Topic: Taupo Railway

Topic type:

A short history of the proposals to build a line of railway from Rotorua to Taupo.


Despite an extensive history of discussion, proposals and debate, the railway never did make it to Taupo. Taupo Totara Timber Company railway

Newspapers from 1882 featured much discussion of the idea as decisions were made about the location of the main trunk line linking Auckland and Wellington. This line eventually bypassed Taupo, running through Paraparaumu, Palmerston North, Taihape, National Park, Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Hamilton, and Pukekohe.

Regional rail links steamed ahead in in other areas. By June 1884 a map shows a railway line to Wairakei, crossing over the Waikato River and onto Hastings, while the line from Morrinsville to Rotorua was completed in December 1894.

In 1908 Edward Earle Vaile, owner of a large tract of land in the Broadlands area, east of Taupo, started campaigning for the establishment of a railway from Rotorua to Taupo.

Vaile argued that such a link would open up:
a) Large areas of land suitable for farming, and
b) Large areas of native forest and also service the newly planted and ongoing plantings of exotic forest in the central plateau.

Such a railway would have increased the value of Vaile’s land.

Vaile was opposed mainly by the Taupo Totora Timber Co who in 1903 opened a bush tramway from Putaruru to their sawmill at Mokai. The company wished to extend this to Taupo. This received a “hostile” reception by the government of the time.  The photo to the right shows steam locomotive alongside a rock face on the Taupo Totara Timber Company railway line, while below is a one of the company's logging railway tracks and locomotive hauling timber.

In 1922 a Royal Commission was appointed to look into the Rotorua- Taupo Railway and found in favour of a line from Rotorua-Waiotapu-Broadlands and onto Taupo ending at the boat harbour.

In July of 1928 the Coates Government approved the line and work was started almost immediately only to be stopped in 1929 by a change of government  and The Depression. Some of the earthworks are still visible.

Vaile remained an active campaigner for the railway, but was heavily defeated when he stood as an MP candidate for Rotorua in 1931 with construction of the line as his main platform. Taupo Totara Timber Company tracks

In the 1920s work was started on a rail link from Kakahi (on the North Island Main Trunk Line) to Pukawa Bay on the south western shore of Lake Taupo. From there was proposed a steam boat link to the township of Taupo. All that remains of the attempt is some rail formation and cuttings between Kakahi and the Whakapapa River.

More recent proposals have included:

1968: NZR proposed a line from the Rotorua  Railway Station out to the Waipa State Mill with an extension on to Taupo being “very attractive”. The Rotorua people opposed the line crossing Fenton Street.

1983: The Ministry of Works looked at extending the Murupara Line across the plains, south of Mt Tauhara and ending at the Taupo Sawmill in Centennial Drive with maybe a branch onto Rangipo.

1985: A no frills logging railway, Murupara to Taupo.                                                             

1988: Again a logging line but with a log handling yard just off the Napier-Taupo Road in the Iwitahi area and then onto the Taupo Sawmill.

2014: NZ First Political Party promised to look at a line from Kinlieth-Rotorua- Taupo.

* Thanks to the NZ Rail Geography Group for information provided.



Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion