Driving away from Westport our scenery was as we have had most days, mountains somewhere, river bridges to cross, spells of countryside, cows and sheep grazing. The road then took us past a disused railway station, an area of not much at all, then a ‘Welcome to Reefton the town of light’ sign. Mmmm.
Then there was an area of old machinery and piles of ‘stuff’, a tall crane, evidence of what was a busy railway operation and a disused works shed.
An old turntable.
On first glance, nothing exceptional but a sleepy little township ???
Modern house, traditional house, the main road.
We turned left and found ourselves in the main part of the town. Police Station, bigger house and hotel.
Reefton is a small town on New Zealand's West Coast region, some 80 km northeast of Greymouth, in the valley of the Inangahua River. State Highway 7 passes through the southern part of the town, and State Highway 69 runs north to connect to State Highway 6. Ahaura is 44 km south-west of Reefton, Inangahua Junction is 34 km to the north, Maruia is 63 km to the east, and the Lewis Pass is 66 km to the south-east. Still nothing exceptional.
Motel, cafe, B&B, tiny Four Square supermarket.
Then we see a lamppost outside the Lantern Court, hint.
In 1888 Reefton became the first town in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere to receive electricity, and its streets were lit by commercial electricity generated by the Reefton Power Station. The population was 951 in the 2006 Census, a decrease of 36 from 2001.
Reefton’s first electric light powerhouse - centre, 1888.
A sophisticated Broadway, Reefton, 1890.
Industry: Rich veins of gold found in a quartz reef near the town led to its name, and also its former name of Quartzopolis. Gold was first discovered near the town in 1866, although the major discovery was made in 1870. Soon after, the town briefly boasted a population of several thousand. This has dwindled to less than a thousand, but with the opening of an Australian owned goldmine the population is expected to grow by several hundred. Other industries in the town are coal mining, forestry, tourism and angling.
Miners ready to go on shift.
Railways: Reefton is located on the Stillwater–Westport Line railway, which diverges from the Midland Line in Stillwater. On the 29th of February 1892, the line was opened to Reefton, but it terminated on the southern bank of the Inangahua River opposite the town. Early in the 20th century, a bridge was built across the river and the present-day station established in Reefton. The line was opened beyond Reefton to Cronadun in 1908, but it was not until the 5th of December 1943 that the line officially became a through route to Westport, though trains had been operating the length of the line since July 1942. On the 3rd of August 1936, a railcar passenger service began operating in the morning between Hokitika and Reefton utilising small Leyland diesel railcars, but low patronage meant this service ceased to operate all the way to Reefton in August 1938. In the early 1940’s, much larger Vulcan railcars were introduced to New Zealand and they provided two services to Reefton: one local service from Greymouth that terminated in Reefton, and a service that ran between Westport and Stillwater to connect with the West Coast Express. In 1967, all passenger services through Reefton ceased. Today, the primary traffic on the railway is coal, with multiple coal trains operating daily.
Mr and Mrs C.D. Dewar and family, Globe Hill, 1909.
Education: The first state school in Reefton was founded in 1878, and there were once twenty four schools in the area. Nowadays, Reefton Area School is a composite (years 1–15) school with a roll of 238, - Reefton School and Inangahua College merged to form Reefton Area School in 2004. Sacred Heart School is a full primary (years 1–8) school with a roll of 32. It is a state integrated Catholic school.
Locally received radio stations include repeaters of both Classic Hits Scenicland FM from Greymouth and Coast FM from Westport. The Greymouth Star newspaper is also received daily in the town.
We stopped at the Information Boards and read about this happy sounding little town.
Just beyond the information boards was the park.
We look back down the main street, looking at the old lamppost, opposite the modern, thinking about all the changes this little town has seen.
Reefton. The town of light.
ALL IN ALL FULL OF SURPRISES
QUAINT, WESTERN-LIKE TOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE