From the Waikato Times:Railway on track for a change 24 May 2005 By STEVE EDWARDS
Te Aroha Mountain Railway Society has changed tack and is now looking at using the old branch line between Waitoa and Paeroa.
After 12 years and $50,000 trying to get a tourist railway on the lower slopes of Mt Te Aroha, "it is now time to put our efforts into something we can achieve," said society chairman Maurice Cargill. He told the Piako Post last week that the society is in discussion with Ontrack (New Zealand Railways Corporation), which owns the rail corridor, about initially relaying the track from the Te Aroha Railway Station in Terminus St to Mangaiti.
The society plans to restore the station building, which it owns, and "bring the bush to the rail instead of the rail to the bush," said Mr Cargill.
Stages two and three would take the track from Te Aroha to Waitoa, and from Mangaiti to Paeroa.
Mr Cargill said two train engines being restored by the society would be ready to roll in 12 months' time.
A shop in Whitaker St, along with grants from various agencies, would help fund the project, he said. "We don't want to tap the community (ratepayers)."
Using the existing corridor is easier, cheaper and more practical, said Mr Cargill. "And, you can still see the mountain." He said the scheme would not clash with a proposed walking/cycling trail also along the former railway corridor. "There's room for us all."
Hauraki district councillor Mike Hayden, who is driving the other initiative, agreed that both could be accommodated. "It's not incompatible by any means," he told the Piako Post on Saturday. Based in Waihi, Mr Hayden said the corridor is 20-60m wide. "There's plenty of room." Along with agreement from Ontrack, the mountain railway society would require an operator's licence from the Land Transport New Zealand and OSH.
Ontrack spokesman Fraser Tweedie said on Monday that he had heard from both the mountain railway society and walking/cycling trail group and, if requested, would come up from Wellington to meet with them.
A train project would get priority, said Mr Tweedie. "We hold it (the corridor) for rail."
However, he stressed that Ontrack already has lease arrangements with some councils which use land beside working rail lines for public walking/cycling lanes.
Safety issues can be overcome, said Mr Tweedie.
I contacted a past member of the society some time ago, in an attempt to find out what was happening with the Te Aroha Station and the lines etc.
This is his reply (abridged):The initial plans were to reinstate the bush tramway up the side of the mountain, but when it was determined to be too difficult and too expensive, the society set their sights on re-laying track at the station.
There was great momentum somewhere around 2005 with a plan to open 100m in the yard to establish (Gain lease, license, safety case etc..)
Then to progress north to Mangaiti. Eventually beyond. It was soon discovered that heading towards Waitoa was a better option as a rail head at
Waitoa would prove to be a worthwhile link to bring in enthusiast trains etc.
A secondary goal was to establish a 7 1/4inch ride on train to generate revenue.
The plan fell apart due to conflicts of interest. Some new members opposed the direction taken as it would cause the discontinuation of the walk bridge attached to the current railway bridge. Another example was the fencing of the yard to satisfy OSH and as per lease rules was quickly argued against by some members as they felt the public had rights to walk where ever they felt.
It was then openly expressed that these members only wanted a preserved railway station with no full sized trains and to retain 100m of track to
satisfy the conditions of the lease.
This was my last involvement as the society had no direction and I left. I'm not sure who is involved or what is going on there now. Visually nothing has been achieved in the yard, and near the station parts of a 7 1/4" railway have been laid.
Since then it appears all activity has ground to a halt. I have not been through Te Aroha for some time, so I don't know what the state of things is there.
Ontrack-Kiwirail have closed footpath/rail-bridge over the river as the piles are rotting away. Apparently the Council and Kiwirail are looking to repair the bridge.
There are a couple of news articles relating to this project here: http://tearohanz.co.nz/news-071017