Travel Books

Invercargill-Tokanui railway line helped to develop the Catlins

Alex Glennie with copies of The Seaward Bush Branch Line;  Invercargill - Tokanui Railway 1886-1966.

Robyn Edie / things

Alex Glennie with copies of The Seaward Bush Branch Line; Invercargill – Tokanui Railway 1886-1966.

On a Friday, a special car was connected to the Invercargill-Tokanui railway line, for which people at the various stops to the Catlins were eagerly waiting.

The alcohol-filled caveat was that he had drunk and put the empty bottles back on the wagon for the train to Invercargill the next day.

It is one of the stories about the railroad featured in Alex Glennie’s latest book, The Seaward Bush Branch Invercargill-Tokanui Railway 1896-1966.

After doing his research, Glennie doubted that railroad chiefs knew about the weekly liquor car.

* Christchurch grass fires likely started with the train passing by
* KiwiRail’s shielding of Palmerston North Yards requires more land
* The hidden passenger car has been recovered and will be turned into the railway information kiosk in Lumsden
* Do you remember trains between Invercargill and Bluff?

The book highlights the contribution that trains made to the early development of the Catlins.

“In the 1880s, settlers went out there to clear the bushes and trees,” Glennie said.

“When the bush was gone, they could turn it into farmland.”

The Tokanui-Invercargill Line took 25 years to build. It provided work for unemployed people from all over Southland.

Various goods such as coal, agricultural goods and household goods were transported between the two areas to the Catlins region.

On the way back to Invercargill, the cargo included frozen fish, ground wood and cattle for the meat factory or the Lorneville sale yards.

“Road traffic didn’t exist until the 1920s-30s,” said Glennie.

“It just got better and more efficient and put the railroad out of business.”

Glennie said the Tokanui-Invercargill line closed on March 31, 1966 because it was uneconomical.

Some people wanted the train to stay in Tokanui after the announcement. They went so far as to grease the track to keep it from going up the incline out of town back to Invercargill.

The track was greased again and oiled in two further attempts to prevent it from leaving.

Glennie came across information about the history of the line while working on a similar book – The Invercargill-Bluff Railway and Bluff School Train – published two years ago.

“I finished the Bluff Railroad Book and thought, ‘What do I do with all this information on the Tokanui Line? ‘… so I continued [and wrote another book]. ”

Three years of work went into the Seaward Bush Branch Invercargill-Tokanui Railway 1896-1966, Glennie said.

He wrote it in collaboration with the Toi Tois Tokanui Lions Club. The book launch will take place on October 17th in the Tokanui Hall.

The New Zealand managing director of the Railway Heritage Trust, Barry O’Donnell from Wellington, is planning the start.

The money from the Southland Regional Heritage Fund helped Glennie with some expenses in putting together the two railway books.

The historian is thinking of a third book on the old Wyndham-Glenham railway line.

Show More

Related Articles