Railway to nowhere

Parts of the Great Taste Trail were once parts of Nelson’s infamous ‘Railway to Nowhere’. But that’s as close as the two stories get.

The 200km loop of cycle trail was developed over twelve years and delivers riders to and from all main towns of the region.

The history books tell us a much sadder story of the region’s railway development, which never even made its intended destination. Hence it was nick-named the railway to nowhere.

The railway story begins with Nelsonians lobbying for a railway to connect the town to the rest of the South Island. Their vision was for a service from Nelson to Inangahua Junction, where it would connect to the main trunk line.

Work on the railway line started in the 1870s, followed by 60 years of slow progress, two world wars, and dismally poor financial viability. At the same time road transport was developing rapidly.

It was always at risk of being shut down and abandoned, and this eventually happened in 1954 despite local protests. Nine ladies sat on the tracks at Kiwi Station for a week, before being arrested and fined for their trouble. 

Fast-forward about fifty years, and Kiwi Station is moved to Tapawera and restored along with some railway track, and siding.

The tiny orange station building now houses the Tapawera and Valleys Museum, where you can visit on your ride through, for a taste of local history.

The Great Taste Trail uses the historic railway corridor in several places, including:

  • The Railway Reserve heading out of Nelson CBD
  • The alternative route through Stoke, between the Annesbrook round-a-about and Orphanage Stream.
  • The section through Richmond and Hope
  • Tunnel Road and Spooners Tunnel all the way to Tapawera

As you roll through on your modern bike to somewhere around the Great Taste Trail, spare a thought for the pioneers who strived and struggled to build a railway to nowhere.