The ever changing vistas flashed by our carriage windows. The views of rolling green farmland changed to pine plantations, followed by hillsides covered in beautiful native bush. And all these views were topped off with a bright blue sky – just perfect.
Tree ferns and native bush
The train sped by Waiouru station, which at 814m is the highest station in New Zealand on the Main Trunk Line. A little further up the line is memorial to the Tangiwai Disaster, the site of New Zealand’s worst railway accident. At 10.21 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1953 the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, 10 km west of Waiouru in the central North Island. Of the 285 passengers and crew on board, 151 died in New Zealand’s worst railway accident. I was just a youngster at the time, but can still remember the news coming across on the radio, and the long lists of names of the deceased solemnly read out.
Another memorial stands at Manganuioteao, between Ohakune and National Park, and I managed to get a photo of this as we sped by. Way back on 6th November 1908 Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward ceremonially opened the North Island main trunk railway line by driving home a final polished silver spike. The central section of the main trunk line, between Te Awamutu and Marton, had taken 23 years of surveys, land negotiations, political wrangling and back-breaking physical effort by thousands of labourers.
Obelisk marking the last spike on the Main Trunk Line
Just about everyone climbed down from the train at National Park Station. There was a long queue at the counter of the station café as customers waited to order hot drinks and goodies for afternoon tea. And an equally long queue lined up to use the rest rooms. Some passengers boarded a bus to take them to the rather posh Chateau for a late lunch. We had decided on a more economical option and had brought our lunches from home and had already eaten them on the train.
National Park Station
And what could be nicer than the mountain views from the station, looking almost close enough to touch. At 2291m tall, the beautiful cone of Mount Ngauruhoe reminds us that it is still an active volcano, and last erupted back in 1977.
And the taller Mount Ruapehu, which boasts a height of 2797m is also an active volcano, last erupting in 2007. Mt Ruapehu had flashed by our carriage windows as we tried to take a decent photo, leaning over our neighbours as we tried to steady the camera as the train bounced along, and focus through the dirty windows. This time, of course, it’s so much easier to take a snap outside while standing still. It is such a joy to see two beautiful mountains in close proximity.
Those heavy coats, hats and gloves weren’t needed after all, but it was better to be safe than sorry, instead of cold and shivery. We posed outside “our” carriage while Selwyn took our photo, and we returned the favour for him and Kath.
Two happy day trippers at National Park
Next stop – the world famous Raurimu Spiral.