We have often driven past the mysterious rocket on the corner of Jackeytown Road and SH56 on our way to and from Palmerston North. Finally we decided to turn left at the rocket on our way home recently and see what there was to see in Jackeytown.
The small settlement of Jackeytown was settled in a natural clearing in the densely forest covered Manawatu. It is named after the area, Tiakitahuna, but that was too difficult to say, so the English settlers changed the name to Jackeytown. In 1878 Jackeytown consisted of only about twenty houses. There was also a general store, and a single room primary school was erected in 1882.
The road ended at the Manawatu River, and the area seems to consist of farms and life style properties. On our recent visit to the Te Manawa Museum we read how the early residents of Jackeytown hoped that their new settlement would become the hub of the Manawatu, and that the Manawatu River would become the super highway of its time, transporting goods to other towns. That didn’t happen, and Jackeytown practically sunk into oblivion. We stopped to look at some shaggy Highland Cattle who didn’t seem to mind having the photo taken.
The Tiakitahuna Rocket was placed on the corner of SH56 by locals wanting to mark the locality after the the Foxton Branch railway was closed and uplifted leaving the area bereft of identification. The old Tiakitahuna rail station existed just over SH56 but now nothing is left.
Old Tiakitahuna Station circa 1955
The original rocket was made of 44 gallon oil drums welded end to end. The rocket was rebuilt about the 1980’s with the assistance of a local brewery and painted bright red. The centenary years of 1864-1964 were painted at the top while the district name was painted down the barrel. Right from the day of its construction the rocket has become been a familiar and valued land-mark at the intersection of two alternate road entrances to Palmerston North City.
Then, horror of horrors, the rocket disappeared, taken away, it was reported, by men in high-vis vests. It was found that Stevensons Structural Engineers, of Tokomaru, were behind the disappearance. Thankfully, the rocket has now been returned to it’s place on the corner, earthquake strengthened and repainted blue, with new dates painted along it’s length to commemorate the 150-year anniversary. The landmark rocket proudly proclaiming that travellers are passing through Tiakitahuna is back doing it’s job, and all it well in this part of the world.