Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Nelson Section [1]: Gowanbridge-Murchison 1

From today I have started working on the Nelson Section maps having merged the Nelson-Marlborough map project into the Canterbury-Westland project some time ago. So that it is easier to work on the Main North Line maps as there are very few railways in Nelson-Marlborough. What is particularly relevant as the impetus for getting this section of maps underway is the availability of historic aerial photography that covers the entire route from Nelson to Murchison. From Gowanbridge south in particular the aerials available are very old ones dated from 1943, which was about 12 years after construction permanently ceased, and this makes it possible to have a reasonably high degree of confidence about where the railway was intended to go.

The construction south of Gowanbridge reached right through to Mangles River just outside Murchison but the formation works were not completed at the time at the beginning of 1931 when all work was suspended. There was continuous track from Glenhope to Gowanbridge at the time and the line was formally opened to Kawatiri in 1926. Gowanbridge was open for freight in 1929, although by PWD rather than NZR; it was never formally part of NZR's network. The section from Gowanbridge to Glenhope closed in 1931. In 1942 the rails on this section were recovered for reuse elsewhere due to wartime material shortages. 

For this series of posts we are starting at the Murchison end and heading up towards Gowanbridge. Then the next series will probably be Gowanbridge-Kawatiri and Kawatiri-Glenhope. 

The first piece of the railway is this section from the Mangles River crossing to the Buller River crossing. SH6 and the railway did not cross at the time of construction because the highway followed the road on the other side of the Buller River at the time when the railway formation was constructed. 

 Here is a part of the route where the road and rail closed in to get round a bend in the river.

 This stretch of the railway corridor had a couple of small bridges or culverts built of concrete to cross some streams and these structures still exist today as they are used by the farm.

After it crossed another small bridge or culvert the railway was to cross the highway and then the y would be side by side going around this curve and crossing over Coal Creek. The highway was later realigned, possibly in the 1940s, to reuse the rail corridor at this location. There would have been another level crossing at the other end of the curve. The other point of interest is the Owen River crossing seen further to the right. The highway was realigned with a new bridge in 2004-5.

 One of the small bridges or culverts that was built for the railway and is now being used today by farmers.
 Railway bridge in farm.
 Railway bridge or culvert just west of the Coal Creek curve.
Mangles River crossing. The unfinished cutting on the east side of the railway bridge site is clearly visible.

The crossing of the Buller River just a little east of Mangles River. Some years later a new section of SH6 was constructed to the right of the railway route with its own bridge.

Coal Creek curve 1943. Buildings alongside the road (more or less on the rail formation) may be for a road project such as the construction of the original bridge seen here. The buildings further upstream (to the left) were for a coal mine.
Owen River 1943. The highway was straightened with a new double lane bridge in 2004-5.