The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (February 1, 1928)
Railway Progress in the Far North. — Direct Rail To Auckland
One of the important lines at present under construction by the Public Works Department is that which will connect the Northern Wairoa district with the present North Island main line system.
The main line junction to connect with the present Dargaville section has been made at Waiotira, 108 miles north of Auckland. The gap of 45 miles has been reduced by about 13½ miles of line just completed, which will shortly be taken over by the Railway Department. Work is being pushed on at various points on the remaining portion of the line.
North Auckland country, being somewhat broken in contour and very unstable during wet weather, presents many problems for the constructional staff. As settlement grows and drainage increases this latter difficulty will be minimised. The formation of the soil is such, however, that there will always be necessity for careful supervision during flood seasons.
There are four stations on the completed portion of the new line, viz., Pikiwahine, Omana, Pukehuia and Kirikopuni. Other stations are proposed at Tangowahine and Awakino. The new line will join up with the present Kaihu valley line at Dargaville.
Two tunnels have been constructed on the new section, one (18 chains in length) at Tokatoka and one of 32 chains at Omana.
The greatest undertaking on this section has been the construction of a bridge spanning the Northern Wairoa river at Pukehuia. This work has just been completed and a very fine bridge stands as a monument to the ability and industry of the Public Works Department.
The bridge, which is built of concrete, has a total length of 576 feet. It has two central spans each 105 feet long, the approaches being built with steel girders. In the centre the bridge is 35 feet above low water level and about fifteen feet above high water level—there being a ten foot tidal rise in the Northern Wairoa river.
The Kaipara harbour and Northern Wairoa river form one of the largest inland waterways in New Zealand. The district, hitherto, depended for communication and development on water transport. This was the land of immense Kauri forests and many millions of feet of timber have been carried down the river to be distributed throughout the land. Quite a fleet of coastal and intercolonial timber ships regularly plied their trade on the Kaipara harbour, on the shores of which, and on the river side, timber mills and townships devoted to the industry grew up at various points. To-day most of the Kauri has been cut out and the country is in the transition stage—between the old timber trade and a new agricultural industry.
Most of the Northern Wairoa district is quite suitable for sheep or dairy farming and already holds quite an important position in the agricultural world.
From the junction at Waiotira (for about five miles) the country is rather hilly, but is very suitable for sheep and cattle raising. Between Pikiwahine and Omana there is a rich alluvial valley through which flows the little Tauroa river, and from Pukehuia there is mixed and swamp page 29 country all very suitable for settlement and development. There are, too, stretches of hilly gum lands which scientific farming has already proved capable of yielding good results. Close to Dargaville there are more rich alluvial flats which are claimed to contain some of the finest dairying and cropping land in the Dominion.
The present Kaihu valley railway runs north to Donnelley's Crossing and, when the junction is finally made, there will be railway communication to the great Kauri forest at Waipawa and also to the Trounson Park reserve. There will be preserved in this area what will prove to be a wonderful sight for future generations who have not been familiar with the glory of a standing Kauri forest.
In conjunction with the railway construction on this route “main highway” roads to serve the district are being built by the Public Works Department. Already a splendid road is opening up the Mangakahia valley by way of Kirikopuni and Parakao, and connecting with the main highway from Whangarei to Kaikohe. There is some splendid bush scenery along these roads and in one place a viaduct 120 feet high spans a rocky gorge.
At Kirikopuni the Northern Wairoa Dairy Company is building a large butter factory to serve this district. This fact is an indication of the possibilities of the district which is only partially settled.
Kirikopuni, which was formerly open country, is now taking shape as a small township.
The Public Works Department following the policy adopted in other parts of the Dominion, has built a number of camps for their employees. The main camp is situated at Pukehuia and from here the bridge construction work was carried out. Pukehuia is quite a model township laid out in approved style and containing comfortable houses for married workers and their families and hutments for the single men. There are two schools (staffed by the Education Department) which accommodate 120 scholars. A fine hall built by the Department is controlled by the Young Men's Christian Association and provides recreation and entertainment for the residents.
As different works are being carried on at various points along the new line, smaller camps have been established at convenient places.
A railway goods and passenger service is operating between Kirikopuni and Waiotira and a connection is made with the train services on the Auckland-Whangarei line. Service cars run regular daily trips between the rail head and page 30 Dargaville and residents of the Northern Wairoa district are within easy distance of Auckland. Quite a contrast to the transport conditions of early settlers who had to make long and arduous journeys by road and water to the centres of civilisation!
The work on this line is under the control of Mr. J. E. W. McEnnis, District Engineer (stationed at Whangarei), and his assistant (Mr. E. A. Gibson) who is in charge of the construction work at Pukehuia and Kirikopuni.
The new line is a tribute to their skill and perseverance and New Zealanders can well be proud of the accomplishments of their public servants in works often carried out under most trying conditions.