Cruickshanks Tunnel

There are six tunnels on the Rimutaka Incline route between Upper Hutt and Featherston. This section of railway was closed in 1955 when the Rimutaka Deviation opened.

In 2017 there is easy public access to five of the six disused tunnels. The sixth is Cruickshanks, the closest to Upper Hutt. Cruickshanks Tunnel is hidden in the hills and the track bed is partially overgrown. Access to the tunnel is not particularly difficult but it is not signposted.

The purpose of this page is to explain how to get to Cruickshanks tunnel.

Caution: The land is privately owned. In 2017 part of the land was offered for sale.

This page is in a state of transition - from providing information about the rail tunnel to documenting what I have called the Cruickshank's Saddle Historical Area.

Maymorn portal

Mangaroa Valley portal of Cruickshanks Tunnel. Looking towards Upper Hutt (2008).

Cruickshank's Saddle

My research has revealed that this is an important historical site with links going back to the New Zealand Land Company (which pre-dated the New Zealand Company). It has revealed the ponzi like scheme operated by the New Zealand Company. An 1850s water race and water tunnel and an 1876 rail tunnel are extant. Part of a pre-1876 tramway formation is visible. I have decided to refer to the area as Cruickshank's Saddle Historic Area because there is more to it than a rail tunnel.

I have documented my research in two documents -

Note that some pdf readers may not read these files correctly. I have a Linux system so cannot test Windows or Mac. If you have a problem you may need to experiment to find a reader that works correctly. I do not know if the problem is the pdf generator or the reader.

Cruickshank's Saddle - Research Notes

Cruickshank's Saddle & Surrounding Area - Land Ownership

Currently this site has no protection. I am aware that a local archaeologist has documented the area and plans to upload the information to the site. Fortunately the 1950s railway deviation made subdivision for housing difficult. However the Kingsley Heights subdivision is creeping closer..........

2017 Update part 5

My research has revealed that this is an important historical site with links going back to the New Zealand Land Company (which pre-dated the New Zealand Company).

I plan to completely rewrite this page with the results of my research. I need to split the page into two parts - present day access and the historical aspects.

This Crown Grant was issued to the Hon Henry William Petre in 1853. The land - section 124 Hutt (Cruickshanks Road area) - was part of the Port Nicholson Block. Before coming into Petre's possession it had already been in the hands of the NZ Land Company, David Ramsay (Gentleman in London), the NZ Company and the Crown. To put things into perspective NZ introduced Responsible Government in 1852.

Part Petre Crown Grant

History of Section 124 Hutt

David Ramsay, Gentleman, was issued with land order 738 by the NZ Land Company in 1839. He was allocated the 100 acre country section 124 Hutt and the 1 acre town section 442 by 1847.

David Ramsay's bankers went bankrupt. Ramsay sold his New Zealand land land holdings to the New Zealand Company for 300 pounds.The opportunity was taken to bring the land under the Conveyancing Act 1842 (5 Victoriae 1842 No 10) . Included in the act was An Ordinance to facilitate the Transfer of Real Property and to simplify the Law relating thereto .

The New Zealand Company received financial assistance frrom the British Government but in 1850 failed and its land became Crown demesne land.

In 1853 Petre claimed under the An Ordinance to ascertain the Contracts and Engagements entered into by the New Zealand Company for the disposal of certain Lands in the Islands of New Zealand, and to provide for the completion of such Contracts and Engagements by the Colonial Government. He received Crown Grant number 53 for section 124 Hutt. Note that at this time construction of the water tunnel (not on section 124) was probably underway.

In 1869 James Duff Cruickshank purchased that part of section 124 from the main Wairarapa road west to the Hutt River (14 acres).

In 1876 the Governer of NZ issued a memorial for the Wellington - Napier Railway.

In 1880 Cruickshank leased the remainder of section 124 from Petre. This was from the main Wairarapa road east to the top of the hill. A condition of the lease was that Cruickshank maintain the water tunnel and water race. Cruickshank must not to do anything that put the Mangaroa River water rights at risk. I do not know if Petre had formal water rights or if they were grandfather rights. All buildings on the site, including a dwelling house, were to be insured at Cruickshank's expense.x

1890 Petre died.

1903 Colley and Another sold the land to J D Cruickshank (junior?). Did Colley acquire the land from Petre's estate.

2017 Update part 4

Here is the text of a comment I have added to the Upper Hutt Library Recollect site. All statements below can be verified by source material.

In my opinion "Cruickshank's Hill" is a heritage site and should be preserved. In 1857 a water tunnel was built to take water to what was then called the the Fernground Saw Mill. In 1875 a rail tunnel was built. The rail tunnel was at a higher level than the water tunnel and crossed it near the western end of the rail tunnel. The water tunnel was replaced with a 3 ft brick culvert where the railway crossed it.

A weir in the Mungaroa River (as it was then called) directed water to the water tunnel. In 1921 it was proposed to use the water tunnel to supply a power station 200ft below on the floor of the Hutt Valley.

In 1881 the Railways Department built a dam in the water race (western side) to supply water to Upper Hutt Station via a pipe along the railway formation.

Near the western portal of the rail tunnel a bridge carried a tramway over the railway.

Both the rail tunnel and the water tunnel are extant, although the latter is silted up. It is possible that the dam in the water race still exists - I have a report of it being seen in the 1980s. It is also possible that parts of the tramway formation may exist above the rail tunnel portals provided they have not been destroyed by logging. Open sections of the water race are extant.

The entrance to the water tunnel was probably blocked when the Mangaroa Stream weir was removed and I have not located the exact location. However maps of the period narrow down the search area.

The railway formation is visible in the background so that would date the photo post 1874.

2017 Update part 3

Phyllis McNab's statement Around 1876 the same tunnel was used to bring the railway through from the Upper Hutt incline is incorrect. There were two tunnels.

Water Race

2017 Update part 2

On Tuesday 14th March 2017 I visited Cruickshank's Tunnel via route 1. I made two important discoveries that help me explain the relationship between the railway tunnel, the water race to Cruickshanks's Mill and a water supply to Upper Hutt Staton.

I am waiting for some information about the Upper Hutt Station water feed before I publish my conclusions.

The next day I discovered in the National Archives two plans that may prove wrong Phyliss McNab's claim that "Around 1876 the same tunnel was used to bring the railway through from the Upper Hutt incline". I believe that the plans will prove that there were two tunnels, with the railway tunnel crossing over the water race tunnel near the western portal of the railway tunnel. Also I believe that during construction of the railway the water race was damaged and Cruickshank claimed damages. I hope that all will be confirmed when I visit the archives to view the plans.

2017 Update

Water Race
I have received a private email about the Cruickshanks Mill water race. Here is an extract from the email:

I noticed that you had identified the brick-lined drainage tunnel running alongside the formation near the eastern end of Cruickshank's Tunnel as the original course of the water race that brought water down from Mangaroa Valley to James Cruickshank's mill. This claim was also made by J A Kelleher in his book 'Upper Hutt: The History', based on the recollection of a Phyllis McNab who lived contemporaneous with Cruickshank. Unfortunately, this claim is incorrect!

The tunnel that brought water from Mangaroa to the lake on the terrace above Cruickshank's mill was actually an entirely separate structure, and was excavated for Cruickshank by Henry Bannister. (A reference to Henry Bannister as the excavator of the water tunnel can be found in Joseph Kenneally's book 'Upper Hutt: Reflections From The Past'.)

McNab's claim about the water race is included in a Mangaroa School jubilee booklet.  She wrote  Around 1876 the same tunnel was used to bring the railway through from the Upper Hutt incline.

A 1915 Trentham Camp Manoevre Area map shows a dam in the Mangaroa Stream near the eastern portal of Cruickshanks Tunnel. The dam was also shown in a 1929 map. Was this the location of the water race entrance?

A photo of Cruickshanks Mill circa 1870 shows that the mill was in operation after the railway had been constructed. This suggests that the water race was operational after the railway tunnel had been built.

Construction of Railways  papers in AHJR (1871) include Rochfort's report into his proposed alignment of the Silverstream to Featherston railway. He wrote "I have completed the trial line from Featherston to the Hutt Valley, choosing an exit from the bush at Mr. Cruickshank's tunnel".

Plan of Water Race   showing the relationship to the railway tunnel. Details to be added after I have viewed the plan at the National Archives. May also include details of damage to the water race.

Public Access
In 2016 the Upper Hutt Leader published a story which stated that the local council planned to create a public track to the tunnel along the old formation. I do not have any other information about this project.

Old Formation
A 1958 aerial photo of the old formation can be viewed here. The large embankment that was destroyed when the Kingsley Heights subdivision was constructed is clearly visible.

Routes to Tunnel

I first wrote this page in 2003. In May 2016, following receipt of new information and in possession of a gps enabled phone, I visited the tunnel again. I discovered that there are now two mud-free routes to the tunnel.

Route 1:
The journey involves an uphill climb. It does NOT involve walking through any mud. The instructions for getting to the tunnel are:

  • Go through the subway at the end of Cruickshanks Road.
  • Turn hard left and follow the track.

That is all there is to it!

Cruickshanks Road to west portal of tunnel is a gpx file that can be opened in google earth.

Route 2:
Walk along the old formation from the end of King Charles Drive in Kingsley Height to the tunnel. I prefer this route because the 19th century cuttings and embankments can be studied. Also the grade is easy. The distance is 1.16km with an easy walking time of 30 minutes one way. There are several locations where trains on the new formation can be photographed.

west portal of tunnel to Kingsley Heights is a gpx file that can be opened in google earth.


  • The gps lost signal at the west tunnel portal.
  • About 200m from King Charles Drive the track deviated from the formation.
  • For more information about Cruickshanks Mill and the water race go to this geocaching page.

The Tracks To Cruickshanks Tunnel

Old Upper Hutt - Featherston Route

Railway Routes.  Old and new rail routes between Upper Hutt and Featherston. The Rimutaka Deviation opened in 1955.

Artifact seen on the old formation.

A 2016 Photo

Photographed from the old formation train 1604 crosses the Cruickshanks Road overbridge (left). The Cannon Point Trig (officially 7503 Upper Hutt No 2) is in the background. The photographer is about 220m from the west portal of Cruickshanks Tunnel.

The Old Alignment

 From Cannon Point trig

The upper image was photographed from the track up to Cannon Point Trig (officially 7503 Upper Hutt No 2). The dots mark the old formation. A logging train is descending the grade to Upper Hutt on the new 1955 alignment.

The Google Earth image shows the old route in plan view.


These photos were taken in 2003. Captions refer to the Route 1 from Cruickshanks Road.

I am trying to find a location to get some better photos.

The Rimutaka Deviation climbs on a grade of 1 in 70 (right to left) to the Mangaroa Tunnel. The subway under the railway is at the end of Cruickshank Road.

2016 comment: I think that the Cruickshanks tunnel is to the left of the photo. The comment on the photo is probably meaningless.

I believe that the railway formation is in a cutting behind the ridge on the right.

2016 comment: The tunnel location may be correct. The "cutting" comment may be wrong.

A four arm telegraph pole is extant in the hills. There is a distinct line between regenerating bush and gorse - is this the alignment?

2016 comment: The pole is no longer visible from the track up to the tunnel. It can be seen from the bottom of the zig zag to Cannon Point. It appears to below the formation. I wonder if it is a P&T pole on the old mainline to the Wairarapa?.

Continue straight ahead past the two blazed trees. Keep towards the right - do not be tempted to turn left and head straight up the ridge. For a good view of the telegraph pole turn right between the blazed trees and proceed to K.

2016 comment: The pole is no longer visible.

The entrance to a drainage tunnel which runs parallel to the portal cutting. The tunnel is about 38 paces (say 30m) long. I suspect that once it was completely bricked up as just behind the camera is a small drain in the track bed. The tunnel is large enough to walk through but a stick poked into the mud suggests that that would not be wise. Looking towards Upper Hutt.

2016 comment: This is the water race to Cruickshank's Mill.

Looking along the formation towards Upper Hutt. The drainage tunnel is centre right. After a short distance the track becomes almost impassable - a slasher would be essential if an attempt was made to walk to the Kingsley Heights subdivision, where an embankment has been destroyed.

2016 comment: It is an easy walk along the old formation to King Charles Drive. A slasher is not required.

The Upper Hutt portal of Cruickshanks Tunnel photographed from the approach cutting.

The cross-section of Cruickshanks Tunnel. Looking towards Mangaroa Valley.

Remains of the bridge over the Mangaroa River. See photos on pages 95 & 97 in A Line Of Railway (W N Cameron). The tunnel is behind the camera but is not visible from this location because of blackberry.

2016 comment: I could not see the bridge remains.

Bridge piles in the Mangaroa River. Looking towards the tunnel.

2016 comment: I could not see the bridge remains.

Last Updated: Monday 21st January 2019

Validated by HTML Validator (based on Tidy)