Newspaper Article 1996 – At the end of the line

At the end of the line

Gisborne has always been at the end of the queue for rail services. The connection south to Napier wasn’t complete until 1942, although the line had been proposed in 1880.

A line from Gisborne to Auckland via Taneatua, begun in 1900, was never completed.

The history of Gisborne railways, with parochial in-fighting and political manoueverings makes interesting reading. It appears to have been well researched and contains a large number of photographs.

There was big excitement in Gisborne in 1900 when the Government announced the start of the line to Auckland. The line reached Motuhora, 78km from Gisborne, in 1917, but wartime shortages stopped the line there.

The line from the north reached Taneatua, only 60km away, but the link was never made.

The line was closed in 1959 because it was losing money heavily. Tunnels and other traces of this line can be seen from the Gisborne-Opotiki road.

THE AUTHOR outlines the fight over the two routes considered for the Napier line. A start was actually made with a lien [line] running west to Ngatapa and to Wairoa via an inland route through Tiniroto. The line got to Ngatapa, but then a decision was made in favour of the coastal route to Wairoa. The line to Ngatapa, only 21km from Gisborne, was closed in 1931 with much local bitterness.

In the 1840s, sailing ships were able to come well up the Wairoa River but as the land was cleared, erosion brought silt down the river and Wairoa was given up as a port. By 1911 Wairoa was pressing for a rail connection to Gisborne as well as a port at Waikokopu.

The first section of line from Wairoa to Frasertown began in 1919. Work at the Napier end had begun in 1911 but the line was only as far as Eskdale in 1920.

The book details work on the line from Wairoa to Waikokopu which began in 1920. Waikokopu, a small sheltered bay near Mahia, was reached in 1923, and the first shipment of frozen meat from the Swift works left the tiny port in 1924.

Wairoa didn’t get a connection to Gisborne until 1942. The Napier line was finished in 1940.

Gisborne’s first railway, 5.8km long, opened in February, 1887. It was the Gisborne Harbour Board’s line to a quarry from the site of the breakwater.

The Gisborne Borough Council operated a miniature line from 1911. Two small engines worked the narrow track, carrying metal to Gisborne from a quarry 19km away.

A readable book that details part of the history of the development of Gisborne and northern Hawke’s Bay.

STEAMNG TO THE SUNRISE, by Chris Wood; IPL Books; 104 pages; $24.95.

Photo caption – Wairoa railway station

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Newspaper article

Date published

22 June 1996


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Chris Wood

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