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in New Zealand
The railway network in New Zealand consists of four main lines, six secondary lines and numerous short branch lines in almost every region. It links all major urban centres except Nelson, Taupō, Queenstown, Whakatane and (since 2012) Gisborne. The network is owned and managed by KiwiRail. The network was constructed starting in 1863, mostly by government bodies, initially provincial governments and later the central government (usually by the Public Works Department) under the New Zealand Railways Department (NZR or NZGR). In 1981 NZR was corporatised as the New Zealand Railways Corporation, and in 1991 New Zealand Rail Limited was split from the corporation. New Zealand Rail was privatised in 1993 (and later renamed Tranz Rail), with the New Zealand Railways Corporation retaining the land (due to Treaty of Waitangi claims on land taken for railway construction). In 2003 the government renationalised the network. KiwiRail operates all freight lines and a small number of passenger services primarily for tourists on certain routes in both islands; Auckland One Rail operates Auckland Transport "AT Metro" suburban passenger trains in Auckland and Transdev operates Metlink passenger trains in the Wellington region; Dunedin Railways (formerly Taieri Gorge Railway) operates tourist passenger trains in Dunedin.
New Zealand national rail network
Lines in bold type are currently operated by KiwiRail
Main trunk lines
|North Island Main Trunk||Wellington – Palmerston North – Taumarunui – Hamilton – Auckland||681 km (423 mi)||Freight & passenger|
|East Coast Main Trunk||Hamilton – Morrinsville – Kaimai Tunnel – Tauranga – Kawerau||Freight only|
|Midland Line||Rolleston – Springfield – Arthur's Pass – Stillwater – Greymouth||212 km (131 mi)||Freight & passenger|
|Main North Line||Christchurch – Kaikōura – Blenheim – Picton||348 km (216 mi)||Freight & passenger|
|Main South Line||Lyttelton – Christchurch – Timaru – Dunedin – Invercargill||601 km (373 mi)||Freight & passenger (Christchurch – Rolleston) |
Freight only (Lyttelton – Christchurch, Rolleston – Invercargill)
The last two lines are sometimes referred to as the South Island Main Trunk Railway.
Secondary main lines
|Marton - New Plymouth Line||Marton – Whanganui – Hāwera – Stratford – New Plymouth||212 km (132 mi)||Freight only|
|North Auckland Line||Westfield Junction – Newmarket – Swanson – Waitakere – Helensville – Wellsford – Whangārei – Otiria||281 km (175 mi)||Freight and Passengers south of Swanson|
Freight only Swanson to Otiria
|Palmerston North–Gisborne Line||Palmerston North – Woodville – Waipukurau – Hastings – Napier – Muriwai – Gisborne||390 km (240 mi)||Freight & Passenger(charter/cruise). Mothballed: Napier to Muriwai 2012. Open: Muriwai to Gisborne, leased by Gisborne Vintage Railway from June 2013|
|Stillwater–Ngakawau Line||Stillwater – Reefton – Westport – Ngakawau||136 km (85 mi)||Freight only|
|Stratford–Okahukura Line||Stratford – Whangamōmona – Okahukura||144 km (89 mi)||Passenger: leased to a private operator June 2012.|
|Wairarapa Line||Wellington – Upper Hutt – Masterton – Woodville||176 km (109 mi)||Freight & Passenger Wellington to Masterton |
Freight only Masterton to Woodville
|Dargaville Branch||Waiotira – Dargaville||Closed leased to private operator|
|Donnellys Crossing Section||Dargaville – Kaihu – Donnellys Crossing||Closed 1959|
|Kumeu-Riverhead Section||Kumeū – Riverhead||Closed 1885|
|Okaihau Branch||Otiria – Kaikohe – Ōkaihau||Closed 1987|
|Onerahi Branch||Whangārei – Onerahi||Closed 1933|
|Opua Branch||Otiria – Kawakawa – Opua||Closed 1985 |
Kawakawa – Taumarere operated by Bay of Islands Vintage Railway
|Newmarket Line||Quay Park junction – Newmarket||Freight & passenger|
|Southdown Branch||Westfield Junction – Southdown Freight Centre||Freight only|
|Mission Bush Branch||Paerata – Glenbrook – Mission Bush||Freight only|
|Onehunga Branch||Penrose – Onehunga||Passenger|
|Manukau Branch||Wiri – Manukau||Passenger|
|Waiuku Branch||Glenbrook – Waiuku||Closed 1967 |
Now Glenbrook Vintage Railway
Suburban passenger rail lines
|Eastern Line||Britomart Transport Centre – Glen Innes – Manukau |
North Island Main Trunk Line, Manukau Branch
|Southern Line||Britomart Transport Centre – Newmarket – Papakura – Pukekohe |
North Island Main Trunk Line, Newmarket Line, North Auckland Line, North Island Main Trunk Line
|Western Line||Britomart Transport Centre – Newmarket – Swanson |
North Island Main Trunk Line, Newmarket Line, North Auckland Line
|Onehunga Line||Britomart Transport Centre – Newmarket – Penrose – Onehunga |
North Island Main Trunk Line, Newmarket Line, North Auckland Line, Onehunga Branch
Waikato / Coromandel
|East Coast Main Trunk Original sections from Paeroa||Frankton – Morrinsville – Paeroa – Waihi – Tauranga – Tāneatua||Closed Paeroa to Apata, September 1978. Waikino to Waihi reopened 8 November 1980 by Goldfields Railway. Hawkens Junction to Tāneatua became Taneatua Branch.|
|Cambridge Branch||Ruakura – Hautapu – Cambridge||Freight only. Closed Hautapu – Cambridge 1999|
|Glen Afton Branch||Closed, partially remains as the Bush Tramway Club's Pukemiro Line. Remainder became Rotowaro Branch|
|Kimihia Branch||Coal only. Closed 2015.|
|Rotowaro Branch||Coal only|
|Thames Branch/Waitoa Branch||Morrinsville – Waitoa – Paeroa – Thames||Morrinsville to Paeroa part of East Coast Main Trunk, 1928 to 1978. Freight only. Closed Waitoa – Thames 1991. Mothballed Morrinsville to Waitoa, reopened 2004 as Waitoa Branch.|
|Wilton Collieries Line||Ngāruawāhia||Closed, 1958 (Line owned by NZ Mines Dept, operated by NZR after 1940)|
Bay of Plenty
|Kinleith Branch||Waharoa – Kinleith Mill||Freight only|
|Mount Maunganui Branch||Freight only|
|Murupara Branch||Freight only|
|Rotorua Branch||Putāruru – Rotorua/Koutu||Leased to a Private Operator, 2010|
|Taneatua Branch||Mothballed 2003|
|Whakatane Board Mills Line||Awakeri – Whakatane mill||Closed 2003 Leased to private operator|
Gisborne – Hawke's Bay
|Napier Port Branch/Ahuriri Branch||Freight only|
|Moutohora Branch||Gisborne – Makaraka – Moutohora||Freight only. Closed Makaraka – Moutohora 1959, Makaraka – Gisborne mothballed 2012.|
|Ngatapa Branch||Gisborne – Ngatapa||Closed 1931|
Central North Island
|Raetihi Branch||Ohakune – Raetihi||Closed 1968|
|Castlecliff Branch||Whanganui – Castlecliff||Freight only.|
|Opunake Branch/Kapuni Branch||Eltham – Kapuni – Opunake||Freight only. Closed Kapuni – Opunake|
|Mount Egmont Branch||Closed|
|Waitara Branch||Lepperton – Waitara||Closed 1999. Leased to private operator. |
Waitara Railway Preservation Society
|Whanganui Branch||Aramoho – Whanganui||Freight only|
|Foxton Branch||Longburn – Foxton||Closed 1959|
|Taonui Branch||Taonui – near Colyton||Closed 1895|
|Greytown Branch||Woodside – Greytown||Closed 1953|
|Gracefield Branch||Woburn – Hutt Workshops – Gracefield||Freight only. Hutt Workshops – Gracefield mothballed 2002|
|Johnsonville Line||Wellington – Johnsonville||Passenger only. Former North Island Main Trunk Line|
|Melling Branch||Petone – Melling||Passenger only. Former Wairarapa Line|
|Te Aro Branch||Lambton – Te Aro||Closed 1917|
Suburban rail lines
|Johnsonville Line||Wellington – Johnsonville |
|Kapiti Line||Wellington – Waikanae |
North Island Main Trunk Line
|Hutt Valley Line||Wellington – Upper Hutt |
|Melling Line||Wellington – Melling |
Wairarapa Line, Melling Branch
|Wairarapa Line||Wellington – Masterton |
|Nelson Section||Nelson – Kawatiri||Isolated from South Island network. Closed 1955|
|Blackball Branch||Closed 1966|
|Cape Foulwind Railway||Westport, New Zealand – Cape Foulwind||Closed 1930|
|Conns Creek Branch||Waimangaroa – Denniston, New Zealand||Closed 1967|
|Hokitika Branch/Ross Branch||Greymouth – Hokitika – Ross||Freight only. Closed Hokitika – Ross 1980|
|Ngakawau Branch/Seddonville Branch||Westport – Ngakawau – Seddonville – Mokihinui Mine||Freight only. Closed Seddonville – Mokihinui Mine 1974, Ngakawau – Seddonville 1981|
|Rapahoe Branch||Greymouth – Rapahoe||Freight only|
|Rewanui Branch||Greymouth – Rewanui||Closed 1985|
|Eyreton Branch||Kaiapoi – Wetheral – Horrelville – Bennetts Junction||Closed Horrelville – Bennetts Junction 1931, Wetheral – Horrelville 1954, Kaiapoi – Wetheral 1965|
|Fairlie Branch||Washdyke – Eversley||Closed 1968 |
Pleasant Point section operatred by Pleasant Point Museum and Railway
Proposed Fairlie Rail Trail
|Ferrymead Branch||Christchurch – Ferrymead||Closed 1868 |
Now Ferrymead Railway
|Hornby Industrial Line/Southbridge Branch||Hornby – Prebbleton – Lincoln – Southbridge||Freight only. Closed Lincoln – Southbridge 1962, Prebbleton – Lincoln 1967, mothballed 2012.|
|Little River Branch||Lincoln – Little River||Closed 1962 |
Now Little River Rail Trail
|Methven Branch||Rakaia – Methven||Closed 1976|
|Mount Somers Branch/Springburn Branch||Tinwald – Mount Somers – Springburn||Closed Mount Somers – Springburn 1957, Tinwald – Mount Somers 1968 |
Tinwald – Frasers Road section operated by Plains Vintage Railway
|Oxford Branch||Rangiora – Oxford – Sheffield||Closed Oxford – Sheffield 1930, Rangiora – Oxford 1959|
|Waiau Branch||Waipara – Waiau||Closed 1978 |
Waipara – Waikari section operated by Weka Pass Railway
|Waimate Branch/Waimate Gorge Branch||Studholme – Waimate – Waihao Downs||Closed Waimate – Waihao Downs 1953, Studholme – Waimate 1966|
|Whitecliffs Branch||Darfield – Whitecliffs||Closed 1962|
|Catlins River Branch||Balclutha – Finegand – Tahakopa||Freight only, Closed 1971 beyond Finegand|
|Dunback and Makareao Branches||Palmerston – Inch Valley – Dunback/Makareao||Closed Inch Valley – Dunback 1968, Palmerston – Makareao 1989|
|Fernhill Branch||Abbotsford – Fernhill||Closed 2003|
|Kingston Branch||Kingston – Fairlight||Passenger only – Kingston Flyer Ltd.|
|Kurow Branch/Hakataramea Branch||Pukeuri – Kurow – Hakataramea||Closed Kurow – Hakataramea 1930, Pukeuri – Kurow 1983|
|Moeraki Branch||Hillgrove – Moeraki||Closed 1879|
|Ngapara and Tokarahi Branches||Waiareka Junction – Windsor Junction – Ngapara/Tokarahi||Closed Windsor Junction – Tokarahi 1930, Taylor's Siding – Ngapara 1959, Waiareka Junction – Taylor's Siding 1997|
|Ocean Beach Railway||Dunedin – Forbury Park||Closed beyond Gas works and Andersons Bay Rd warehousing 1942. Closed as far as Strathallan Road level crossing 1990. One rail shared with DCC Tramways and electrified 1908 along Royal Crescent.|
|Otago Central Railway||Wingatui – Middlemarch – Clyde – Cromwell||Passenger only beyond Taieri. Closed Clyde – Cromwell 1980, Middlemarch – Clyde 1990 |
Taieri – Middlemarch operated by Dunedin Railways, Middlemarch – Clyde now Otago Central Rail Trail
|Outram Branch||Mosgiel – Outram||Closed 1953 beyond Woollen Mills private siding, remainder closed 1990|
|Port Chalmers Branch||Sawyers Bay – Port Chalmers||Freight only|
|Roxburgh Branch||Milton – Lawrence – Roxburgh||Closed 1968|
|Shag Point Branch||Shag Point – Shag Point Coal Mine||Closed 1934|
|Tapanui Branch||Waipahi – Tapanui – Heriot – Edievale||Closed Heriot – Edievale 1968, Waipahi – Heriot 1978|
|Walton Park Branch||Burnside – Walton Park||Closed 1957|
|Balfour Branch/Waimea Plains Railway||Gore – Balfour – Lumsden||Closed Gore – Balfour 1971, Lumsden – Balfour 1978|
|Bluff Branch||Invercargill – Bluff||Standard gauge 1435mm, 1866 to 1875. Freight only|
|Browns Branch/Hedgehope Branch||Winton – Browns – Hedgehope||Closed Browns – Hedgehope 1953, Winton – Browns 1968|
|Kingston Branch||Invercargill – Makarewa – Fairlight – Kingston||Closed completely 1982 except: |
Kingston – Fairlight (Otago) operated by Kingston Flyer Ltd, Invercargill – Makarewa part of Wairio Branch
|Mokomoko Harbour Branch||Awarua – Mokomoko Harbour||Closed 1875, Standard gauge 1435mm from 1866, connected to Bluff Branch|
|Mossburn Branch||Lumsden – Mossburn||Closed 1982|
|Riverton Branch/Tuatapere Branch/Orawia Branch||Makarewa – Thornbury – Riverton – Tuatapere – Orawia||Closed Tuatapere – Orawia 1970, Riverton – Tuatapere 1976, Thornbury – Riverton 1978 |
Makarewa – Thornbury part of Wairio Branch
|Tokanui (or Seaward Bush) Branch||Invercargill – Tokanui||Closed 1966|
|Waikaia Branch||Riversdale – Waikaia||Closed 1959|
|Waikaka Branch||McNab – Waikaka||Closed 1962|
|Wairio Branch/Ohai Industrial Line||Invercargill – Makarewa – Thornbury – Wairio – Nightcaps – Ohai||Freight only, mothballed beyond Nightcaps|
|Wyndham Branch||Edendale – Wyndham – Glenham||Closed Wyndham – Glenham 1930, Edendale – Wyndham 1962|
Parts of the network were constructed by private companies, and most were unsuccessful. All except the Whakatane Board Mills line and the Sanson Tramway were later acquired by the government. The most successful was the Wellington and Manawatu Railway, which operated between Wellington and Longburn (near Palmerston North) from 1885 to 1908. After the WMR, perhaps the best-known private railway was the New Zealand Midland Railway Company, which constructed parts of the Midland, Nelson and West Coast lines. After the company was dissolved in 1900 the railway lines and their construction were taken over by the government. Some lines were built by companies for access such as to coal mines, and by local government bodies.
- Cape Foulwind Branch
- Castlecliff Railway
- Fernhill Branch
- Hutt Park Railway
- Kaitangata Line
- Kakanui McDonald Limeworks Branch
- Kurow Branch (Duntroon – Hakataramea portion)
- Mokai Tramway (TTT Co line, Putāruru to Mokai near Lake Taupō)
- New Zealand Midland Railway Company Limited
- Ohai Railway Board
- Port Chalmers Railway Company Limited
- Riccarton Racecourse Siding
- Rakaia and Ashburton Forks Railway Limited
- Sanson Tramway
- Taratu Railway (Lovells Flat)
- Thames Valley and Rotorua Railway Company
- Waronui (Coal) Railway (Milton)
- Waimate Gorge Branch
- Waimea Plains Railway
- Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company Limited
- Whakatane Board Mills Line
- Wilton Colleries Line
Many railway lines have been proposed, especially in the 19th century, but never constructed. An 1873 map indicated that it was intended to link up all the current and authorised routes into a national network. Some proposals have been particularly significant due to their extent, publicity, or how close they came to being realised (in some cases, the track bed was built). Some significant proposals include:
- Auckland Airport Line – an extension of the Onehunga Branch to Auckland Airport, and/or a link from the airport to the NIMT at Puhinui. Other options also mooted.
- Auckland City Rail Link – underground rail link under central Auckland. Now an active project
- Avondale - Southdown Line (land corridor owned by KiwiRail)
- Canterbury Interior Main Line
- Connection of the Catlins River Branch and the Tokanui Branch
- Cromwell – Queenstown, proposed connection with the Kingston Branch extension before Otago Central Railway route chosen.
- Culverden – Reefton line
- Culverden to Tophouse, with branches from there to Nelson and Blenheim
- Dunedin Peninsula and Ocean Beach railway extension to Portobello and Taiaroa Heads.
- Extension of the East Coast Main Trunk Railway to link Gisborne and Rotorua by going inland from Opotiki up the Waiweka Gorge to the Moutohora Branch. So would link the Bay of Plenty to Gisborne and Palmerston North via the Palmerston North – Gisborne Line.
- Fairlie Branch – extension 27 km beyond Eversley, proposals to terminate the line in Burkes Pass
- East Cape tourist line via Hicks Bay 
- Haywards–Plimmerton Line between the Hutt Valley Line and the Kapiti Line.
- Kakahi – Pūkawa (Lake Taupō) line
- Kennington – Waikiwi deviation to Invercargill
- Kingston Branch – extension to Queenstown
- Kirikopuni – Kaikohe line
- Kurow Branch – extension beyond Hakataramea
- Lewis Pass Railway (Reefton to Culverden)
- Little River Branch – extension to Akaroa
- Marsden Point Branch and its Waipu precursor
- Martinborough Branch
- Masterton – Waipukurau line via either Pongaroa or Castlepoint
- Mossburn Branch – extension to Te Anau
- Motueka to Tadmor
- Nelson – Blenheim line
- Extension of the Nelson Section through the Buller Gorge to the West Coast.
- Nelson to Cobden and Westport
- North Shore Line – from central Auckland (Britomart) to the North Shore, and extended northward on the route currently occupied by the Northern Busway
- Okaihau Branch – extension to Rangiahua and Kaitaia
- Opunake Branch – sub-branch from Kapuni to Manaia; extension to New Plymouth
- Otago Central Railway – extension to Wānaka
- Paengaroa – Rotorua line
- Paeroa–Pokeno Line
- Ross – Haast, including rebuilding to heavy rail of the Stewart and Chapman tramway to Lake Ianthe State Forest.
- Roxburgh Branch – connection from Roxburgh to the Otago Central Railway in Alexandra
- Sockburn-Styx deviation and industrial line.
- Taupō Railway Proposals – connections from Rotorua, Kinleith or Murupara branches
- Te Aro Extension – extension to Island Bay
- Waiau Branch – extension to Kaikōura
- Waimate Branch – extension of the Waihao Downs line
- Wainuiomata Branch – from the Hutt Valley section of the Wairarapa Line to the suburb.
- Wairau Valley Railway from Tophouse to Blenheim
- Westport to Charleston
See also Hawera & Normanby Star| volume=LVII, 23 August 1910, Page 5 for a list of railways authorised, proposed and under construction, with estimated cost of completing them as at 1 April 1910, many of which were not built.
Nelson – Blenheim notional railway
The Nelson - Blenheim notional railway was created in November 1957 to help manage the political backlash from the 1955 closure of the isolated Nelson Section. State Highway 6 between Nelson and Blenheim was deemed by law to be an NZR railway for the purposes of calculating passenger and freight rates between railway stations in the South Island and Nelson or other places on the notional railway. Passengers and freight travelled by road, with the difference between the road carrier's rates and railway rates subsidised by the government. Rail rates were significantly cheaper than road rates, so the scheme provided significant benefits to its users, while imposing significant costs on the government. The scheme lasted for 22 years, being withdrawn in October 1977.
Bush tramways were industrial tramway lines principally constructed to haul timber or minerals, often in isolated areas. A variety of gauges was used, including the New Zealand standard 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm). Typical bush trams were more lightly constructed than ordinary rail lines and had steeper gradients and sharper curves. With the low speeds that were commonplace, rolling stock and locomotives were generally built to lighter standards than main-line vehicles. It was not uncommon for road vehicles to be adapted, either as haulage power or rolling stock. As road vehicles became more suited for these operations the bush trams gradually faded away and none are now operating.
A prominent example of a bush tramway was the Taupo Totara Timber Company's line between Putaruru and Mokai, and an example of a mineral tramway was the Dun Mountain Railway.
Other bush and mineral tramways included -
|Smyth Brothers' Tramway||Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel Peninsula||1897–1908 3 ft|
|Piako County Tramway||Kaimai Range||1884–1924 2 ft 9in|
|Ellis and Burnand Tramway||Ongarue||1922–1958|
|Price's Bush Tramway||Hutt Valley to Waikanae|
|Driving Creek Railway||Coromandel||Tourist attraction|
|Bell Hill mill tramway|
|Mount Somers Tramway||1886–1963|
|tramways linking to Ross Branch|
|Fortification sawmill tramway|
|Port Craig tramway||Port Craig, Percy Burn Viaduct, Wairaurahiri River||1919–1928 Marlborough Timber Co|
Major street tramway networks were constructed in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with smaller operations in Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Nelson and Invercargill. Employing horse, steam or electric power, they operated in most cases until the 1950s when improved buses saw most of the tracks scrapped. Urban tram operations, built from scratch as tourist attractions, have more recently been restarted in Christchurch (1995) Auckland (2011), and Wanganui (2013). See Trams in New Zealand.
Heritage and Private railways
A large number of societies operate working heritage railway lines and museums. Most of these are run largely or wholly by volunteer labour, except commercially operated private trust owned Dunedin Railways in Dunedin, which employs paid staff.
- Yonge 1985, p. 10.
- Yonge 1985, p. 1.
- Yonge 1985, p. 12.
- New Zealand Railway Observer, June/July 2013 Edition
- "KiwiRail to mothball Napier-Gisborne line". Kiwirail.co.nz. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- Yonge 1985, p. 21.
- Yonge 1985, p. 11.
- Yonge 1985, p. 14.
- "Sketch map of the Colony of New Zealand shewing authorised and proposed railway lines". National Library. Department of Lands and Survey. 1873.
- Hendery, Simon (9 March 2017). "Cape tourist rail project". The Southland Times.
- "Papers Past — Evening Post — 13 Hereturikōkā 1907 — RAILWAY ROUTE". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 13 August 1907. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Papers Past — Wairarapa Age — 16 May 1908 — MASTERTON-WAIPUKURAU RAILWAY PROJECT". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 16 May 1908. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
- "Papers Past — Pahiathua Herald — 10 September 1909 — PONGAROA NOTES". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 10 September 1909. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
- "Papers Past — Nelson Evening Mail — 11 November 1886 — THE MOTUEKA-TADMOII RAILWAY ROUTE". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "New Zealand : Anno Tricesimo Victoriae Reginae : No. 33" (PDF). Nzlii.org. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Papers Past — Marlborough Express — 2 July 1913 — THE WAIRAU VALLEY RAILWAY". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 2 July 1913. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Papers Past — Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle — 4 Hōngongoi 1867 — WESTPORT AND CHARLESTON RAILWAY". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- Stott, Bob (1973). Rails through the bush. Southern Press.