North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) Historic Area

Makohine Viaduct to Taumarunui Railway Station, North Island Main Trunk, MAKOHINE; TAUMARUNUI

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The North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) links the North Island's two major cities and a historic area through the central North Island, stretching from the Makohine Viaduct to Taumarunui Railway Station, is a microcosm for New Zealand's rail history and key engineering developments throughout the 20th century. The NIMT has had a profound effect on New Zealand history. The construction effort saw a dramatic change in the social make-up of the King Country in particular, and has had a lasting political legacy for race relations. The railway itself not only spectacularly altered the landscape but also enabled industry and farming into the area, which led to deforestation and made the presence of the Tongariro National Park and the establishment of scenic reserves along the railway all the more important. The dramatic features of this landscape contributed to the central section of the NIMT being considered the aesthetic highlight of the railway. After its completion the railway became essential to the economy of New Zealand as an important infrastructure asset for freight transportation. As the main means of passenger transportation in the North Island for the greater part of the 20th century for everyone from the shoppers in the small towns dotting the railway to holidaying families, to military personnel and dignitaries, the NIMT was also a strong cultural entity nationally. The construction of the NIMT was completed in 1908 after the 23 year project to complete the central section, a time span which could have been significantly longer had it not been for a determined effort at the turn of the 20th century. An increased investment of resources to overcome the hurdle of the Makohine Viaduct, and to also push further into the King Country from the north, saw a final flurry of activity. Therefore, once the Makohine Viaduct was completed it only took a further six years to build the NIMT over the approximately 200km gap between the railheads; the most difficult landscape the engineers and construction teams had encountered thus far. The complexity of the landscape meant that this central portion of the NIMT had a concentration of engineering feats including the Raurimu Spiral, and the Hapuawhenua, Makatote, Makohine and Mangaweka Viaducts. Throughout its history the form of this final NIMT section has largely remained true to that of 1908, although some significant deviations built in preparation for the electrification of the line in the late 20th century altered it. However, despite bypassing sizable areas of NIMT construction era activity these deviations have added to the engineering reputation of the central portion of the NIMT. Within the larger recognised engineering feat of the entire NIMT, this section features the majority of the significant structures and sites on the railway, as well as a collection of representative examples of railway engineering spanning the 20th century.

North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) Historic Area. (New) Hapuawhenua Viaduct from (Old) Hapuawhenua Viaduct | Karen Astwood | 01/02/2009 | Heritage New Zealand
North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) Historic Area. Makatote Viaduct from the Makatote Scenic Reserve at its northern end with the ‘Parliamentary Special’ Centenary train crossing it | Karen Astwood | 07/08/2008 | Heritage New Zealand
North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) Historic Area. Sections reference map | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Area


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 2009

Date of Effect

6th June 2009

City/District Council

Ruapehu District,Rangitīkei District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land in the NIMT rail corridor from the Makohine Viaduct to the Taumarunui Railway Station (inclusive), as well as large sections of ex-NIMT rail corridor land within these bounds and the areas described as the 'Last Spike' Memorial, Ohakune to Horopito Coach Road, Ohakune Railway Station and Signal Box, and Tangiwai Memorial Reserve, and the NIMT and its associated structures thereon. (Refer to maps in Appendix 1 of the registration report, and 4 in Vol. II and Vol. III for further information).. Land included in the Registration This NIMT Historic Area covers a long and narrow area defined by the past and present designated NIMT railway corridors within the thematic physical southern and northern boundaries of the Makohine Viaduct and Taumarunui Railway Station. The land in the area also includes recognised NIMT related places which are not part of the railway corridor, but are immediately adjacent to it, such as the land incorporated in the extents of the two commemorative sites and the Ohakune to Horopito Coach Road. It is important to acknowledge the vast range of places on or directly related to the NIMT between Wellington and Auckland which for thematic reasons are external to the land and sites included in this historic area. For instance, none of the 'railway towns' with their collections of railway worker cottages, or the many private sidings which branch from the NIMT, have been included in the area's extent despite the contribution they could make to a holistic history of the NIMT and its effects. Places of note external to the extent of the area or theme have been listed in a file note. Relationship between Historic Places These places are NIMT construction era sites or are places subsequently constructed which are, or were, part of the functioning central section of the NIMT, or are NIMT related places immediately adjacent to the railway within the area bordered by the Makohine Viaduct and Taumarunui Railway Station. With the exception of the commemorative sites, the places in the historic area were all constructed to have the railway track running over, through, or directly adjacent to them and had their designs and construction sanctioned by the PWD or NZR. The completion of construction of all these places date from 1900. Key Elements of the Historic Area A key element in this historic area is the linear, undulating, view shafts created by the rail corridors and their associated earthworks which also often open to afford comprehensive views of the surrounding landscape especially when crossing bridges. The adjacent scenic or historic reserves contribute to this too. Other important elements include the early 20th century tunnels, and concrete and steel bridges or viaducts, the mid to late 20th century concrete bridges and viaducts, and railway stations and associated buildings and yards.

Legal description

Structures and features within the functioning NIMT are considered part of a designated rail corridor whose land has been gazetted at various dates. Exceptions to this within the historic area occur where deviations have taken place, and with some individual structures. (See Vol. II of this report for relevant NZ Gazette notices and other legal description information.)

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