Last time anything got written on this blog about Stillwater-Ngakawau Line or Volume 8 was more than two years ago. Volume 8 is going to be like all of the other volumes, completed this year in some form, and being in the South Island will be a higher priority than anything in the North Island. It is second in line at present after Volume 9 (Midland Line).
SNL was one of the first volumes where we were beginning to use the Linz aerial photography as a source and background for the maps. So we have all this aerial photography that was downloaded at the time, but it is just the raw downloads from the LDS website that are of large areas and one of the first tasks to be completed with it is to pull out just the specific layers that are needed for the actual maps. So there are 24 GB of downloaded layers to look through and that would be expected to come down to maybe 1 GB actually needed in the maps.
At the time there was no Retrolens content released for the Westland area; now that there is, we will get some historical map mosaics created for a small number of stations. Stillwater is an obvious one but the NZR corridor survey for Stillwater to Westport is only partly available at the moment, from Ahaura to Waitahu. So we can make maps for the likes of Ikamatua, Maimai, Tawhai and Reefton from this 1980s coverage, maybe Inangahua, and possibly Stillwater itself with the help of research information. There is good enough coverage of Mackleys probably, but not further into the Gorge before Westport. Coverage of Westport is high quality (for the town planning) but not Railway specific. Going north there is patchy coverage of various locations some of which may be mappable, including the Denniston Plateau, Ngakawau, and Seddonville. Coverage of the Cape Foulwind Branch vicinity is insufficient to be of assistance to the mapping project considering that it closed in the 1930s (although the rails remained in place for many years afterwards), most areas being only covered with low resolution imagery from 1955 at the moment, so we do not expect to be able to add any detail to the maps for this route. There is some historical coverage available for the Blackball Branch and Roa Incline which will enable the route to be traced more accurately, but not sufficiently to detail much of Blackball station at the present although this needs to be checked further.
The last post for SNL maps in September 2017 said that the maps were completed at that stage. Looking at them today, there is a bit of work needed, just to check alignments and general details. We have not researched any of the SNL at this stage and are not presently planning to do so as there is no real schedule for additional research at this time, except for research already done into Mackleys some years ago and recently refreshed, which has not yet yielded any track diagrams.
Conns Creek at the foot of the Denniston Incline in 1946 with various rakes of wagons visible. The Incline went uphill in the top right hand corner of this image. The Incline and the Conns Creek Branch were both closed to traffic in 1967.
Waimangaroa as seen in 1946 with the Conns Creek Branch heading off the Seddonville Branch at lower right. The Seddonville Branch was closed beyond Ngakawau in 1981 except for the short section from Seddonville to Mokihinui Mine that closed in 1974. Subsequently the Ngakawau Branch was incorporated into the former Stillwater Westport Line to create the Stillwater Ngakawau Line. Coal mining at Denniston itself continued for many years after closure of the Denniston Incline, the output being brought by road to Waimangaroa to be loaded on the "East Backshunt" which was the first section of the former Conns Creek Branch. It was not until the late 1990s that Solid Energy finally ceased mining at Denniston but Waimangaroa was closed several years earlier and the last few years of coal production was trucked to Ngakawau to be loaded with the Stockton output.
Ngakawau in 1946. At this time the Charming Creek railway was still open and ran off the end of the Ngakawau mine siding centre bottom of this image. The bridge across the Ngawakau River was a combined bridge until the 1930s when a separate highway bridge was built for the first time. Ngawakau station itself closed many years ago and the entire line is just a very long siding for the Stockton Coalfields output loaded at Ngakawau from the aerial ropeway. The aerial coverage of Stockton itself shows the old mining railway quite clearly so we may yet map this area and there is also good quality coverage of Denniston Plateau that will be of interest also.
The fledgling township of Inangahua in 1943. The railway was still under construction at this stage and the various buildings and sites scattered along the corridor are very likely associated with this work.
Last one for today is Reefton 1986.