Okaihau - Okaihau on the main trunk line

Author: Peter Cape, Kate Molloy and Wikipedia     Publisher: Sioux    

Although it is hard to imagine in the 21st century, Okaihau was once destined to be a major Northland railway line known as the Okaihau Branch.

Sometimes also known as the Kaikohe Branch or Rangiahua Branch, the line joined the North Auckland Line and was intended to run all the way to Kaitaia.  It opened to Okaihau in 1923 and closed in 1987.

The Great Depression proved catastrophic for the fortunes of the line beyond Okaihau and further construction to Kaitaia was abandoned in the early 1930s.  Although the steep Rangiahua section was complete, it was plagued by slips and not seen as being particularly useful.  Termination at Okaihau was the result.  The total branch included stations at Kawiti, Cameron's Crossing, Ngapipito, Rakautao, Ngapuhi, Kaikohe, Lake Omapere and of course Okaihau at 40km.

The line saw lesser and greater use during its existence and by 1950 featured six trains each way a week, some including passenger carriages.  Folk singer Peter Cape wrote and sang a song - the Okaihau Express - during this time!

Road and rail reviews in 1977 lead to a decline in freight traffic with the branch closing a decade later.  Although only some rails are still in place, the line's formation remains obvious including embankments and cuttings.  A local community trust is working to convert the trackbed betweeen Okaihau and Kaikohe into a walking and cycling track similar to the Otago Rail Trail.


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