Greytown Branch

Greytown Branch

Infobox rail line
name = Greytown Branch

image_width =
caption = The fence line (away from the camera, center) that follows the route of the Greytown Branch into Woodside yard.
type = Railways Department regional rail
system =
status = Closed
locale =
start = Woodside Junction
end = Greytown
stations = 2
routes =
ridership =
open = 1880-05-14
close = 1953-12-25
owner = New Zealand Government Railways Department
operator = New Zealand Government Railways Department
character = Rural
stock =
linelength = 5 km
tracklength =
notrack =
gauge = RailGauge|42
el =
speed =
elevation =

The Greytown Branch was a five-kilometre RailGauge|42 narrow gauge branch line railway off the Wairarapa Line at Woodside in the Wairarapa district of New Zealand's North Island. It followed an almost straight course over flat terrain. There were no intermediate stations.



On learning that the Wairarapa Line was to bypass Greytown, its residents were upset enough to send several deputations to meet engineers of the Public Works Department in order to persuade them to change the route, but to no avail. In order to placate them, the Public Works Department offered to investigate the possibility of constructing a branch line to connect the town to the main line. Initial investigations concluded costs would be reasonable, and a survey was duly carried out in 1876. However, because of the Department's focus on other projects then underway, no further work on the idea was done at the time.

In 1878, the project was again promoted and this time authorised. A second survey was conducted in January 1879, with design work completed and tenders for the formation and buildings called for in June of that year. The successful contractor for the formation completed the work between 11 November 1879 and 10 January 1880. Two separate contracts were let for the Greytown station buildings and fencing of the right of way. Both these contracts were completed on time.


The first scheduled services ran on 14 May 1880, a morning and afternoon mixed return service between Wellington and Greytown, an extension of the existing services between Wellington and Featherston, an extra 35 minutes being allocated for the extra distance. A locomotive, usually a member of the L class, was based at Greytown.

Initial traffic on the branch was reported to be "very satisfactory"; while certainly the case for goods traffic, it is doubtful that this applied to passenger traffic which was seeing an average of four passengers per train.

The first excursion train from Greytown transported picnickers, including many children, to Cross Creek on 29 May 1880. It was found that the destination was not suitable, so a suggestion for the next excursion to take revellers to Kaitoke never went ahead. There were no other excursions.

Four months after opening, tenders were called for the branch to be worked by horsepower. With traffic already declining on the branch, it was considered too expensive for a locomotive to work services over the branch. When no tenders were forthcoming, the department based its smallest locomotive at Greytown.

Despite traffic not meeting expectations, Greytown handled around 6,000 outward passengers and 2,000 tons of freight annually for many years. With the erection of stock yards, livestock traffic started at 160 pigs and 15 sheep, and these numbers grew substantially. Beef cattle were not conveyed in notable numbers until many years later.

In the fiscal year ended 31 March 1884, 6,386 passenger fares were issued at Greytown, while freight traffic had risen to 4,721 tons outward and 1,051 tons inward. Consigned livestock rose gradually at first, but increased rapidly in the early 1900s to peak at more than 13,000 head in 1909-1910. This traffic remained high until the introduction of lorry transport in the 1920s, but was always a minor player in the livestock trade compared with Masterton, Carterton and Featherston.

Passenger traffic never reached expectations. The population of the town grew rapidly in the 1870s, but the extension of the railway to Masterton in 1880 meant that Masterton became the dominant town in the district. For the period 1905 to 1915, services between Greytown and Woodside were increased to six return trains daily, Monday to Saturday. Thereafter the number of services fluctuated, and in 1946 five were still scheduled. However, by 1952 this had been cut to two return services. Though by this time there was still a passenger car attached to the train, few passengers availed themselves of the service (often none), and the trains only infrequently hauled freight wagons. The last train ran on 24 December 1953.

A single-stall engine shed was the home for the locomotive that worked the branch, with a variety of locomotives serving in this capacity over the life of the line. In the early years, the job was handled by an L or D class 2-4-0T, and occasionally by a C class. Later, two rebuilt L class 4-4-2T locomotives were allocated to the branch, each alternately based at Greytown and Cross Creek, being swapped as required. In the 1930s, they were replaced by WF class 2-6-4T locomotives, at least one of which was converted for one man operation in 1931. In its heyday, the branch had six staff, but the reductions in 1931 pared this back to one, who was stationmaster, porter, shunter, guard, and general factotum. As the branch had only one locomotive in steam at any time, the only signal was a home signal protecting Woodside.


The branch narrowly avoided closure after the 1931 Royal Commission, and despite attempts by railway officials to encourage more trade on the line, traffic continued to decline. During its last years, it received little in the way of maintenance. The end for the branch came after the 1952 Royal Commission. With revenue gained from trade on the branch not even covering a tenth of the costs of running it, the decision to close was made after 73 years of operation. The rails were lifted and sold in 1954. The locomotive shed was scrapped and sold and the station building moved to Woodside to begin its new life as a goods shed. The only remaining remnants of the terminus are the goods shed and loading bank. For much of its length the formation is marked by fences and rows of trees.




External links

* [,175.423765&spn=0.030927,0.092869&t=h&z=14&om=1 Aerial view] of the branch.

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