Sunday at Wanganui involved a real treat – a trip to Durie Hill. Although we had been to the top of the hill before, we had never been up in the historic elevator, so were very pleased that a visit had been arranged during our caravan rally.
To get to the historic elevator we had to walk through the 205 m long tunnel. Luckily it is painted white and is well lit or it could well be a rather spooky for nervous travelers.
Jenny and Dot at the entrance to the tunnel
The vintage elevator is at the end of the tunnel, and entering was certainly like was stepping back in time. Zena Mabbot has been operating it since 1971 and stands in front of a newspaper article when she started her job – although she now only works 3 days a week, she told us. We were charged $2 each for the 66m ride up to the top and saved us walking up 191 concrete steps.
Zena, the long serving elevator operator
The Durie Hill Underground Elevator was built to provide residents of the garden suburb easier access to the growing city. Built in 1919, it is the country’s only public underground Elevator and is still used on a daily basis by locals and visitors. The Elevator engine is a converted electric Tram engine, which used to use castor oil as lubrication.
Our elevator ride stopped with a shake and a shudder and didn’t line up with the floor – too much weight perhaps, so we hauled ourselves up and out the door. Several of us took the challenge of walking up the spiral staircase of the elevator tower – and sadly I forgot to take a photo of this interesting building. It was so windy at the top I took a quick photo of the river before we climbed down again.
View from the elevator tower
There is a second tower on top of Durie Hill, the War Memorial Tower which is registered as a Category 2 Historic Place. The tower is the official Wanganui Memorial to the 513 people from the district who died in the First World War and was unveiled in 1925. It is constructed of cemented marine sandstone containing shell fragments (called shellrock) from a nearby quarry. It is 33.5m high (104 feet) and the rock is estimated to be more than 2 million years old.
War Memorial Tower
Only three of us climbed this tower, Barry and Derek who were much fitter than me and arrived at the top with no trouble at all. I was much slower, but really pleased that I made it all the way to the top too, huffing and puffing all the way. There is a heavy safety frame on top of the tower to stop any accidents.
Views from the War Memorial Tower
We saw quite an assortment of padlocks attached to the safety frame. It seems that these “love locks” as they are known, fastening a lock marked with lovers’ names to a public place and the key thrown away symbolizes everlasting love. Wonder if they come back and cut them off if the love match turns sour?
Locked in love at the top of the tower
After the mammoth task of climbing all those stairs we were faced with the downhill journey – this seems to use a different set of muscles and I will probably pay for all this exercise! Many thanks to the Rally Captains for a great afternoon out.