Story: West Coast region

Denniston incline

This film clip shows the Denniston incline cable railway in action in 1967, just before it closed down. Mining of the high-grade bituminous coal near Denniston, 600 metres above sea level, was made possible by the construction of the incline railway in 1879. Locally called the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, it brought coal down from the plateau, with a fall of 518 metres in a track distance of 1,670 metres.

There were two sections – the upper and lower – and the railway trucks were exchanged at the middle brake. The system worked on a counterbalance, so that the full wagons coming downhill pulled the empty ones back up. The system was conceived by R. B. Denniston, the manager of the mine, after whom the settlement was named. Between 1879 and 1967 the incline brought down more than 13 million tonnes of coal.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Simon Nathan, 'West Coast region - Transport and communication', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 May 2022)

Story by Simon Nathan, updated 1 Sep 2016