (all serving large industries) were small.

Otago Central Middlemarch - Clyde 30 April 1990
Thames Waitoa - Thames 21 May 1995
Taylors Siding Waiareka - Taylor's

1997

Waitara Lepperton Jnc - Waitara 1999
Part of Cambridge Branch Hautapu - Cambridge 1999

In 1999 (when this page was written) only a handful of branches exist. Click here for a list of them

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This page last updated on : Saturday, 02 October 1999