Vintage railway back on track after flood damage

By Peter de Graaf

Kawakawa's vintage railway is due to reopen tomorrow after damage inflicted by Cyclone Wilma forced a month-long closure for repairs.
The cyclone dumped up to 280mm of rain on the Mid North on January 28-29, sending floodwaters surging through Moerewa and Kawakawa, inundating homes, trashing the bowling club and washing away large chunks of railway.
The 6km stretch of painstakingly restored line from Kawakawa to Taumarere suffered about 30 washouts, four of them major.
In places 10m stretches of embankment had been swept away, leaving rails hanging in the air. Elsewhere rails were left buried and buckled under piles of debris.
It was a major blow to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust, which faced a huge repair job and could not run trains at its busiest time of year, including Anniversary and Waitangi weekends.
But trust spokesman Frank Leadley said the diesel locomotive at least would offer rides tomorrow at the usual times of 10.45am, noon, 1.15pm and 2.30pm, and the steam locomotive Gabriel would be running if possible.
A track inspector signed off the line for passenger use yesterday.
Mr Leadley said more work would be needed to bring the track back to "top order" but it was perfectly safe.
Track supervisor Denis Hewitt, of Whangarei, said the repairs had taken a month.
Fortunately all the bridges survived, but Bridge No 5 had trapped "a massive amount of rubbish", including tree trunks, branches and an entire caravan.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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