The Kaihu Valley Railway
Photo showing a train slowly moving over a submerged section of the line at Babylon, near Kaihu.
The New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal, 8 September 1909, p.23: Auckland Libraries
In recent years, moves have been made to turn the former Kaihu Valley Railway line into a cycle trail for tourists running from the terminus at Donnellys Crossing to Dargaville. The line was first instigated in 1882 by Joseph Dargaville and Edwin Mitchelson both by then members of parliament. Dargaville and Mitchelson took advantage of the Railways Construction Act based on US models which included generous land endowments as an incentive provided the railway was constructed within five years.
The idea at the time was to run the line into the timber-rich Kaihu Valley which had abundant kauri forests available for clear felling and milling. The railway took more than eight years to build up to the first terminus at Kaihu, which was opened in 1896. Flooding and other issues were a constant issue during and after construction. The line had a further extension to Tarawhati which was opened in 1914. Then a further and final extension to Donnellys Crossing opened for passenger traffic in 1923. The line remained isolated until 1942 when it was connected to the Dargaville Branch line and ultimately the North Auckland Line. However, the Kaihu section was short-lived and was closed in July 1959.
In 2021, Kaipara District Council commissioned Archaeology North to do an investigation of the proposed route for the future cycle trail. The report can be found here.
The completed historical narrative report took a year of research to fill in the numerous gaps in the history of the railway. It's been submitted to Heritage New Zealand in the hope the former railway formation will qualify for heritage listing as a Historic Area. The report can be viewed here.
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