Kiwiosities – Nelson’s Notional Railway

In the days of  state-subsidised everything, Nelson had no railway, so the privileges that applied to places served by this service were extended to the regions, notionally.

Freight and passenger charges  on service to Blenheim were subbsidised n 1957 to make them like  the cheaper  rail services available elsewhere. Nelson in fact had a rail for years,  but it went nowhere. An intended connection with the West Coast  was abandoned in  the 1930s Great Depression short of the upper Buller River.

A link to  Marlborough, reached  by the  South Island Main  Trunk  as late as 1945, was never begun. The possibility  of dispatching goods by rail effectively stalled at Glenhope (1912-1954), though tunnels and tracks  ran  beyond the Kawatiri Junction (Hope Junction) at the gate the  Nelson Lakes and Upper Buller in  the 1930s. The Nelson  railways functioned on a local delivery service, through the  orchards,  hop farms and tobacco fields of the Waimea Plains and  Valley. When authorities ruled that the line be taken up in 1954, local folk sat on it, in one of the first New Zealand examples of a  full-scale community protest against central decision-making.

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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand’s historic and natural heritage.