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Branch line: Map

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A branch line is a secondary railway line which branches off a more important through route, usually a main line. A very short branch line may be called a spur line. David Blyth Hanna, the first president of the Canadian National Railway, said that although most branch lines cannot pay for themselves, they are essential to make main lines pay.

United Kingdom

Many Britishmarker branch lines were closed as a result of the "Beeching Axe" in the 1960s, although some have been re-opened as heritage railways.

The smallest branch line that is still in operation in the UK is the Stourbridge Town Branch Line from Stourbridge Junctionmarker going to Stourbridge Townmarker. It has only one track. The journey is a third of a mile (about half of a kilomtere) and the train takes around 55 s to complete its journey.

Hong Kong

Examples of spur lines in Hong Kong:

North America

In North America, little used branch lines are often spun off from larger railroads to become new common carrier short-line railroads of their own.

New Zealand

New Zealandmarker once had a very extensive network of branch lines, especially in the South Islandmarker regions of Canterburymarker, Otago, and Southlandmarker. Many were built in the late 19th century to open up regions inland from coastal harbours and cities for farming and other economic activities. The branches in the aforementioned South Island regions were often general-purpose lines that carried predominantly agricultural traffic, but lines elsewhere were often built to serve a specific resource: on the West Coastmarker, an extensive network of branch lines was built in rugged terrain to serve coal mines, while in the central North Islandmarker and the Bay of Plentymarker, lines were built inland to provide rail access to large logging operations.

Today, many of the branch lines have been closed, including almost all of the general-purpose country lines. Those that remain serve ports or industries not located near main lines such as coal mines, logging operations, large dairying factories, and steelworks. In Wellingtonmarker, two branch lines exist solely for commuter passenger trains. For more, see the list of New Zealand railway lines.

Japan

There are some branch lines in Japan. The longest branch line is the 18.0 km long Saikyō Line which is a common name of the Tōhoku Main Line branch line between Akabane Stationmarker and Ōmiya Stationmarker via Musashi-Urawa Stationmarker. Akabane Station and Ōmiya Station are also connected by Main Line via Urawa Stationmarker.

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