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Railways in

New Zealand

The first railway in New Zealand opened in 1863 between Christchurch and Ferrymead Wharf, a distance of 5½ miles (9km). The gauge chosen was 5ft 3in (1600mm) to suit stock purchased secondhand from a railway in Australia. By 1867 a 3 miles (4.8km) extension was constructed to the new port of Lyttelton, including a 2860 yards (2615m) tunnel. With the opening of the new port the last ½ mile (0.8km) of the line serving Ferrymead declined in importance. It closed a few years later, but a new tourist railway constructed on the formation opened in 1977 as part of the Ferrymead Heritage Park.

By 1873, a network of over 75 miles (120km) of broad gauge line had grown up around Christchurch, while in the meantime a 17½ miles (28km) standard (1435mm) gauge had been constructed from Invercargill to Bluff. However, in 1870 a governmental decision was made in the light of the difficult terrain to be encountered in much of the country that all new railway construction would be to 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge. The first railway built to this gauge opened in 1873 between Dunedin and Port Chalmers. Later the same year, the first railway in the North Island was opened, between Auckland and Onehunga. The original broad and standard gauge railways were later converted to 3ft 6in (1067mm).

The rail network today extends over 4000km, more than half of which retains regular passenger services.

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