List of New Zealand railway lines

List of New Zealand railway lines

The New Zealand railway network consists of four main lines, seven secondary lines and numerous short branch lines in almost every region. It links all major urban centres, with the notable exceptions of Nelson and Taupo. The network is owned and managed by the New Zealand Railways Corporation, trading as ONTRACK. The network was constructed from 1863 onwards, mostly by government bodies, initially by the Provincial and later by central government (usually the Public Works Department). In 1993 New Zealand Rail Limited was privatised (and later renamed Tranz Rail), with the New Zealand Railways Corporation retaining the land (due to Treaty of Waitangi claims on land taken for railway construction). In 2003 the government renationalised the network. Toll Rail operates all freight and most passenger services (including Tranz Metro passenger trains in the Wellington region), Veolia operates MAXX suburban passenger trains in Auckland and the Taieri Gorge Railway operates tourist passenger trains in Dunedin.

New Zealand national rail network

Main Trunk Lines


:Suburban rail lines:*Eastern line:*Western line:*Southern line

Waikato / Coromandel

*Cambridge Branch (freight only, closed beyond Hautapu)
*Glen Afton Branch (closed, partially remains as the Bush Tramway Club's Pukemiro Line)
*Kimihia Branch (freight only)
*Rotowaro Branch (freight only)
*Thames Branch (closed beyond Waitoa, remainder now Waitoa Industrial Line)
*Waitoa Industrial Line (freight only, ex Thames Branch)
*Wilton Colleries Line (closed)

Bay of Plenty

*Kinleith Branch (freight only, serves Kinleith Mill)
*Mount Maunganui Branch (freight only)
*Murupara Branch (freight only)
*Rotorua Branch (mothballed)
*Taneatua Branch (mothballed)
*Whakatane Industrial Line (closed)

Gisborne - Hawke's Bay

* Ahuriri Branch (freight only)
* Moutuhora Branch (closed - mothballed as far as Makaraka)
* Ngatapa Branch (closed)

Central North Island

*Raetihi Branch (closed)


*Castlecliff Branch (mothballed, see note)
*Kapuni Branch (freight only, ex Opunake Branch)
*Mount Egmont Branch (closed)
*Opunake Branch (closed beyond Kapuni, remainder now Kapuni Branch)
*Waitara Branch (operated by the Waitara Rail Preservation Society)
*Wanganui Branch (freight only)

Note: On 5 September 2006, ONTRACK issued a bulletin closing the Castlecliff Branch to all traffic. However, it has not been formally closed as this requires written permission from the appropriate government minister. The track is still in place, with a sleeper chained across the track at the start of the branch.


*Foxton Branch (closed)
*Taonui Branch (closed)


*Greytown Branch (closed)


*Gracefield Branch (freight only)
*Johnsonville Line (ex NIMT; passenger only)
*Melling Branch (ex Wairarapa Line; passenger only)
*Te Aro Branch (closed)


*Nelson Section (isolated, closed)


*Blackball Branch (closed)
*Cape Foulwind Branch (closed)
*Conns Creek Branch (closed)
*Hokitika Branch (freight only, ex Ross Branch)
*Ngakawau Branch (now part of Stillwater-Westport Line, ex Seddonville Branch)
*Rapahoe Branch (freight only)
*Rewanui Branch (closed)
*Ross Branch (closed beyond Hokitika, remainder now Hokitika Branch)
*Seddonville Branch (closed beyond Ngakawau; remainder now Stillwater-Wesport line, formerly Ngakawau Branch)


*Eyreton Branch (closed)
*Fairlie Branch (closed; site of Pleasant Point Museum and Railway)
*Ferrymead Railway (site of heritage railway of the same name)
*Hornby Industrial Line (ex Southbridge Branch; freight only)
*Little River Branch (closed; site of Little River Rail Trail)
*Methven Branch (closed)
*Mount Somers (or Springburn) Branch (closed; site of Plains Vintage Railway)
*Oxford Branch (closed)
*Southbridge Branch (part closed; remainder now Hornby Industrial Line)
*Waiau Branch (closed; site of Weka Pass Railway)
*Waimate Branch (closed)
*Waimate Gorge Branch (closed; see Waimate Branch for line details)
*Whitecliffs Branch (closed)

Otago / Southland

*Balfour Branch (closed; part of former Waimea Plains Railway)
*Bluff Branch (freight only)
*Browns Branch (closed; part of former Hedgehope Branch)
*Catlins River Branch (closed)
*Dunback Branch (closed)
*Fernhill Branch (closed)
*Hedgehope Branch (closed)
*Kingston Branch (closed; site of Kingston Flyer Ltd)
*Kurow Branch (closed)
*Makareao Branch (closed; part of former Dunback Branch)
*Moeraki Branch (closed)
*Mossburn Branch (closed)
*Ngapara Branch (closed)
*Otago Central Railway (now Taieri Branch for first four kilometres, then the Taieri Gorge Railway to Middlemarch; closed and site of the Otago Central Rail Trail thereafter)
*Outram Branch (closed)
*Port Chalmers Branch (freight only)
*Riverton Branch (closed; part of former Tuatapere Branch)
*Roxburgh Branch (closed)
*Shag Point Branch (closed)
*Taieri Branch (access to Taieri Gorge Railway)
*Tapanui Branch (closed)
*Tokanui (or Seaward Bush) Branch (closed)
*Tokarahi Branch (closed)
*Tuatapere Branch (closed)
*Waikaia Branch (closed)
*Waikaka Branch (closed)
*Waimea Plains Railway (closed; site of Croydon Aircraft Museum)
*Wairio Branch (freight only)
*Walton Park Branch (closed)
*Wyndham Branch (closed)

Private lines

Parts of the network were constructed by private companies, and most were unsuccessful. All except the Whakatane Board Mills line and the Sanson Tramway were later acquired by the government. The most successful was the Wellington and Manawatu Railway, which operated between Wellington and Longburn (near Palmerston North) from 1885 to 1908. After the WMR, perhaps the best-known private railway was the New Zealand Midland Railway Company, which constructed parts of the Midland, Nelson and some West Coast lines. After the company was dissolved in 1900 the railway lines and their construction were taken over by the government. Some lines were also built by companies for access such as to coal mines, and by local government bodies.
* Cape Foulwind Branch
* Castlecliff Railway
* Fernhill Branch
* Hutt Park Railway
* Kaitangata Line
* Kurow Branch (Duntroon - Hakataramea portion)
* Methven Branch
* New Zealand Midland Railway Company Limited
* Ohai Railway Board
* Port Chalmers Railway Company Limited
* Riccarton Racecourse Line
* Sanson Tramway
* Thames Valley and Rotorua Railway Company
* Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company Limited
* Waimate Gorge Branch
* Waimea Plains Railway
* Whakatane Board Mills Line
* Wilton Colleries Line

ignificant proposals

Many railway lines have been proposed, especially in the 19th century, but never constructed. Some proposals have been particularly significant due to their extent, publicity, or how close they came to being realised (in some cases, the track bed was built). Some significant proposals include:
*Avondale - Southdown line (land corridor owned by ONTRACK)
*Branch line to Marsden Point
*Branch line to Taupo - an extension of the Rotorua, Kinleith or Murupara lines
*Canterbury Interior Main Line
*Connection of the Catlins River Branch and the Tokanui Branch
*Connection of the East Coast Main Trunk with the Palmerston North - Gisborne line
*Culverden - Reefton line
*Culverden to Tophouse, with branches from there to Nelson and Blenheim
* Dunedin Peninsula and Ocean Beach railway extension to Portobello and Taiaroa Heads.
*Extension of the Nelson Section through the Buller Gorge to the West Coast
*Fairlie Branch - extension 27 km beyond Eversley, proposals to terminate the line in Burkes Pass
*Gisborne - Rotorua line via Te Teko
*Haywards - Plimmerton line
*Kakahi - Pūkawa (Lake Taupo) line
*Kingston Branch - extension to Queenstown
*Kirikopuni - Kaikohe line
*Kurow Branch - extension beyond Hakataramea
*Little River Branch - extension to Akaroa
*Marsden Point Branch and its Waipu precursor
* Martinborough Branch
*Mossburn Branch - extension to Te Anau
*Nelson - Blenheim line
*Okaihau Branch - extension to Rangiahua and ultimately to Kaitaia
*Onehunga Branch - extension to the Auckland International Airport
*Opunake Branch - sub-branch from Kapuni to Manaia; extension to New Plymouth
*Otago Central Railway - extension to Wanaka
*Paengaroa - Rotorua line
*Pokeno - Paeroa line
*Sockburn-Styx deviation
*Roxburgh Branch - connection from Roxburgh to the Otago Central Railway in Alexandra
*Taupo Railway Proposals - connections from Kinleith, Murupara or Rotorua branches
*Te Aro Extension - extension through to Island Bay
*Waiau Branch - extension to Kaikoura
*Waimate Branch - extension of the Waihao Downs line
*Wainuiomata railway - from various proposed junctions in the Hutt Valley
*Wiri - Manukau Branch - branch line from NIMT to Manukau City centre

Bush tramways

These refer to lines principally constructed to haul timber or minerals, often in isolated areas. A variety of gauges was used, including the NZ standard 1067 mm (3'6"). Typical bush trams were more lightly constructed than ordinary rail lines and had steeper gradients and sharper curves also. With the low speeds that were commonplace, rolling stock and locomotives were generally built to lighter standards than mainline vehicles. It was not uncommon for road vehicles to be adapted for use on the trams, either as haulage power or rolling stock. As road vehicles became more suited for these operations the trams gradually faded away and none are now operating.

A prominent example of a bush tramway was the Taupo Totara Timber Company's line between Putaruru and Mokai, and an example of a mineral tramway was the Dun Mountain Railway.

treet tramways

Major street tramway networks were constructed in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with smaller operations in Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Nelson and Invercargill. Employing horse, steam or electric power, they operated in most cases until the 1950s when improved buses saw most of the tracks scrapped. Christchurch is the only city still with an urban tram operation, which was constructed from scratch in the late 1990s as a tourism venture. See Trams in New Zealand.

Heritage railways

A large number of societies have been set up around New Zealand to operate working heritage railway lines and museums. Most of these are run largely or wholly by volunteer labour, except the Taieri Gorge Railway in Dunedin, which employs paid staff.

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