|Status||Closed until further notice|
|Opened||15 March 1943|
|Line length||49.60 km (30.82 mi)|
|Number of tracks||Single|
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
The Dargaville Branch is a branch line railway that leaves the North Auckland Line not far south of Whangarei and runs westward to Dargaville. Construction of this relatively short line took approximately two decades, and when it was completed, it linked the now closed Donnelly's Crossing Section with the national rail network. Although the Dargaville Branch's future is uncertain, it continues to operate today.
The Dargaville Branch was built relatively late in comparison to most railway lines in New Zealand. Construction from Waiotira on the North Auckland Line commenced in 1922. Dargaville, however, was not reached for another eighteen years. The first twenty-two kilometres through unstable country took six years to build, with the line not opened to Kirikopuni until 15 May 1928. In January 1931, the line was open to Tangowahine, sixteen kilometres from Dargaville, but construction ceased for five years due to the Great Depression. In 1940, trains commenced running to Dargaville, but the old railway station (used by the Donnelly's Crossing Section) was closed and a new station built at a different location, delaying the formal opening of the Dargaville Branch until 15 March 1943, over twenty years after construction began.
Initially a railway from Kirikopuni north to Kaikohe was proposed, but by 1928 when there was a line from Whangarei this proposal was discarded. However the line was initially constructed with a balloon loop into the town of Kirikopuni, two kilometres north of the direct line to Dargaville, as a result of pressure from the local MP and Prime Minister Gordon Coates. A bypass eliminated the loop in 1943.
Dargaville Branch operations have never been spectacular. From its opening until March 1967, mixed trains carrying both passengers and freight ran to connect with passenger services on the North Auckland Line - the Northland Express (Auckland-Opua and return) until November 1956, and then the 88 seater railcars (Auckland-Okaihau and return). After March 1967, the line carried freight only, and in recent years, its future has been under question. At one point in the first half of the 2000s, it was closed for six months, but traffic has now returned and the line is operated from Whangarei. A daily return train is scheduled from Monday to Friday but it only runs when required. It takes roughly three hours both ways; the service to Dargaville arrives in the mid-morning and departs before lunch, arriving in Whangarei in the mid-afternoon.
October 2014 Closure
Late October 2014 Kiwirail staff were told the line was closed until further notice. The Loading contractor responsible for the loading of rail wagons, Forest Loaders, were also informed and all remaining wood stock will be removed by road. Earlier the line was shut for a number of months due to a washout, the line was repaired but the only activity after the repair was the removal of all stranded rail wagons. This may not be the end of the branch however all operations have now ceased.
Typical motive power on the Dargaville Branch from its opening until the mid-1960s were steam locomotives of the AB and J classes. When the line was dieselised, DA class diesel-electrics took over and worked the line until 1988. Nowadays, the DBR class and DC class comprise the motive power seen running to Dargaville.
- Churchman, Geoffrey B. and Hurst, Tony; The Railways of New Zealand: A Journey Through History pp 98,99 (1990, HarperCollins, Auckland) ISBN 1-86950-015-6
- Hermann, Bruce J; North Island Branch Lines pp 5,6 (2007, New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society, Wellington) ISBN 978-0-908573-83-7