The Full Extent of Passenger Rail in Aotearoa

New Zealand has quite a history of passenger rail, full of ambition, despair and rebirth… Historian André Brett is writing a book on the subject, and I’m making a series of maps to complement the text.

Just for fun, here’s the first paragraph:

The foreign traveller upon arrival at Auckland International Airport, the main hub for flights to New Zealand, might be surprised to find the terminal is not connected to the city by any form of rail transport. They would be even more surprised to learn that they cannot board a passenger train to the country’s most famous international attraction, Rotorua. Yet such a service did once exist: at its peak in the 1930s, the Rotorua Limited was one of the premier express trains to depart from Auckland’s grand railway terminal on Beach Road. Rotorua is by no means New Zealand’s only city—or the largest—to have lost its passenger trains. The demise of rail passenger services during the past century has been a very ordinary fate for communities across the country.

As part of the project, I’ve drawn up maps of the full extent of the passenger network. Click on the images to see the full size versions.

Just to make it clear — the above passenger network never actually existed. The maps above show every rail line that ever carried passengers for an extended period of time (something like three consecutive years). I’ve also shown goods-only lines in grey for completeness.