Railways were essential to the development of Bay of Plenty. The east coast main trunk line from Auckland had terminated at Tāneatua by 1928. Branch railway lines connected Tokoroa and Kinleith with Putaruru, and Murupara and Kawerau with Edgecumbe in the early 1950s. The Kaimai tunnel, built between 1966 and 1978, was a crucial rail connection between the port at Mt Maunganui and Waikato and nearby areas.
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