Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 28, September 1984
BY C.W. MALCOLM
The story of the construction of this railway is an incredibly fascinating one. The district was admirably and cheaply served by the river traffic but there was continued and wide agitation for the round-about rail link with Auckland.
It was as early as 28 December 1878 when Sir George Grey turned the first sod of that railway at Thames. It was to be exactly twenty years before the line between Thames and Paeroa was completed and by that time the sleepers at the Thames end were rotting and the rails rusting so that the track had to be torn up and replaced.
The rails began to creep forward from the main trunk line at Frankton, reaching Morrinsville in 1884. They connected with Te Aroha on 1st March 1886 but it took another nine years to build the track the short distance between Te Aroha and Paeroa. And even then it did not enter the township but stopped at the far bank of the Ohinemuri River. From there, amid the grassy paddocks, a race train ran on 13 March 1895 to Te Aroha. On March 16 a similar train brought passengers from Te Aroha to the Paeroa races. In that year the first pile of the railway bridge was driven and on 7 December a ballast train crossed the completed structure and entered Paeroa where the first passenger train arrived from Auckland for the official opening on 20 December 1895. See Journal 20, page 5 [see Journal 20: Paeroa Chronology (Part 3) - E] where more details are recorded in the Chronology of Paeroa's history.
Meanwhile, progress on the construction of the line between Thames and Paeroa had been incredibly slow with such romantic events as the obstruction of the works by that fine old chief Tukukino who no doubt foresaw the white man's progress as a disruption of his people's way of life.
On 5 December 1891, following local agitation, Richard John Seddon sent a telegram promising the speeding up of the work and on 18 January 1892, two hundred and fifty men were taken on in Paeroa to expedite the work which was completed in 1898 when the Prime Minister, R.J. Seddon travelled in a special train from Thames and addressed the people assembled at the Paeroa Station 8 December.
The official opening ceremony took place on 19 December 1898 and Mr George Crosby put on a celebration dinner for 80 special guests in his Royal Mail Hotel.
There was much agitation for a rail link between Paeroa and Waihi. The first step was taken in 1900 with the building of the bridge at Karangahake to convey the spoil from the construction of the long tunnel towards Paeroa for the formation of the road bed of the railway. In 1904 trains ran to Karangahake and in 1905 the railway from Paeroa to Waihi was opened.
There is something desolate about an abandoned railway, especially when the rails and sleepers are torn up as we can see where the line once ran towards Mackaytown and Karangahake. It was known by railwaymen everywhere as "the permanent way" and there was something solid and enduring about the railway which had a special fascination not shared by other forms of transport.
The Building of the Thames Valley Railway