Settled after the break up of the huge Annandale run, Wairio was formerly a busy farming centre with a school, store, blacksmith, hall, hotel and racecourse.
From 1882-1992 Wairio was in the unique position of having twin termini to service two separate railway lines.
A private line constructed by the Nightcaps Coal Company transported coal to the government line from 1882 - 1926.
From 1916 the option of another private railway company was pursued by the Ohai Railway Board after the state declined to extend its line from Wairio to the new coalfields at Ohai.
Farseeing local landowners funded the extension through mortgages against their properties. Approval for the railway was achieved after two commissions of enquiry by central government.
The first building at the Wairio terminus was a single rail locomotive shed. The Board office was built about 1924.
The Ohai Railway Board was the only independent railway in New Zealand to have run at a profit throughout its existence.
Included was a free passenger service for miners travelling daily on the 'Piecart' carriage to Ohai.
Twelve million tonnes of coal were railed over the twin termini in the first 50 years of the Board's existence. It was hauled by locomotives - steam, petrol, diesel - to Wairio. From here the "black diamonds" were hauled on the extensive government system.
Wairio became so busy that a bypass road was built in the 1950s to overcome the frustrations of motorist halted by wagons parked across the main road.
In 1992, New Zealand Railways bought the Ohai Railway Board for $1.2 million. This sum now forms the basis for a trust, the Ohai Railway Fund, that provides grant funding for local community projects.
The Ohai Railway Board Heritage Trust is establishing a railway museum at Wairio.
This business appears on the following trail(s):
- Nightcaps/Ohai - Takitimu Heritage Trail