Freight trains back on track
Hundreds of people turned out in Kaiko¯ura on Friday morning to welcome the first freight train since November’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
Paul Foskett drove the train from Picton. He also drove a train to Kaiko¯ura on the night of the earthquake, but was not on the locomotive when the earthquake hit.
‘‘Ten months ago mother nature decided to show us who was boss,’’ he said.
‘‘Driving this loco into Kaiko¯ura today from Picton, I cannot believe how much work has been done.’’
He said he was sure his trip on November 14 last year would be his last on the Main North Line. ‘‘How wrong was I?’’ Kaiko¯ura resident Margaret Woodill said she walked from her house on the peninsula to see the train station open in 1945 when she was 15 years old. ‘‘It’s still exciting, to see it back.’’
Woodill said she was looking forward to the passenger service coming on track.
A sculpture made by Kaiko¯ura artist Ben Foster, using railway iron salvaged from the northern line, was unveiled at Friday morning’s ceremony.
The two pieces of track twisted together, with Kaiko¯ura coast placenames inscribed on the front, was ‘‘optimistically reaching towards the sky’’, Foster said.
‘‘I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this piece with this beautiful twist in it,’’ he said.
‘‘I hope that this work will remind us to some extent of what we went through.’’
Foster said the restoration of the train line was a ‘‘momentous occasion’’. ‘‘We are not stronger than mother nature . . . but what we see here today is a testament to human willpower.’’
Prime Minister Bill English planned to be at the ceremony, but was held up by bad weather in Wellington.
Kaiko¯ura MP Stuart Smith read a statement on English’s behalf.
‘‘On behalf of the Government I want to thank each and every one of you for you hard work in often trying conditions.’’
He said he was impressed with Kaiko¯ura’s ’’resilience and determination’’.
‘‘If I may quote Churchill, ‘This is not the beginning of the end but it is the end of the beginning’.’’
Kaiko¯ura Mayor Winston Gray also quoted Churchill in his speech: ‘‘’When the going gets tough, keep going.’ And that’s what’s happened in Kaiko¯ura since November.’’
He said the town had welcomed the hundreds of workers who came to rebuild the highways and rail- way north and south of Kaiko¯ura.
‘‘Kaiko¯ura was really built on the road and rail workers.’’
Gray said workers had removed a million cubic metres of material, repaired 59 bridges and worked on 20 tunnels.
A new sculpture by Kaiko¯ura artist Ben Foster was unveiled at the Kaikoura Railway Station on Friday morning, as the first freight train to run since the earthquake last year made its way from Picton to Christchurch.