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Railways of New Zealand: Nelson Section

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Railways of New Zealand
The railway pages of Patrick Dunford

Nelson Section


Home > Branches > Nelson

If there was a "bridge to nowhere", then the Nelson Railway was the "railway to nowhere". There were grand plans for the line which was to run from the city of Nelson, to Inangahua on the South Island's West Coast. But as is well known, the line was closed in 1955, and though there has been talk of new lines from time to time, these have never come to fruition.

It is not the intention of this author to tell the history of the line, but merely to display some photographs of remains which are visible today. This is not a comprehensive coverage of remnants either; interested parties are strongly encouraged to read "Discovering New Zealand's Ghost Railways" by David Leitch and Brian Scott.

Lois Voller published a book called "Rails to Nowhere" some years ago, now out of print. In 2005, "When Nelson Had A Railway" by Barry O'Donnell was released and is an excellent source of information, although it is not a detailed historical narrative, mainly telling the story in pictures. The earlier book may be found in some library collections and is recommended for historical perspective.

I personally have travelled through this area on a number of occasions, but all of my own photographs that can be seen below were taken on two particular trips in 1989 and 1990. On these occasions I visited both of the line's tunnels, which have walkways through them.

All closed lines deteriorate once the track is gone. Some, unfortunately, do so more rapidly than others. It is astonishing that as late as 1989 there were still buildings and platform remnants to be found in Nelson City itself, but these have since disappeared. Some of the major changes include:

The best preserved stretch of railway route these days is likely to be in the Tadmor Valley between Tapawera and Glenhope. This is a back country route of narrow winding unsealed roads through sparsely populated settlements.

The section from Kawatiri west is of considerable interest as it was never officially opened, although trains were able to run as far as Gowanbridge where basic facilities were also provided, and construction works were carried out in a number of places beyond that. Remnants can still be observed between Gowanbridge and Murchison, with "Ghost Railways" documenting them to within a few km of the latter township.

Bridge 55 near Tui 1956 Glenhope station 1989 GTRR rolling stock at Richmond 1989 Hope River south bridge near Kawatiri 1989 Kawatiri station looking south 1989 Kawatiri station site 1989

Bridge 55 near Tui 1956

Glenhope station 1989

GTRR rolling stock at Richmond 1989

Hope River south bridge near Kawatiri 1989

Kawatiri station looking south 1989

Kawatiri station site 1989

Nelson station 1956 Nelson station platform 1989 Nelson station site 1989 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Nelson station 1956

Nelson station platform 1989

Nelson station site 1989

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990 Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

Norris Gully Walkway 1990 North Hope river bridge piers 1989 Old road bridge Kawatiri 1989 Overbridge at foot of Spooners Saddle (1956?) Railway formation south of Kawatiri 1989 Richmond yard 1989

Norris Gully Walkway 1990

North Hope river bridge piers 1989

Old road bridge Kawatiri 1989

Overbridge at foot of Spooners Saddle (1956?)

Railway formation south of Kawatiri 1989

Richmond yard 1989

Sleepers embedded in road, Nelson 1989 South abutment of Hope River bridge 1989 South Hope River Bridge 1989 South Hope river bridge north abutment & tunnel south portal 1989 Spring Grove railway memorial 1989 Tapawera replica platform & shelter 1990

Sleepers embedded in road, Nelson 1989

South abutment of Hope River bridge 1989

South Hope River Bridge 1989

South Hope river bridge north abutment & tunnel south portal 1989

Spring Grove railway memorial 1989

Tapawera replica platform & shelter 1990

View of north Hope bridge and north portal of tunnel 1989

View of north Hope bridge and north portal of tunnel 1989

Home > Branches > Nelson


© Patrick Dunford.

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Last updated 12 January 2006.

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