SH4 Railway History

SH4 Railway History

There are a couple of stopping points along the road connecting Ohakune and Whakapapa that record SH4 railway history. The construction of the final section of the North Island railway line connecting Auckland to Wellington is commemorated at the Makatote Viaduct and the signposted “final spike”.

Construction on the line started in 1864 and was completed with the driving of the “final spike” in 1908. There is a rather dull monument to the final spike signposted along the way, but it does commemorate the construction of the North Island rail link which was a critical milestone in post-colonial development.

The Makatote Viaduct and viewpoint is a few minutes further along the road towards Whakapapa and quite a lot more interesting. The viaduct was the last significant construction event in the railway line, being built between 1905 and 1908. It is around 800 metres above sea level, 262 m long and 79 m high and one of 23 major viaducts and 26 bridges on the line. The development of the line is apparently a major historical engineering event and in 1997 the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded the line its 27th International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Award. Other recipients include the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Panama Canal!

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