649B Kumara Junction Highway, Arahura, Westland

Arahura Combined Road and Rail Bridge

Some travellers on the smooth tarseal highway bridge that glides over the braided Arahura river may have recollections of an entirely different experience. Of a bridge that has become what we here at NZ Places term a ‘virtual attraction.’

With the road-scape so altered since completion of the new bridge, it might be a challenge for new visitors to imagine the outrageous and fascinating contraption which spanned the river from 1886 until 2009.

Like many of New Zealand’s most interesting and inventive engineering solutions, the Arahura single lane road/rail bridge was initially of Railways origin. Famous founding father Sir Richard Seddon supported the construction of the railway bridge in the 1880s, no one then supposing that it would serve a dual purpose, and for over 120 years.

When repeated washouts foiled attempts at road bridges in the 1880s, taking the lives of many travelling parties and horses, the authorities agreed in 1891 to surface the deck so road traffic could use the rail bridge.

And so this temporary solution remained, the road being resurfaced but subsiding between the durable trusses to provide an ‘up and down’ bumpy ride and the thrill of the possibility of meeting with coal trains of varying frequency. Drivers on the generally safe and flat Kumara Junction Highway were required halt at the entry to the bridge, to check for oncoming traffic and trains before crossing.

All of this history is not entirely lost, as one former truss stands proud at the Arahura Bridge Heritage Park, on the south bank at the site of the former bridge.

![Hometown New Zealand](http://www.fishpond.co.nz/affiliate_show_banner.php?ref=1323&affiliate_pbanner_id=81893596) ![Bridges of New Zealand](http://www.fishpond.co.nz/affiliate_show_banner.php?ref=1323&affiliate_pbanner_id=438529)Hometown New Zealand Photographs by Derek Smith

Image Credit: Arahura new bridge, Derek Smith and Maclean Barker Photography


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