Weka Pass Railway is an historic rural railway in North Canterbury, 60km north of Christchurch. It uses vintage locomotives and carriages on the 12.8km line, previously part of the Waiau line which was closed in 1978. The Weka Pass Railway Society purchased the section of line from Waipara to Waikari in 1983, and the totally volunteer organisation has been dedicated to the preservation of New Zealand’s rail heritage. The locomotives and carriages are representative of those which operated on rural Canterbury Branch Lines in the heyday of New Zealand Railways.
Glenmark Station was built in 1910 and served as the Mina Station on the Main North Line. It was transported to its current location in 1987 after a local resident raised funds and made donations to preserve and transport the building. A new roof was constructed, new foundations were made and a verandah fitted. It has been in use since 1988.
Dg791 is one of the two diesel-electric locomotives on the train. In its previous life it worked predominantly on South Island mainlines. It was purchased by Weka Pass Railway in 1983 and began pulling trains on the line in 1984.
The track travels through the gently sloping Waipara Valley before climbing a gradient as steep as 1:50 (2%) as it winds through cuttings in the Weka Pass.
This carriage was built in Addington Workshop, Christchurch as a 30-foot T class cattle wagon, entering service around 1960. It was written off in 1981, then purchased by Weka Pass Railway in 1984. It was modified as an open viewing car and entered service for the railway in 1993.
Originally the Hundalee Station, this building is a standard class A station designed by George Troup. He was the first official architect of the New Zealand Railways and also designed the Dunedin Railway Station. The station was transported to Waikari in 1991, by 1992 it was fully restored and served its first train in 1999. In 1995 the Weka Pass Railway received an award from the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand for the restoration of Waikari and Glenmark Stations.
Weka Pass Railway usually uses steam locomotive A428, which was built in1909. However its annual inspection and certification has been delayed by the pandemic. It is hoped the steam locomotive will be back on the line some time in 2021.
The train passes through spectacular limestone cuttings, one of which is Frog Rock. Workers originally moved tonnes of clay and limestone by hand to form these cuttings before this section of the Waiau line was opened in 1882.
A chat with Christine reveals that she has been a volunteer for the Weka Pass Railway for 27 years, and along with the other volunteers, she shows a lot of enthusiasm for her role.
The line passes through private farmland. Historically, gate keepers were assigned to Gates 1 and 2 and a hut was allocated to each gate. Gate keepers reported to train control if stock is preventing a gate from being open.
The track passes through the Waipara Valley, an area renowned for production of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Click here to see a short video of this train on its journey.