The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust’s background
The last NZR train pulled out of Opua in 1971. And, although there were attempts to continue a rail service, the track began to fall into disrepair and, after 122 years the North Island’s first railway was threatened with closure.
However in 1984 the Railway was granted a reprieve, and the Bay Of Islands Scenic Railway was born. Gabriel was purchased from the Portland Cement Company for $5,000. The railway became very popular and well run with up to 25,000 visitors a year. All run by volunteers without any paid staff at all.
But as time passed problems with maintenance developed, and in June 1989 the track engineer withdrew the Operating Certificate for the line. Efforts were made to regain the track through hard work and the line was re-opened in December 1989 but only to Taumarere.
The Taumarere Northland Rail Trust was incorporated in 1990 to hold the leases for the track and the station. The Opua Kawakawa Railway Preservation Society was formed in 2000 and owned the rolling stock, plant and equipment. But the two organisations did not work well together. Money became hard to find and once again the track began to deteriorate.
In 2000 the line was finally closed by LTSA due to its dilapidated and unsafe state. In 2003 the Bay Of Islands Vintage Railway Trust was formed to operate the railway with the Vision Statement “To restore and operate a steam railway experience between Kawakawa and Opua.”
The Trust inherited a railway that was in total disrepair with no workable infrastructure, little usable equipment, the track and bridges were a real mess and the rolling stock and buildings were in a dilapidated state.
What we have achieved in the last 10 years
The extensive re-development of the Kawakawa Station yards with new buildings and infrastructure.
We undertook the complete re-build of the steam loco Gabriel , 3 carriages, and restoration of two diesel engines, and other rolling stock.
We undertook the complete restoration of all track and a total of eight bridges along the way from Kawakawa to Taumarere.
In addition to this the restoration of the historic Taumarere Station building and development of Taumarere as a picnic spot with BBQ tables, return line, toilet and landscaping.
And most importantly we have established a regular train service at weekends and all holidays which now offers train rides to hundreds of visitors each year.