Rau­rimu Spi­ral

The Insider's Guide to New Zealand - - NORTH ISLAND -

Un­doubt­edly the best way to see New Zealand’s most im­pres­sive feat of rail­way engi­neer­ing is from a train. On the North­ern Ex­plorer, which stops at Na­tional Park and Ohakune, you can ap­pre­ci­ate every loop and lurch. The next best thing is to climb 20 steps to a look­out at Rau­rimu Vil­lage on State High­way 4 just north of Na­tional Park and wait for a train to come through. The spi­ral snakes 215 me­tres up the hill be­tween Rau­rimu and Na­tional Park at a gra­di­ent of about one in

50. It in­cludes a com­plete cir­cle, three horse­shoe curves and two short tun­nels, cov­er­ing a dis­tance of 11.5 track kilo­me­tres. The most pow­er­ful lo­co­mo­tives can haul a load of 700 tonnes up the slope. If you stay on the train, head­ing south, you will pass the site of the Tangi­wai rail dis­as­ter in which 151 pas­sen­gers and crew died when the train plunged into the Whangaehu River be­tween Ohakune and Waiouru. A grey con­crete cairn marks the spot where the rail bridge was swept away by a la­har on Christmas Eve 1953. You can also reach the memo­rial by road just off State High­way 49 be­tween Ohakune and Waiouru. ki­wirailscenic.co.nz

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