Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


An historic train bridge in Karangahake Gorge is clothed in scaffolding this week, as contractors get to work on a new paint job.

Date:  30 April 2010

An historic train bridge in Karangahake Gorge is clothed in scaffolding this week, as contractors for the Department of Conservation (DOC) get to work on a new paint job.

“This bridge is a hundred years old and is starting to deteriorate”, says Jeff Milham, DOC’s Visitor Assets Programme Manager in Tauranga. “Corrosion of some of the steel work is the main problem with it. Contractors will be repairing, and then re-painting all the steelwork on the bridge”.

View of the Eastern Portal Bridge.
The bridge is over 100 years old and
is in need of repair

“The plastic sheeting that people will see covering the bridge has been put in to protect the Ohinemuri River from pollution by lead-based paints and other construction materials during the work”.

This bridge project is part of a much bigger effort to develop the Kaimai Heritage Trail which includes historic mining and logging remains in the northern Kaimai area, such as at Karangahake, Waitawheta, Waiorongomai (near Te Aroha) and Wharawhara (near Katikati).

Community Relations Ranger Pete Huggins is working on historic information to be installed at the nearby Victoria Battery site at Waikino. “All these historic sites are a huge asset to the area”, says Pete. “Tourists and locals alike really enjoy visiting the historic places in Karangahake Gorge and the rest of the Kaimai heritage area. New Zealand’s heritage is unique in so many ways. It’s great to be a part of such an interesting, beautiful place”.

DOC is working to make this part of New Zealand the best place to learn about New Zealand’s industrial heritage while enjoying the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park.

Background to the Eastern Portal Bridge

Close up of workers on bridge.
Workers prepare the scaffolding, plastic
sheeting will be put up in order to protect
the river below

The Karangahake Eastern Portal Bridge is known officially as Karangahake Railway Bridge # 4. It is a 36m trussed steel railway bridge that was constructed around 1905 to take the East Coast Main Trunk line from Auckland.

Before it was built, coal used by the Waihi Gold Mining Company was conveyed as far as the double-decked bridge at Karangahake (the western portal bridge, Karangahake Rail Bridge # 3) and shovelled into wagons for transport to Waikino and other places.

By November 1904 over 200 tons of coal was being transported every day to Karangahake for use at the Waihi, Talisman and Crown Mines.

For the next 70 years, the bridge served as the crucial link that both stimulated and serviced the growth of economic activity on both sides of the Kaimai range.

Passenger train services on the East Coast Branch were terminated in 1959 with the cessation of the ‘Taneatua Express’, but a Bay of Plenty-Auckland service using Fiat railcars was maintained until 11th September 1967.

The line closed to all traffic following the opening of the Kaimai tunnel in 1978 and the establishment of a more direct rail link between the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Within a couple of years the rails had been lifted. The former Lands and Survey Deparment acquired the rail corridor through the gorge and developed the Karangahake Historic Walkway. From the outset this rail bridge was recognised by DOC as one of our prime rail heritage assets.


Tauranga Office
Address:   253 Chadwick Road West
Greerton West
Tauranga 3112
Postal Address:   PO Box 9003
Greerton West
Tauranga 3142
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