Thursday 30 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [0S]: Volume 5 Progress Update 19

We have now completed all the maps around Gisborne and posted a proof set for Westshore-Gisborne. However we have just discovered that 0.1 metre 2017 aerial photography exists for Gisborne (a considerable update on 2012) despite it having been available on LDS for more than 12 months. This will be added into the maps and the 2012 images supplemented by 2017 for all areas which already have a 2012 view. Using it will not slow things down materially.

We have also decided at the last minute to add historical pictures of Beach Loop to the maps and these should be ready tomorrow. These will use the older 2012 0.4 metre Linz aerials as a base rather than the 2017 0.3 metre aerials because in 2012 the railway had only recently closed and the tracks were still visible, in the latest imagery the railway is practically invisible because of undergrowth.

We still have to get a set of maps generated for the Ngatapa Branch and the Matawai-Waioeka survey to complete everything around Gisborne. This will probably happen tomorrow as well.

Apart from that then we should be moving rapidly south to Napier, tomorrow, to tidy up around there, then pushing back towards Palmerston North.

So the timetable looks good at the moment, but it will be a busy few days, and the deadline is going to be missed by a day or two, but that is OK.

The Kopuawhara disaster memorial seen from above (1986).

The siding built to deal with this washout at c.365.5 km is shown in the 1968 S&I diagram (No. 1276) as a switchlocked service siding (22478). This aerial photo was taken in 1962 as part of a highway survey.

We believe this is the as-constructed Tunnel 24, seen in 1942. The hillside around it kept slipping with the result  the tunnel had to be abandoned in 1956 after only 14 years of operation.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [4E]: Makaraka, Matawhero & Muriwai [5]: Muriwai Station & Waipaoa River Bridge

This will be our last article about stations in the Gisborne area other than Gisborne itself. We will put up a new post about Gisborne sometime soon, our last post on that station was just over a year ago.

Anyway, Muriwai heading south from Gisborne is the last station on the plains before the railway begins to climb into the Wharerata Hills. It is currently remaining open as the terminus of the Gisborne City Vintage Railway vintage steam trains, which have operated for many years on the line, but since 2012 have been terminating at Muriwai.

 These two diagrams cover most of the station. The standard facilities provided were a stockyards, goods shed, loading bank, station building and platform. At the south end is the stockyards. The track layout had a double slip between the stockyards loading siding, the station loop, and the goods shed siding, this can be seen to the right of the stockyards. This fact points to the stockyards probably being busy at loading time and the need to easily move rakes of wagons between the other sidings and the stockyard.

The fertiliser store was built about the 1970s which is interesting because that would place it at about the same time as Ravensdown built their store at Matawhero and the question is who was working in competition with Ravensdown at the time. The building remains but is not in use for its former function. We can also see the location of the station (the platform remains today), loading bank (still in place but not part of the railway yard), goods shed (gone) and a trolley shed at the north end.

So let's have a look at some aerial maps of the station.

1962 aerial view of the south end of the station, showing the stockyards. If viewed today, this area would be basically empty.

North end of the station as seen in 1962. 

North end 1986. The fertiliser store has been built and its siding installed, but most other regular traffic facilities in the station have gone. At this point, fertiliser was probably the only traffic at Muriwai.

North end 2012. The yard tracks have been cut back to the main line, loop and the backshunts at both ends of the loop. The loading bank is now fenced off from the rail yards, and the store siding appears to have been lifted.

We already looked at Waipaoa Bridge in a previous article so this is just a quick look at the updated maps.

 1944 original bridge.
 1957 with work underway on the extension at the south end. A track deviation allowed the new spans to be built on dry land before the river was diverted onto its new course.
 1986 showing the 1950s extension completed.
 1988 after the southern approach was washed away by severe flooding, the bridge was extended again to reach its current length.

Monday 27 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [0R]: Volume 5 Progress Update 18

Although we are still working to complete the map volume as rapidly as possible, our workload over the weekends is always reduced due to other time commitments. This means all we have to report at the moment is having posted the blog article on Matawhero Station, and completing drawing the yard layout at Muriwai, which will enable us to complete the 5th and final part of the M-M-M article series. Some smaller changes were made here and there. This also signifies the end of the Greater Gisborne section of updating the maps project, meaning we can move on quickly to creating the updated aerial and diagram maps of this area, and final checking prior to release. We also have to generate map sets for the Gisborne-Waioeka Survey and Ngatapa Branch as previously mentioned.

Therefore by sometime tomorrow we expect to have completed all the maps north of Napier and to be focusing our attention on Napier itself where we will quickly add any missing detail such as siding names to the maps of Napier Port especially, and then work our way back towards Palmerston North itself. As outlined in a previous update, this entails completing detail of the selected stations for which Comprehensive level coverage has been chosen, such as Waipukurau and Dannevirke, and posting blog articles about these places. It also means checking details on S&I diagrams for details that have not yet been added to the maps.

We are currently having a technical problem with the GIS software that prevents us using WMTS background layers from Linz at the same time as our local maps of stations, but a quick workaround is to make a temporary copy of the project that only uses the WMTS layers, and this will obviate the need to download the entire set of Linz aerial photography for the PNGL. We still plan on obtaining that in the future and have previously downloaded a considerable portion of it, but this will be attended to at a less critical time.

Following the completion of the PNGL maps, as outlined previously, we intend to move on to the Wairarapa Line (Volume 6). But there will probably be a pause of up to a week before that to allow for a break from the intensive pace of the last few weeks, and routine maintenance of our computer systems, the map drawing one being critically low on disk space and needing a big cleanup. Being able to finalise the PNGL project will also enable us to free up storage on the aerial photo processing computer, used for downloaded aerial photos, since it is always near full due to the large number of these resources and the space they consume. Before moving on to Volume 6 we also need to re-evaluate how much time is actually reasonable for Comprehensive level coverage of selected stations given its time consuming and intensive nature. This will influence whether or how much of such coverage can be added to other volumes. One of the things that has happened with Volume 5 is a lot more time than planned spent on the Comprehensive coverage of stations around Gisborne, primarily due to additional discoveries being made at the research level for various stations which has meant the historical mosaic maps being extended numerous times. We need to ensure this doesn't happen with other stations in the PNGL volume and other future volumes, probably by doing the research earlier in the map development timeline, so we can have better time management.

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [4D]: Makaraka, Matawhero & Muriwai [4]: Matawhero, Ravensdown Siding & Waipaoa Siding

Today we're going to have a look at Matawhero Station. When you head south from Gisborne, Matawhero is the first station south of Gisborne Junction. Matawhero was once quite a busy station, but these days you would hardly know that; obviously its role for GCVR is limited to the crossing loop, but even when the line was opened, in 2012 all it did was connect the Ravensdown premises to the railway network. This change over the years is reflected in the changes in the yard layout and the signalling system. We are going to show just a few aerials and diagrams in this post, but a full set will be available online in the map sets for the PNGL mainline. The final versions of these are still a few days away from being uploaded because it's easier to put them online all at once rather than having to keep taking them all down to add new content (a necessity given the limitations of Google Photos as a tile platform).

We do not have much information on the type of traffic handled at Matawhero, but there is a strong indication that it was the major stock-handling station for the greater Gisborne area. It is very conveniently situated close to State Highway 35 and State Highway 2, and is a good distance from any population centres - an important prerequisite for the often smelly and dirty business of transshipping stock from road to rail. It is possible but somewhat unlikely that stock could have been loaded there for the nearby Gisborne freezing works at the Port, but it seems more realistic that they would go greater distances further south, such as to the various works in the Hawkes Bay. Stock being moved into the region could have come, for example, from the major saleyards at Waipukurau which had its own siding for loading, and obviously from elsewhere. Once NZR got out of stock handling beginning in the early 1960s when stock was exempted from the 30 mile cartage limit, this role diminished greatly, but Matawhero survived in a new role of handling fertiliser traffic through the adjacent Ravensdown depot on Macdonald Road (built in the 1970s) - which continued up until closure of the line in 2012.

If the Gisborne line should reopen in future, Matawhero will become a focus for possible traffic handling opportunities. There have been a number of suggestions that logs could be loaded there for railage to Napier Port, and a wood processing mill was established some years ago adjacent to the Ravendown site, and potentially could be connected via the existing siding route - although some of the track has been lifted into the Ravensdown depot. It is also possible fertiliser could be carried on the line again, using the mode-shiftable open top fertiliser containers that are now used around the NZ railway system.

Our diagram for a general overview of Matawhero. It doesn't show all of the south end of the yard, but it does show the main facilities. From it, we can see that Matawhero once had quite a large stockyard, a goods shed, a loading bank, station platform and building. None of these facilities are present today; even the loading bank and station platform are gone, although the station building still exists, having been relocated to the East Coast Museum of Technology at Makaraka. 

Below are a set of 5 diagrams covering the whole station in much more detail. We also have four aerials for each diagram, covering the eras 1951, 1966, 1986 and 2012. We won't be posting all of these diagrams, just picking one of each era to illustrate particular points.

 The southmost end of Matawhero. The main difference here since the 1970s has been the addition of the Ravensdown siding. Another important difference is the bridge across the stream, which has been replaced by a culvert in more recent times.
 Coming up the yard we can see there were a number of sidings, in particular there is one siding that started right in front of the stockyards and was quite separate from the rest of the yard.
 A closeup view of the main facilities in the yard. At left is the stockyard, and note that there was at one time a scissors crossover in the trackwork in front of it. This would have been particularly relevant for access to that siding we mentioned above, given its proximity to the stockyards. Over to the right we can see the goods shed and station building and platform.
 North end of the yard. Apart from some of the facilities we can see in the previous diagram, we can also see the position of the loading bank in this map. Unusually, the loading bank no longer exists today.
In the last of this series of diagrams, we can see how a backshunt off the end of the loop, a small part of which is still used today as an overrun siding, used to cross the main road and continue a short distance on the north-east side.

Here now are some aerials for these diagrams. Check the full set when they come online in a few days.

Westernmost end of Matawhero in 1951, showing the bridge which has been replaced by a culvert. This replacement was part of an environmentally destructive process of converting a tidal river lagoon ecosystem into farmland in this area.

Same area as above in 2012, as well as the culvert we can see the Ravensdown siding coming around the curve as it leaves Matawhero Station to head to the fertiliser store (the next map shows this in more detail)

2012 aerial map of Matawhero showing the location of the Ravensdown fertiliser store. The route of the siding can be viewed as it runs straight down from the works before making a big curve through 90 degrees to enter the Matawhero station yard.

Western-middle section of yard with the stockyards at right. The mystery siding that is connected off one end of a scissors crossover from the stockyards is visible at the upper centre of the map. Given the fact of the installation of that crossover, the siding's its adjacency to the stockyards, its physical distance from other sidings to allow space for some kind of platform or other physical structure that is vaguely visible in the aerials, and the size of the stockyards at Matawhero, we have concluded (without doing any additional research) that this siding was most likely for cleaning stock wagons. Given that Matawhero obviously handled large volumes of stock, the scissors would be necessary to allow wagons to be moved in and out of this siding whilst loading operations were simultaneously occurring at the stockyards - the loading ramp was at the northern end of the yards as shown and this would allow loading clear of the scissors as long as the rest of the rake were further north (towards the goods shed). The additional sidings at the station would also have allowed for a large number of stock wagons to be stored. The scissors also appears to have allowed simultaneous loading and unloading - we don't have any information on Matawhero specifically, but it appears to have separate ramps for these two operations, during at least part of its history, which is not commonly seen, and is another factor that points to a large volume of stock handled there. However as we know from the 1960s onwards, stock traffic was gradually transferred to road and this explains why the stock handling facilities and sidings are no longer visible in the 1986 map.
Middle of the station yard seen in 1966. The stockyards have a small amount of stock in one of the holding pens, and one single wagon is sitting at the loading ramp. A couple of rakes of deckers are visible to the right.

1986 middle yard view. The loss of the stockyards and even the goods shed, and the rake of wagons that probably carry fertiliser, point to the major change in use at Matawhero. The rectangular area to the left of the station building is a bit of a mystery at this stage - one possibility is that it or another similar area further to the south were used for earlier housing at the station, but no documentation has yet been located to support this. By the 1940s certainly the staff accommodation appears to have consisted of three houses next to MacDonalds Road on the northern boundary of the yard - which are still there today.

Easternmost part of Matawhero in 1951. To the upper right appears to be an unknown structure that was gone by 1966 - timber stack is one possibility. Next to it is the loading bank, no longer in existence today.

In the earlier history of Matawhero, a backshunt off the eastern end of the loop crossed the road next to the main line and continued for some distance on the other side. It isn't particularly certain how long that backshunt was, or how long it was there for. There is a possibility it had been lifted by 1966, or alternatively at that time that it was longer than we have drawn it on the maps. A short piece of it has been left in place on the western side of the road as part of the standard safety siding found at each end of a crossing loop to protect the main line from wagon runaways.

The only standalone S&I diagram we have for Matawhero was this one, 1274, dated 1968. Matawhero at that time was a switch-out station with its own signalling panel for controlling the various points and signals within station limits. An interesting feature is located to the south/west  at around 236 miles 68 chains - the service siding, more than three miles to the south of Matawhero, and about three miles north of Muriwai. This was most likely at the southern end of the Waipaoa River Bridge (No. 290). There was a siding there during the bridge extension project in the late 1950s and this is probably what the reference is to. We have marked "Service Siding" on the map, but not the distance, as we have no means of confirming that the S&I referred to the same location given the time lapse.

Most of Matawhero was fairly conventional apart from the Departure signals 19 and 5. These signals were controlled by Gisborne station when Matawhero was switched out, but if the station was switched in, Gisborne would give permission to Matawhero to release 19 signals. In other words, if there was no one on duty at Matawhero, Gisborne could clear the signals in either direction. If there was a signalman on duty at Matawhero, Gisborne would still clear trains to depart south, but for trains heading north, Gisborne would give permission to Matawhero to start trains when ready.

Another unconventional feature at Matawhero is the airport runway signalling system a little further north. Signals are provided for both trains and aircraft where the main line crossed the runway. We have not referenced the Working Timetable instructions for operation of this system so are not able to comment on exactly how it operates. As far as we know, however, this section is entirely controlled by the airport tower, which must issue permission for trains to cross the runway. Interestingly there are no safety sidings for the railway tracks.

Airport runway signalling system.

Matawhero in more recent years has been included in S&I diagrams for Gisborne Station. This is because the Gisborne station limits were extended to include Matawhero. Since the sidings were added to Awapuni Coolpack and Kiwi Fruit Products north of Matawhero, the station was given control of the switchlocks into these sidings but had to obtain permission from the Gisborne signalman due to the possibility of a train being despatched from Gisborne at the same time.

As we noted in an earlier post of this series on Gisborne Junction, the fully interlocked and signalled switch out station at Matawhero became "Matawhero Sidings" by the time of issue of S&I 2146 of March 1989, at which point there was only a set of paired points (No.2) at the north/east end of the station. At that time probably the traffic was solely fertiliser for Ravensdown as all the other freight handling facilities at the station had been removed by then. However the most recent diagram that was in force when the line closed in 2012 showed that the south/western end main line to loop paired points (No.9) operated by a frame lever had been reinstated by then. By that time also "Waipaoa Siding" 3.5 km to the south/west had been added into a local sawmill.

Waipaoa Siding maps. The south/west end Matawhero points were probably added to enable shunts to/from this siding to be staged at Matawhero as the siding has only a single track with no additional storage or runaround facility for locomotives.

Saturday 25 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [0Q]: Volume 5 Progress Update 17

After our last post about extra work being discovered as we got into more depth of working on lines in the Gisborne area, that trend has continued today. Whilst in the course of tidying up all the aerial photography around the Gisborne area and labelling many of the sidings off the main line, we discovered a second NZR aerial survey for Gisborne Station.

To explain this in more depth, Retrolens has many different survey sources, most of them various government departments. The ones that have consistently proved most useful for NZ Rail Maps are the highway surveys done by the Roads Board et al (where these highways are close to railway lines) and the ones that NZR themselves had done. Most of these are around 1:8000 in scale. Indeed, the aerial survey we used to map the Cromwell Gorge section of the OCB for Volume 12, dating from 1962, is a highway survey (SH8), as were some other historical surveys of the railway around the Clutha Valley.

NZR aerial surveys mainly take two forms. Major stations had their own surveys, which are generally carried out at a scale of about 1:4300, though there are a small number at a larger scale. Often there will be just one run (Run A), but occasionally with a big area, for example the Port of Lyttelton, with changes in direction, there can be several runs to get everything covered.

In addition, major rail corridors had corridor surveys, which are generally at a scale of 1:5500. They cover a whole corridor or part corridor using multiple runs because of the fact that no corridor runs in a straight line, but the aerial survey aircraft must fly in a straight line for each run. There are no corridor surveys for less important lines like the Hokitika/Ross branch, Otago Central Branch, Kingston Branch etc. They just cover the major corridors, which includes the Palmerston North Gisborne Line in this instance - the corridor survey around Gisborne was done in 1986 and happens to include the Makaraka Branch in the last run into Gisborne Station.

Going back to the station surveys, some stations had more than one done. When we first came to do Gisborne Station in 2018, the survey we found at that time was dated 1968. We do not recall if the 1982 survey was found at that time, but the 1968 one was chosen. Having done more investigation today into the area around Gisborne Station and the various private sidings, we are now creating map tiles for that era in Gisborne, which will add another era to the historical aerial maps, as well as giving more detail to add to the diagrams.

Today we also finished drawing the yard layout for Matawhero. This means the next part of the M-M-M series can be written tomorrow. Whilst looking in the area, we removed Gisborne Aerodrome as a station. This is shown in the Quail Atlas 4th edition, but Dates And Names suggests that it was for a siding that was never installed, so it never existed. We are fairly confident of having got everything we need for Gisborne now, and so there is just Muriwai Station to complete mapping the area and allow us to push on back towards Napier and points further south in finalising the maps to be completed next week.

NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020B]

This report as always with these reports is a general overview of the project as a whole across all volumes. Our earlier report 2020A was written on the first day of the year and outlined our expected programme for map development across the whole project this year.

At present with the development of the maps across all volumes, the following sequence is proposed at this time, but could change later:
  • Volume 5 (PNGL) - on track to be completed by the end of January
  • Volume 6 (WL) - February
  • Volume 4 (MNPL) - March
  • Volume 3 (ECMT) - Apri
  • Volume 1 (NAL) - May
  • Volume 2 (NIMT) - June
This means we have priorisitised the 6 volumes of the North Island for the first half of the year, leaving the 6 volumes of the South Island for the second half of the year. Most of these volumes are already completed to some extent from previous work. The largest amount of work is likely to be needed in the two longest corridors apart from PNGL - these are ECMT and NIMT of course. NIMT is one of the more challenging ones because of the length of the corridor and the fact it runs between two of our largest cities.

We now turn to a look at some evolving changes in the way certain technical aspects of the maps themselves have been developed. What is becoming more commonplace in the maps in general in the last year or two is widespread use of aerial photography to provide references for historical and contemporary content. How that aerial photography is used to provide finished maps has varied to date. Now that we are moving towards completed volumes for all areas, this is very relevant.

Map data in a GIS is handled in layers. Each layer manages a particular type of object and generally for convenience we can further divide the types of data into our own personal classifications. Here are some examples:
  • Locations (stations, distance pegs etc)
  • Bridges and Tunnels
  • Features (such as premises that contain sidings)
  • Main Line Corridor(s)
  • Branch Line Corridor(s) 
  • Yards and Sidings
  • Buildings
  • Structures
  • Sites
  • Roads
  • Land
  • Water
  • Terrain
  • Aerial Photos
All of the map volume GIS projects follow that general style.

The maps are presented in two overall types. Diagram maps are drawn against a terrain background. The terrain is rendered greyscale relief imagery that shows the type of terrain for the area (i.e. flat or hills). It does not have a significant visual impact upon the finished maps as most of the grey shades are less than 50% density.

Aerial maps are drawn against an aerial photography background. With this type of background there are many more challenges mostly in making data layers stand out against a background that is much more dense and often quite dark. There is also the issue of the data layers obscuring visible content in the aerial photography itself. Another issue is the alignment of some of the general (non rail) data layers such as roads.

Because of these issues with aerial photography in particular, the work on Volume 5 has begun to classify layers as being diagram specific. This means when we produce a map of one particular area, such as one station, a diagram map will show much more data than an aerial map. This means the aerial map will be visually a lot less cluttered and more of the aerial background will be visible.

Another important aspect specifically relating to diagrams has been the production of diagrams that cover more than one historical era. We developed a system a year or two back using date range fields to enable us to determine where possible when a particular object became visible and when it became invisible, driven by aerial photography reference. By applying filter formulas, we could cause these objects to appear and disappear on the resulting maps. The main drawback however is the amount of work needed to create these different historical eras. In major yards a lot of changes can take place over a long period.

It has been decided that most diagrams going forward will be composites that show multiple eras in one diagram, with labelling to clarify certain aspects. Eras will be solely represented by producing an aerial map for each era, but as the map information on an aerial map is not the full range of data visible on a diagram map, much of the information that is era specific will not be marked on the aerial map itself. Instead, a reader will use the diagram map to cross reference specific features which are visible on an aerial map.

A small change has also occurred where aerial photo tiles are partly filled by empty canvas in the graphics editing software that produces (mainly) historical tiles, but also is used to remove some black edges that we get in the tiles we download from Linz. For some time we have filled these gaps with current aerial photos. However, to avoid confusing different eras of aerial photography, starting with Volume 5 we will fill these gaps with a white background.

We are also moving towards producing combined map sets that incorporate all aerial and diagram maps together in sequence. This is in addition to producing separate aerial and diagram sets, which has been the norm up until now.

Friday 24 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [0P]: Volume 5 Progress Update 16

As ever, work continues at a frantic pace to complete all the maps for Volume 5. It's been quite surprising the extra work that has cropped up in the last week, due to additional detail being discovered about some of the stations around Gisborne. 

The maps have (hopefully) been completed for the Moutohora/Makaraka branches and several articles posted on the Makaraka Branch. The online versions of these maps have not yet been updated as this process requires all the existing maps to be removed before adding the new ones, of which there are now 118 from Gisborne Junction to Moutohora. We want to finalise all of the Gisborne stuff before uploading everything all at once.

The next stage is to label all the sidings around Gisborne using the detail in the S&I diagrams then work down to Matawhero, finish the maps for that station (95% complete as of now), publish the next part of the M-M-M article series on the station, then onward to Muriwai, another set of maps and another MMM series article, and that will hopefully be it for Gisborne. Then we have to generate the maps for the Ngatapa Branch, as well, and also the Gisborne-Waioeka survey.

From there we work back down south. We have already updated maps for Wairoa and Napier, and these won't be looked at again. But we do have to check up on Napier Port, again using those S&I diagrams to label sidings in the area.

Then we still have to finish off a few intermediate stations between Palmerston North and Napier, particularly Dannevirke where we have not drawn anything yet. Some of the other stations still need a bit of detail put in.

So anyway there is still quite a lot to do and we just need to keep up the current pace of updating to ensure we meet our deadline of completing this volume within the next week.

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [4C]: Makaraka, Matawhero & Muriwai [3]: Makaraka Branch 3 - Makaraka Station & APMB Siding

Here's the third part of an article series about three railway stations on the outskirts of Gisborne, the names of which all start with M. This post specifically relates to Makaraka, a station at the end of the Makaraka Branch, which is the first 3.5 km of the old Moutohora Branch. Makaraka is the second station on the Makaraka Branch and the fourth station on the Gisborne Section, as the Moutohora Branch was originally called. The first station on the Gisborne Section was Gisborne Station, currently the terminus of the Palmerston North Gisborne Line. The second station was Northcote Road, which was renamed Gisborne Junction in 1943, and later still, Makaraka Junction Points. It became the new origination of the Moutohora Branch, when the Moutohora line became a branch off the PNGL main line that opened in 1943. Gisborne Junction was effectively closed in 1959 with the closure of the branch, but was reopened sometime later with the establishment of the Makaraka Branch or Gisborne Industrial Line. Since the branch was mothballed in the 1990s, the junction points have been permanently fixed in the main line position. Park Racecourse was the third station, and Makaraka the fourth.

Makaraka was never a large station under NZR operation. From the 1947 working timetable we can see that the provided accommodation and appliances consisted of a modest station building or shelter (approximately 30 x 10 feet), a modest goods shed of 30 x 20 feet, a passenger platform on the right hand side of the main line, and stockyards. There were no fixed signals, and a loading bank was not provided. At the present time we do not have WTT specific details of siding lengths,  but observation on aerial photos suggests the station was provided with a loop and a siding that accessed the stockyards and the outside of the goods shed. Later on, prior to and possibly as part of the construction of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board premises and siding, the siding was removed, along with all facilities or remnants on that side of the yard, but the loop was left in place. The main line after the rest of the Moutohora Branch closed, ended a short distance before a now-removed bridge of which two piers are still visible today. A few metres further on, the Ngatapa Branch formerly joined the Moutohora Branch until it was eventually lifted in the late 1930s. It seems likely that local instructions for Makaraka would have provided for the operation of this junction, probably by a traffic assistant, but we have not researched this. Certainly there was no need for any form of interlocking or signalling by 1947, well after the Ngatapa Branch closure, but there may have been some form of this in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Makaraka was first closed in 1959 along with the entire Moutohora Branch. In 1979 it formally became a part of the Gisborne Industrial Line, the earlier name for the Makaraka Branch. It is recorded as having been closed again in 1994, possibly because the Apple and Pear Marketing Board ceased using their siding by that time. However, the branch itself ceased to be labelled on an S&I diagram issued in 1991, so it is possible that the sidings closed earlier.  As noted in Part 1 of this series, Makaraka is just past the 3 km peg of the Makaraka Branch, or 2.03 miles from Gisborne Junction, despite its being recorded in official NZR documents at the 3.18 milepeg. The reasons for this anomaly are more fully addressed in a preceding article in this series. As also noted in previous articles, the Branch itself is not documented on any known S&I diagram beyond the junction points.

At Makaraka, the old station building and goods shed remained in place for several years after the line closed, along with the loop and siding. Both were still visible in a 1962 aerial photo, but only the goods shed remained by 1966. In 1970, the Apple and Pear Marketing Board opened its Harold Thawley Store in Halbert Road, on the south side of the Makaraka yard. This occupied the space formerly used by the goods shed, stock yard and their siding in the yard, getting its own track which ran under a loading shelter. This enabled fruit to be packed and chilled at the store, before being either railed to other areas, or shipped out through the port of Gisborne. The store was capable of handling 100,000 cases of fruit in all.

In more recent years Weatherell Transport has occupied the old Apple and Pear site, and siding track is still in place. In 2016, the old APMB coolstore burned to the ground, although the loading shelter and side buildings from APMB remain. The north side of Makaraka, where the station platform and building used to sit, is now part of the East Coast Museum of Technology. They have constructed their own platform and relocated the Matawhero Station building to it, on top of the site of the old station. They also have obtained the Makaraka goods shed and Kings Road station from private owners, although we do not at this time know which of the visible buildings in the aerial photos are these buildings. Tracks have been laid along the platform and nearby which are connected to the Makaraka Branch at both ends of the NZR station. ECMoT have listed reopening the Makaraka Branch, which has been disused for decades, as a prospective future project, but the significant funds needed would be only the first of many obstacles to commencing public train operations from Makaraka to Gisborne. The station yard of Makaraka although nominally mothballed and possibly still in KRL ownership, is actually fenced off, with the fenceline crossing over the main line and loop tracks just past the eastern end points.

We now have a selection of maps for Makaraka to follow. This is not the complete set and as always, readers are encouraged to view the full map collections to see what we have produced for this location.

Composite overview diagram of Makaraka yard. The label at upper centre of this diagram is a new feature, and we will use them increasingly more often on diagrams. It is especially useful to identify a diagram that is a composite of several different ones, or a diagram that covers only a part of a site's history, because we are dropping diagrams of different eras of a station, due to the amount of work that is needed to produce different eras of each station. Instead, we will use the aerial maps to show different eras.

Overview aerial map from 1962. The station and goods shed are clearly visible. The large building lower centre is the Kia Ora Dairy Co-op factory. We have not found any evidence in aerial photos going back to the early 1940s that this premises ever had a railway siding. Directly above the dairy factory can be seen what is probably a railway house for station staff.

1986 overview aerial map. Significant changes are obvious in the yard with the Apple & Pear (later Weatherell Transport) site. Some early evidence of ECMoT is possibly present.

Aerial overview map for 2017. Obvious changes in the APMB buildings on south side(coolstore demolished) and in establishment of ECMoT on north side.

The eastern end of Makaraka Yard. This is an enlarged version of part of the first diagram, and although the label is not present (as it would not be fully displayed), the same caveats apply.

The central part of Makaraka station yard. This one is at a larger scale than the other two parts, in order to show more readily where the old buildings and structures were, especially in relation to the way things are today. Note a double slip on the ECMoT trackage.

Central Makaraka yard aerial view from 1948, showing the buildings, platform and stockyards.

2012 aerial view of central Makaraka yard (sharper aerial photography than 2017 which is in any case very similar). Most of this view now dominated by ECMoT. The ex-Matawhero station sits directly over the site of the original Makaraka station.

Makaraka western end diagram. Shows some of the middle but at a smaller scale.

The main line of the branch goes around a curve and ends. ECMoT have one of their tracks joining to the main with a set of points close to the end.

Ngatapa Branch Junction points.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Palmerston North Gisborne Line [4B]: Makaraka, Matawhero & Muriwai [2]: Gisborne junction Station

As we are getting into the more intensive research around Gisborne railways, we keep discovering new information, and so this series of articles has been extended further. We originally planned three parts, but we currently predict five, possibly more if needed. The main reason for extension is discovering more information about stations in the Gisborne area. There won't be such an intensive focus on any other area of Volume 5, but there is a lot of history around railways in Gisborne and due to some family connections we have a lot of interest in this area.

This second part in our series takes a look at the station originally called Northcote Road. At the moment we know very little about this station. The only information we really have about it is the references in Juliet Scoble's publication "Dates and Names", which mentions it on page 86 as being a part of the Gisborne Section. This cross references to Gisborne Junction on page 36. The entry for Gisborne Junction states that it was opened "before 1941" and that it closed to freight "before 1943" but does not give any information about a date when it may have ceased to be used for passenger traffic. The name of the station is said to have changed from Northcote Road to Gisborne Junction "c.1/1943" and it is shown as closing in 1959 when the Moutohora Branch closed.

Gisborne's railway network was developed starting in 1900 and eventually encompassed four sections:
  1. Gisborne Section, which ran from the city to Moutohora, and was intended to be part of the Gisborne to Auckland trunk line.
  2. Gisborne Wharf line, which opened in 1933 with the completion of the bridge across Gisborne Harbour, and by 1957 was incorporated into Gisborne station limits.
  3. Ngatapa Branch, which was originally intended to be part of the main line going south to Napier. Constructed 1911-1914, it became part of the NZR network as a branch terminating at Ngatapa in 1924 following the Government's decision to adopt the present route south.
  4. Palmerston North Gisborne Line, which was constructed in several stages: From Napier to Wairoa 1912-1939, Wairoa-Waikokopu 1920-1923 and Waikokopu-Gisborne 1936-1943.
The current situation of today is that: the line to Gisborne Port is nominally under the control of Gisborne Port Company and not under Kiwirail jurisdiction; the Ngatapa Branch closed in 1931 and was lifted in the later 1930s; practically all of the Gisborne Section became the Moutohora Branch, which closed in 1959, and of which a short section was reopened as the Makaraka Branch; and the Palmerston North Gisborne Line, since 2012, was completely closed between Napier and Muriwai, however in 2019 the line was reopened between Napier and Wairoa.  The section of the PNGL between Muriwai and Gisborne, since 2011, has been leased by Gisborne City Vintage Railway from Kiwirail to operate heritage steam trains, and these services also run on occasions to Gisborne Port.

All of the lines were joined together but not simultaneously. The Gisborne Port line joins to the PNGL at Gisborne Station; the Ngatapa Branch joined to the Gisborne Section just west of Makaraka; and in the late 1930s, a new junction was formed at Northcote Road to bring the PNGL through from the south into the city. This directly led to the new name, Gisborne Junction, in 1943. It is located 1.88 km, or 1.15 miles, south-west of Gisborne (the measurements were made at different times and do not mathematically convert). In imperial days, it was 240.29 miles from Palmerston North, which today is expressed as 388.52 km. Again, these two measurements do not mathematically convert correctly and are not required to. This point is made because the Quail Atlas appears to use direct mathematical conversions of distances, which we consider erroneous; however, Gisborne Junction does not appear in the QA 4th edition.

Since we have very little official information about Gisborne Junction, we can only post a couple of S&I diagrams that were also put into the previous part of this series, and the maps we produced for that station. Here they are.

S&I diagram 1102 of 1965, the earliest historical S&I diagram we can access. By this stage the Moutohora Branch has closed, and switchlock No. 5A, controlled from the Gisborne Station signal panel, is used to gain access to or from "Park Racecourse" Siding. To enable this, the signalman at Gisborne must release lever No.5 which controls all of the switchlocks 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D to the various sidings which are all within Station Limits which at that time more or less ran to a little south-west of Gisborne Junction. The Makaraka Branch, at that time, was considered to be within Gisborne station limits, just as the Port line was. Lever 5 could only be released if Levers 4 and 6, controlling all the signals with numbers starting with the same digits, were in the Stop position, which meant that effectively, the line was blocked to trains from Gisborne to the junction except for shunting purposes, controlled by the low speed lights 4RB and 6LB. Signal 4L was the Up Departure signal and Signal 4R was the Down Outer Home signal.

Next available S&I is No. 2125 dated June 1988. This diagram is similar to 1102 except that by that time, Gisborne station limits has been extended to Matawhero, and south of Matawhero, Track Warrant Control is now in effect, replacing Single Line Automatic Signalling which was previously used. Note that the Makaraka Branch is now shown as "Racecourse Park Siding".

The next signalling diagram was produced only a few months later in March 1989, No.2146. This one brought about a change in the naming of switchlocks, so 5A became WL5A, and the other switchlocks therein followed suit. The general appearance on the diagram was unchanged from the above and we have not included it here. South of Gisborne Junction, a significant change was that Matawhero Station, formerly a fully interlocked switch-out station yard, became a set of uncontrolled sidings, with one connection to the main line controlled from Gisborne using paired motor points. This will be covered more in a later part of this series that focuses on Matawhero Station.

With S&I diagram 2185 of February 1991, the names were removed off the diagram of all the sidings between Gisborne and Gisborne Junction indicating probable closure. The switchlocks were also renumbered in the WL2 series. This was reproduced essentially unaltered in the next diagram in October 1995, numbered 2457.

The last two S&I diagrams currently available for Gisborne are No. 2785 dated December 2003 and 2861 dated September 2006, the main differences being the former was issued by Tranz Rail and the latter by Ontrack, with a consequent change in the terminology used. We have reproduced the latter above. As we can see, the term "Old Makaraka Branch" is used for the first time, as well as the information that the points are permanently fixed at normal. This statement, as well as the way the Makaraka Branch is drawn on the diagram (a thin black line beyond the thick lines representing the controlled sections of the PNGL, indicates that the Branch is closed or mothballed, and not part of the Ontrack (now Kiwirail) network. There is one other key difference in diagram 2861 compared to 2785 and that is an extended diagram showing the whole of Gisborne Station yard, which indicates that the Port line is controlled by Gisborne Port Company, and that a section of the yard is controlled by Gisborne City Vintage Railway. The switchlock WL2A is now the only switchlock within Gisborne station limits, the other sidings all having been removed.

The earliest aerial map for Gisborne Junction (then named Northcote Road) we can produce is from mid-1942. Immediately south-west of the junction, we can see some buildings on the under-construction PNGL, but we do not know the purpose of them. At far left, near Stanley Road level crossing, we can see some sort of works adjacent to the railway line. These may have also been construction related. Northcote Road, after which the station is named, meets Endeavour Street in the lower part of the map, directly in line with the access road into the station.

1948 aerial map. The main change is the apparent removal of the buildings seen in the 1942 map. The station access road appears to be overgrown or closed.

Aerial map for 1968. The station access road has reappeared. A major change is the installation of new sidings for Farm Products, Sheepfarmer & BP between the junction and Stanley Road. New houses have been built next to the junction, probably on former railway station land.

Gisborne Junction 1977. More development has occurred at the premises served by sidings between Stanley Road and the junction. The 1986 map is essentially the same and has not been included in this post, but is available in the online map sets for the Moutohora Branch.

The last aerial map for today shows Gisborne Junction in 2017. The sidings at Stanley Road have all been pulled up, although many of the siding served buildings are still in place.

Here is the diagram map for Gisborne Junction.