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 Ōtiria and on to Kaikohe and Ōkaihau came later.
The line through Ōtiria was completed in the early 20th century. The Ōkaihau or Kaikohe branch line was built to Kaikohe and opened 1st May 1914 and on to Okaihau which opened on 29th October 1923.
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 Ōkaihau Branch Line and for a time the train heading through to Ōkaihau was known as the Ōkaihau 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 forestry investment strategies caused the branch line back to Ōtiria to close in late 1987. The rails were lifted and sold.
The good news is that the rail corridor to Ōkaihau 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 Herenga tai 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 Ōkaihau then on to Horeke on the West coast Hokianga Harbour.