The Rotorua Railpark
Development of the Rotorua Railpark started
in mid 2009, by Neil and Jane Oppatt. With the help of Track Manager Bryan Zajonskowski the once mothballed
Rotorua Railway has been transformed into a functioning tourist railway.
commercial operation to be established within the Railpark, the Mamaku Express
RailCruising excursion started operation in November 2011. A world first, the
RailCruising excursion operates between Mamaku and Tarukenga Railway Stations,
a return distance of 19km.
the start of the Rotorua Railpark development, a swathe of land that starts in Rotorua
City and extends 50km to Putaruru.
plan is for the Rotorua Railpark to provide a wide range of both rail-based and
non-rail activities designed to meet a wide range of market needs and customer
The Railway offers gentle curves and steep
climbs with beautiful lake views and native forest scenery. It carries with it
the heritage of past generations who built and lived their lives on the
commerce of the rail: tourist operators; loggers; haulers; millers and
foresters of all sorts. The Railway was the heart of a native forestry mecca
that thrived in Mamaku for many years from the turn of the century through into
Rotorua Ngongotaha Rail Trust
It was through the foresight of the trustees
of the Rotorua Ngongotaha Rail Trust, in particular the late Jim Ross, that the
original lease of the line in November 2007 was obtained from a very supportive
NZ Railways. The original lease covered the railway corridor from Rotorua to
Ngongotaha a distance of 7km.
small dedicated group of railway enthusiasts, including Raewyn Saville, Murray Farquhar, Garry Gower, Alan
Estcourt and Sharon Fleet believed
it was important to protect this iconic piece of railway heritage.
In 2009 a Business Plan developed by Neil
Oppatt was presented to NZ Railways Corp. The Plan detailed a range of rail
based activities that could provide economic value from the railway
infrastructure that had sat unused for some 7 years. To achieve the plan NZ Railways
extended the leased railway corridor from Rotorua to 1.5km short of Putaruru,
providing a total 48km railway corridor available for development.
The lease was subsequently assigned to
Rail Riders Ltd who undertook the reinstatement of the track and the
development of the railway into a significant tourist attraction.
NZ Transport Agency – Rail Division
Fundamental to developing
the Rotorua Railpark was the design and manufacture of new tourist railway
vehicles, unseen before. To be able to operate these new vehicles on the
railway required New Zealand Transport Agency rail licences and operating
safety manuals, a process that took some 18 months to achieve.
of customers driving their own railway vehicles along a railway was foreign to
the rail regulator and it took some convincing that this could be done safely.
Mamaku Railway Station
Unfortunately the Rotorua
Railway over the years had slowly seen all its stations, workshops and
platforms removed. This meant that to be able to cater for large numbers of
customers arriving at the railway to undertake excursions Station facilities
and vehicle storage sheds had to be built.
It was decided to start the
operation based at Mamaku, with plans in time to move the main operational base
to Lake Road Rotorua once the business had been established. The section of
track between Mamaku and Tarukenga provided the best scenic section of track
and without road crossings simplified the establishment of the RailCruising
Mamaku, 19km by rail from
Rotorua, is a key location within the Rotorua Railpark and as such it was decided
that the Mamaku Railway Station had to be a building with significant
The offer to purchase a
large log cabin previously used as a film set provided the perfect building to
fit with the location at Mamaku, a town with a long history of logging.
Today the building welcomes
thousands of visitors from around the world all admire the building.
Station is the departure point for the Mamaku Express 1.5 hour RailCruising
Excursion. It is also the base for
track maintenance operation on the Railway.
Rotorua Railway Station
The next Station to be built is the
Rotorua Railway Station. This Station will be the main base and booking office
for the Rotorua Railpark.
Substantial road works has taken place
over the last two years around the site of the Rotorua railhead on Lake Road
Rotorua. Planning is under way to establish the new Rotorua Railway Station on the
site to be opened in 2014.
first rail activity to be operated out of the Rotorua Railway Station will be the
new rail-based activity of Rail Biking.
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