Having read about the Denniston Incline and heard many stories it was finally going to be time to put some reality to the whole matter. The first thing we noticed as we slowly drove up the winding road to what they call the Plateau is that we were 657m above sea level which accounted for the rumours of Denniston being hidden in the clouds.
Looking down at the coastline below us we could see the narrow strip of land between the forest and the sea. Not very much land for the farmers to make a living out of which is what I suppose the West Coasters contend with.
Reading the history of the Denniston Incline was fascinating when you consider the Incline was built in 1878-79 and was designed by 2 Scottish brothers. The Incline was the only way in or out of Denniston for man, woman or child riding in the empty coal wagons going up or on top of a loaded wagon going down. Apparently many women went up never to come down again as the ride was so frightening until the road was put through to reach the settlement.
It became apparent that the incline served several mines up on the Plateau, the first being the Banbury mine which later became an underground tramway for other mines further back up the valley. Later mines were the Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge which used the Banbury mine as access to the Incline and the Whareatea which used the aerial ropeway to reach the Incline. Other mines were opened over the years but the Incline was finally closed in 1967 with the aerial ropeway closing a year later in favour of road transport.
The Cascade mine operated from 1912 –27 and then closed but a private mining company has re-opened the mine and is still running it to this day.
The Plateau is under the control of Coal Corp (now Solid Energy NZ Ltd) who are investigating further mining in the area as there is still plenty of coal underground.