Leaving Owlcatraz behind us, our group drove just around the corner into the Shannon township to lunch at Highway 5 Cafe, (previously The Old Plum Duff), and we were joined by Jan and John. Great food and service, and the prices were perhaps a little lower than average – not that we are complaining, of course. But what really impressed us was the steady stream of workers coming in to buy their lunch, one after the other. That speaks volumes, and told us the the locals love the food on offer. Our group lingered over our lunch, before moving on. Some of the ladies took the opportunity to do a “shop crawl” while the rest of us went to check out the historic railway station, now a museum and visitors centre.
Shannon Railway Station was built in 1893, replacing the original Wellington and Manawatu Railway Co shelter. The W & M Railway began in 1885 and remained in private hands until purchased by the government in 1908. The station has been extended three times over the years and remained a busy freight station until the 1970s. The station is now owned by the Horowhenua District Council, is managed by the Shannon Progressive Association, and is opened daily by a dedicated team of local volunteers. We were warmly welcomed by the gentleman on duty, and invited to to have a good look around.
Calvin and Jenny remember travelling to work like this
Inside the station museum
Shannon originally adjoined extensive swamps and was a headquarters for flax milling but those boom days have long gone. But a revolution headed by entrepreneur Suzie Johnson has had a huge impact on drawing visitors to the shopping area. Revitalizing "small-town" New Zealand is at the heart of her business ethos, and she now has four shops operating in Shannon, starting with Gallery 57 in 2007 as an outlet for her own hand-painted canvas and jewellery designs. This success led her to open a second Shannon store, Oosh Giftware that also became an outlet for her own clothing line. These garments are designed by Ms Johnson and made in Levin and she had since opened a two more clothing stores selling her designs. Not content with this, she has also opened three more shops in Woodville, and a sewing factory and retail outlet in Napier. Sounds like she is a one woman dynamo!
Outside the Station Museum
Then it was back to Villa 50 for afternoon tea, and even more talking, before everyone headed off to their respective homes. There’s something about this group, we never run out of conversation.