13 August 2015

Mohaka Viaduct

  • Mohaka viaduct under construction [circa 16 December 1936]. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Mohaka railway viaduct [circa late 1930s]. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The Mohaka Viaduct is the highest railway viaduct in Australasia, standing 95 m above Hawke's Bay's Mohaka River. This spectacular viaduct was designed by Public Works Department engineers, John Lelliot Cull and William Langston Newnham.

Construction began in 1930 but, with the foundations completed and structural steel on the rail line, construction was temporarily abandoned in 1931 because of economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. When work eventually resumed in 1936, with DO Haskell as project engineer, the 276.8-metre-long plate girder and trestle pier viaduct was completed in remarkable time, and was opened in July 1937.

Aspects of the construction and opening of the Mohaka Viaduct featured in a short contemporary promotional film, New Zealand Marches On (2:04 minutes into the film).

At the time of its construction the viaduct was the fourth highest in the world and its completion was the final link in the Napier-Wairoa rail line, whose construction had commenced at Napier in 1912.

The Mohaka Viaduct is a fine example of the skilled engineering construction work involved in the development of the New Zealand Railway system through difficult country.

Heritage Recognition

This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no.4418):

Mohaka Viaduct: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information.

IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project

This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project, which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this railway viaduct as part of the development of the nation.


More information

Location

Ruapunga, 37 kilometres south of Wairoa on State Highway 2, Hawke's Bay.

Access

The viaduct can be seen from State Highway 2, between Napier and Wairoa.

Reference

G. Thornton, Bridging the Gap: Early bridges in New Zealand, 1830-1939, Auckland, 2001, pp.60-61.

Additional image gallery details

Mohaka viaduct under construction [circa 16 December 1936]. New Zealand Free Lance: Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-5936-03. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Mohaka railway viaduct [circa late 1930s]. New Zealand Free Lance: Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-5936-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of these images.