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 2003 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 overgrown. Access to the tunnel is not particularly difficult but it is not signposted and requires a bush bash.

The purpose of this page is to explain how to get to Cruickshanks tunnel. It was written before the age of Google Maps, Google Earth and phones with GPS.

Caution: I have not checked the ownership of the land. I do not know if there is legal public access to the tunnel.

Maymorn portal

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

In late 2015, twelve years after the journey described here, I decided to re-visit the tunnel. The track was overgrown and after only 50m or so I became trapped in knee deep mud. I did not go any further.

I have read in the local rag that that a cycle track is to be created on the old rail formation from Kingsley Heights to the tunnel but I do not have any other informaton.

On 8th February 2016 I received an email from a tunnel hunter who had successfilly reached the tunnel. Here is his comment:

Unfortunately, it took two lengthy attempts to reach the stream (Point A), by which time we were sweaty and covered head to toe in mud. Thankfully, two local boys kindly pointed us toward a less bramble-filled and considerably drier route to the left, otherwise we might still be out there. The tunnel itself was just as amazing as I'd hoped."

So access to the tunnel is still possible. I must go and check it out.

How To Get To Start Of The Access Track

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

Locality Map.   "X" shows access from State Highway 2.

NZTopoOnline,   extracted April 2003, Crown Copyright Reserved.

Detailed Instructions

The diagram is based on three site visits at the end of April 2003. I took some compass bearings but did not use any other survey instrument apart from the Mk 1 Eyeball. The location of the access track is approximate only. Cruickshanks tunnel was on the electronic map I extracted from NZTopo Online and is correctly aligned relative to Flux Road in the Mangaroa Valley, so its location should be correct.

S Walk under subway and follow the track. Two short sections are knee deep in mud and boots are essential.

A The track goes down a small drop. Directly ahead is a stream. This may  be the drainage stream. I must check. Turn right and go back up.

B A telegraph pole can be seen on the hill. Note the line between regenerating bush and gorse - is this the alignment? Must check that stream crosses track here.

C Arrive at two blazed trees. Continue straight ahead, sidling around the ridge. Keep to the right - do not be tempted to go straight up the ridge.

D Look to the right across a small gully. A blaze can be seen on a tree on the far side (E).

E Follow the track up hill past the blaze.

N Sidle around the ridge. Eventually a stream will be seen on the right. This is the drainage stream. The stream exits from a channel about a metre deep.

F The portal of a drainage tunnel will be seen on the right. Turn right immediately above the portal. Follow the track for a short distance down and then drop down onto the rail formation. Turn left and Voila!!!

G Cruickshanks Tunnel.

H Remains of bridge over Mangaroa stream. Access track is through blackberry to the right (south) of rail centre line. Turn left at river.

I Remains of barbed wire fence and gate. Walk up ridge from drainage tunnel portal to get to it.

J Brick lined pit (three paces square) with pipes in it at edge of formation. A channel goes a short distance down to what appears to be a levelled area.

The alignment from Cruickshanks Tunnel to Upper Hutt shown above is approximate. My sources are Inch to the Mile topographical map NZMS1 N161 (1974) and aerial photographs from the Upper Hutt City Council online Rates Database. Click here for an aerial photograph. The alignment is not visible from the ground. Just north of Upper Hutt, an embankment which was was once visible from the main road has been destroyed by subdivision earthworks.

NZTopoOnline,   extracted April 2003, Crown Copyright Reserved.

K Turn right (going up) between the two blazed trees (C) and follow the track down. It crosses the drainage stream and then turns left and goes back up, from where there is a good view of the telegraph pole. Maybe it would be possible to get to the pole from here? The pole seems very close.

L Four arm telegraph pole (approximate location).

M Railway formation. Is this a cutting? (Approximate location of formation).

T Trig - Not shown on inch to mile or 1 in 50,000 topo maps.

GPS Coordinates In 2008 I visited the tunnel with a GPS receiver. On the Upper Hutt side tall trees made reception difficult. However I was able to obtain the coordinates of the Maymorn portal:
NZMG  N 6007255  E 2686156
WGS84 (Google Earth) S 41 deg 07' 21"  S 175 deg 05' 53"


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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Last Updated: Sunday 10 February 2016

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