Goodness me – it’s amazing what you can stumble across while out exploring. We certainly came up trumps, (can we say that word?) – and ended up finding things we didn’t even know we were looking for. A trip to Temuka led us to follow a yellow road sign for several kms out in the country to view the Richard Pearce memorial. He was a New Zealand farmer and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation, taking to the air nine months before the Wright brothers flew their aircraft. The plaque reads: “The memorial commemorates the first powered flight to be made by a British citizen in a heavier than air machine. Most evidence indicates this flight took place on 31st march 1903 and ended by crashing on this site”.
Richard Pearce Memorial, Temuka
Then we backtracked, because we had seen another yellow road sign pointing the way to Hanging Rock. That sounded interesting, so off we went, up and down country roads until found and drove across the Hanging Rock Bridge. But just where was that dratted rock?
Hanging Rock Bridge
The Hanging Rock wasn’t visible until we had turned the car around and driven back over the bridge. And there it was, scoured away underneath and definitely hanging over the river - Hanging Rock is a limestone crag on farmland and due to recent significant outcrop collapse in this area is considered dangerous to climb. No worries there, we only wanted to view it.
Pleasant Point was definitely on our travel plans, merely because it sounded so nice and well, pleasant. So off we went, and eventually arrived at the Pleasant Point Railway Station. How disappointing – we read that there would be a steam loco trip on Sunday, and here we were at the station and it was only Friday.
But, as luck would have it, the dinky Model Ford T Railcar was running and the next trip was due to leave in 5 minutes time. How about that, an unexpected train trip!
Model T Ford Railcar
This little darling is quite unique, we were told. New Zealand Railways built only two of these which ran on branch lines in Southland from 1926 to 1931 – and sadly, no one knows what became of them. RM4 was rebuilt from original plans and photographs, and is on a 1925 Model T Ford truck chassis.
The driver’s controls
The passengers jumped aboard, us two, and a grandmother with her two young charges. As we travelled up the 2km track to Keanes Crossing Station, the youngsters were allowed to push the horn button as we approached several level crossings over the rail track. They certainly had fun with that. The railcar then needed turning for the return trip, and Robin volunteered to help the driver with this task.
Come on – push harder!
The engine shed was a surprise, chock full of engines, carriages, and lots of memorabilia. Our guide had us climbing in and out of carriages, and then we admired the various engines. I remarked that I remember travelling on the old “bone rattlers’’ in my much younger days, the second class carriages which took commuters to Wellington and back.
I remember travelling in these
D16 Steam Engine
There was even a model railway set up to amuse the children, full of trains going around the tracks, flashing lights, and moving accessories, including a flock of teeny tiny chickens pecking at their feed.
Model train display
Displays outside included a single man’s hut, and a signal box.
The railcar chugged back along the track to Pleasant Point Station, and our guide presented us all with autographed certificates, just to say we had been there, done that!
That kind deed deserved another so we asked him to pose by the railcar and have his photo taken, and he happily obliged.
It was a great day out indeed, discovering unexpected sights, and ending with a train ride. It doesn’t take much to make us happy!