We found out many interesting facts about the Johnsonville railway line. Johnsonville was a branch of the main trunk railway line, with its own little junction. It was on the main trunk line that ran from Wellington. In the old days, a big express pulling out from the stations was a common sight. The trains that ran on that line in 1964 still run on that line today. In 1984 the line was cut off the main trunk and turned into a branch, due to Johnsonville’s growing shopping needs. Below is an impression of the line from a passenger:
The Johnsonville line is really great. Its history of the line shows through clearly in patches, so that the present appears quite marginal. You start off innocently enough in a 40 year old train carriage. They are starting to give the impression of being one of those public transport items you’d expect to find in India - a weird mixture of old metal and new uniforms.
You head off through the desert-like railway yards - all brown and no people. Within about 5 minutes you are pulling away from the sea and heading into a series of tunnels along Ngaio gorge. I’ve always been fascinated by this part of the Johnsonville line. I grew up in Wadestown for part of my life, and was never aware that the Johnsonville line was wending its way through the hillside below me. Literally a stone’s throw away. The tunnels look positively Victorian (which is probably because they are). They’re narrow, brick-lined and short. An early and brave attempt to tackle Wellington’s geography. When you’re not in a tunnel, you’re either looking out over a native-bush covered gorge or (if you’re on the wrong side) a dry, weedy cliff face. A few years ago there was a powerful drought in Wellington, and even the weeds on this face of the hill died. Given Wellington’s robust weed population, I was shocked.
Then suddenly you’re in a suburban shopping mall. And then a number of backwater stations which appear to have nothing connected to them. Off again at another nondescript station 5 minutes later.
And then you’re in Johnsonville. Right next to the motorway. And all for about $1.80.
As we got more in depth into our findings, we found out more and more about the railway line and its origins. You can read about this in our past, present, future sections of this website. We also found that the line has had many trains running on it, from the first steam engine in the 1800’s to the 1960’s electric trains running on the track today.