Our Story

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.

The first 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.

This marked the start of the Rotorua Railpark development, a swathe of land that starts in Rotorua City and extends 50km to Putaruru.

The long-term 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 budgets.

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 the 1970’s.


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. 

This 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.

The idea 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 operation.

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 architectural merit.

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.


RailCruising Excursions

Mamaku Railway 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.

The 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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