Unfortunately yesterday turned out to be a dull and damp day for our planned visit to the Weka Pass Railway. The Waikari station was only a 12 –15 minute walk from the camp but due to inclement weather conditions everybody decided to travel the short distance by car.
The railway was part of the main trunk line that was supposed to go from Waipara up through to Nelson but it never got much much further past Waikari when construction was halted. When the line was officially closed off at Waipara an group of enthusiasts took over the branch line and have been operating it since 1983.
The station buildings at either end of the line were shifted from other sites, Glenmark station (Waipara) came from Mina and the Waikari station came from Hundalee. Due to the high fire risks during Summer they can only operate their Dg class diesel electric but in Autumn and Winter they run pacific class steam locomotive A428. This along with a 1st class carriage and 3 second class, a guards van and 2 open viewing wagons make up a decent train.
The carriages have or are being restored by a dedicated group who are keeping them in the style of the 1950’s era. The seating has had all the padding replaced and beautifully recovered and were very comfortable. All the rolling stock is housed under cover when not in use keeping erosion to a minimum.
The 14km line runs uphill from Waipara giving the loco a good workout and travels through some narrow cuttings carved out of solid rock. As the line was constructed in the 1880’s it must have been a case of pick and shovel with the aid of the occasional stick of dynamite to blast through some of the rock.
The line is unable to progress any further than Waikari as it will have to go over or under SH7 which back in 1987 was going to cost a million dollars. Heaven only knows what todays costs would be but without a rich benefactor to come up with the money it would be mission Impossible to raise the necessary funds.
At the Waipara end there is still a connection to the main trunk line but they need to get all their rolling stock certified for mainline operation and again costs are a factor against this happening. There has been the odd excursion from Christchurch which has terminated on this branch line so who knows what the future may hold.