Northland Rail Corridor
Although Railway was in place to transport coal between Kawakawa and Opua in the mid 1860s and went south to connect with Whangarei the branch line north to Otiria and on to Kaikohe and Okaihau came later.
The line was extended to Rangiahua on its intended way north to Kaitaia but was never handed over to the New Zealand Railways Department and did not ever reach Kaitaia. The Public Works department operated this section of line for a short time before it was closed and dismantled during World War II.
This end of the line became known as the Okaihau Branch Line and for a time the train heading through to Okaihau was known as the Okaihau Express. A song of that name written by Peter Cape became quite popular.
During the forties and fifties there was sufficient traffic to sustain six trains a week. Two carried freight whilst four were for both goods and passengers. Railcars appeared on the line in late 1956 and proved very popular. The Railcar service replaced the mixed train Northland Express but suffered from mechanical problems and was discontinued in mid 1967.
Old stock, mixed trains as before returned with a slower schedule and became less and less viable. They changed to freight only in 1976. The relaxation of road transport laws and the slow implementation of forestery investment strategies caused the branch line back to Otiria to close in late 1987. The rails were lifted and sold.
The good news is that the rail corridor to Okaihau remained in the ownership of New Zealand Railways Corporation ( Ontrack) just in case forestry proposals came to fruition and was again required.
This is the Rail corridor that is now the Pou Herengatai Twin Coast Cycle Trail for your enjoyment and it is busier than ever. The cycle trail follows the old rail corridor from Kawakawa through to Okaihau then on to Horeke on the West coast Hokianga Harbour.