DOC manages 32 rail heritage sites that are open to visitors including the popular Otago Central Rail Trail.

In 1870 the government decided that a national rail network was essential to the economic development of New Zealand and boldly set about building one to a master plan.

The initial construction focus was on lines that linked hinterlands to ports. The 22 isolated sections created were gradually linked up to form trunk routes, the final link being celebrated at Kaikoura in 1945.

As many as a thousand other private railways were built to serve industries including coal, gold, timber, lime, flax, stone, and cement. The gauges of these lines varied down to the 420 mm lines used in gold mines. The aggregate length of the industrial railways exceeded that of the Government railway system. All the industrial railways are now closed.

DOC actively manages 32 rail heritage sites that are open to visitors. The immensely popular 87 km Otago Central rail trail is an example of a closed Government line. At the other end of the spectrum is the 300 m Woodstock gold mine tramway clinging to the face of a gorge at Karangahake.

The sites that DOC manages under this theme are:


  • Onoke Railway Quarry


  • Kauri Timber Company tramway, Great Barrier Island, 1928-1940


Bay of Plenty

  • Butler's Incline Track, Piako Tramway, 1883
  • Crown Tramway, Karangahake, 1905
  • Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, 1905-1978
  • Railway Tunnel, Karangahake, 1905 
  • Victoria Battery and Tramway, Waikino, 1895
  • Waikino Railway Station, Karangahake, 1925
  • Waitawheta Tramway, 1907
  • Woodstock Tramway, Karangahake 

East Coast/Hawke's Bay



  • York Road/Waipuku Quarry and Mt Egmont Branch Line, 1906-1951



  • Kawatiri Walkway, 1920-1955
  • Belgrove Railway Windmill 1898

West Coast

  • Big River Coal Tramway, Victoria Forest Park,1914-1934
  • Brunner Bridge, 1877, managed by Grey District Council
  • Brunner Mine, Greymouth, 1864-1918
  • Buller Kawatiri, Cape Foulwind Railway, Quarry and Tunnel, 1885
  • Charming Creek Walkway, 1910-1958
  • Chasm Creek, 1895-1981
  • Coalbrookdale Rope Road, 1882-1951
  • Davidson Lokey, Ngahere, 1920-1944
  • Denniston Incline, 1887-1967
  • Kirwins Quartz Mines
  • Mahinapua Rail Bridge, Hokitika,1905-1980
  • Mananui Tramway, Hokitika, 1905-1980
  • Murray Creek


  • Little River Branch Line 1882 and 1886 (Being developed as a Rail trail)
  • Waimakariri, Goldney Saddle Railway Settlement site, 1910


  • Central Otago Rail Trail, 1891-1990
  • Tunnel Hill, Coastal Otago, 1892-1971
  • Trails rail tractor, Catlins Forest Park, Tautuku, 1936-1952
  • Wilson River Tramway, Fiordland National Park, 1893-1898


  • Johnston A Lokey, Longwood Ranges, 1925-1956
  • Maori Beach Tramway, Stewart Island National Park, 1913-1926
  • Port Craig Mill Tramway, Fiordland National Park,1917-1930
  • Port Pegasus Tin Mining Tramway, 1912.
  • Wilson River Tramway, Fiordland National Park, 1893-1898

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