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OHAKUNE THE HALFWAY HOUSE

NORTH ISLAND MAIN TRUNK LINE,

By Will Lawsoh. Ohakune is tlio little station situated at tho foot of Mount Ruapehu, and it is the halfway, point where the express between Auckland and Wellington will pause to change engines, and where the daylight seivice will stop owniglit. The railway yank are a mile away from the village, a coach service plying to and fro. Fifteen yeai-6 ago Ohakune scarcely existed. There were no roads to it, or to Ractihi, an older settlement seven miles west, and all stores were packed from Wanganui, 72 miles away. Later, river steamers plied to I'ipiriki, reducing the distance to 17 miles, but such miles! In the winter they were seas of mud, and as many as 22 dead packhorses have been counted on the route at one time. Horses were cheap; tjicy were run in froin tho molm of wild ones running on the mountains, and the average price was about 6s each. So they were simply roped in and the packs strapped on, and the horses run to death on the pack-tracks. These are the things which the coming of the railway has removed. Ohakune, from a remote settlement, will grow to bo an important inland town, eclipsing its rival, Raetihi, which, however, being the cerilre of a large pastoral district and the meeting-place of several coach routes, will always be a busy place. Early settlers to Ohakune were attracted by tho timber prospects as much as anything, and now these pioneers will reap the reward of their patient waiting, for the forests are considered superior to anything within the Dominion at the present clay, so much timber having been cut and destroyed of lato years. From the tourist's point of view there is much of interest. There is excellent fishing and shooting, while the climbing of tho mountain always affords abundant scope for energy and interesting exploration. "There is still a distance of about 12 miles between the rail-heads ■ which mark the northern and southern • termini of completed line on this threat highway of railway travel, and to traverse "this the traveller must take one of half-a-dozen five-horse coaches which are waiting at Ohakune in readiness for the arduous trip over the Waimarino Plateau, which in ages gone has been split into deep ravines, necessitating tortuous downhill sweeps and tedious uphill climbing. With 11 passengers aboard and a stack of luggage on the roof the whip cracks and'the leaders are swing dexterously out from the railway ,si<ling into the red-earth road which leads to Waimarino. In winter these roads become quagmires, for they have no metal on thsm at all, the reason being that there is no metal to bo had in the district. Thus the name of Ohakune has become associated hviti stories of bogged coaches and lost teams, for the winters here are cruel and wet. The rood crosses the railway formation to the right, and begins the ascent of tho nigh bluff which stands up before us as though to challenge approach, This bluff is covered with bush, through which, high lip, can be seen a faint grey mark. This is the road. To reach that point the the left in pursuit of an easy grade, which, twists away to tie right, among tall, forest trees, through' cool, natural drives and climbing ever upward. Tho railway follows quite a different route, trending to tho left in pursuit of an easy grade, which apparently, it succeeds in finding, for the coach road meets it ac the top. And at the point'of their junction, some hundreds of feet abovo Ohakune, a splendid panoramic viow may be had of Ohakune township, Raetihi, and the yellow Kardoi Plains rolling far away beyond the forest. At the lop of the grade is the tall, curved Taonui viaduct, built of steel plate and Mice girders and supported oh steel and concrete piers and concrete abutments. The viaduct is 110 ft high, and crosses a ravine down which the coach must dip and climb in order to reach the opposite side. In this journey the horses have respite, for half their load elcots to walk, across the fully-decked bridge. Taonui is 590 ft long, and has one #ft, four 64ft, and three 36ft spans. It traverses the gully in a half moon sweep, and is one of the few curved viaducts in the Dominion. Arrived at its northern end, the passengers await the coach, now toiing up the grade, and one is here made aware of tbe enormous saving in time and power which the construction of these viaducts vril' effect. The Hue may be said to cross the Waimarino in a straight line, being carried in ils course oyer six bridges or viaducts. These have constituted the chief obstacle to the rapid building of the railway. But when one has seen tbe deep ravines and the tall, strong bridges, the value of the straight though costly route is apparent. On tho Waimarino Plateau there are forests of tall trees. The road in many places, is very straight, and the effect of the blue distances—away, far away through the trees—is beautiful beyond words. The' exhilaration of the swift motion of the five good horses and the rolling gait of the leather-hung coach add to the pleasure of the journey. At another shallow dip in the plain the coach passes beneath a half-completed bridge, officially known as the "bridgeat 90miles24 chains." This is of steel-plate girders resting on concretcjj>iers and abutments, and is a lowlevel bridge with six spans of 44ft each. There its another bridge of this class at Makotuku, but of oulv half the length. Every now and then" the railway runs alongside the road, while scattered townships stand out like mushroom growths on the background of green. At Mangaturutuni and at Manganui-O-Te-Ao there are girder bridges on concrete piers, But these are as nought to the minds of travellers who are'looking forward to a sight of the. great viaduct of Makatote. There is magic in that name, to some, perchance, because the coachdriver has promised us lunch at the accommodation house nearby, but to most because they have pride in the fact that here in New eZaland we possess the tallest viaduct south of the line, and ranking third or fourth among the great viaducts of the world. Presently tho township of Horopito is reached. Here it. is noticed that the land speculator 'has named some as yet unformed streets and some already formed ones. So we drive with great eclat along Station, road, albeit no railway station shows itself, and only a handful of men at work with a horse and truck tell where the railway will be. , Horopito is left behind, and tlie long, straight road which leads_ to Makatote lies-before us, Before reaching it, however, the coach runs down a declivity and splashes through the Sulphur Spring—a stream (lowing from the mountains and largely'impregnated with sulphuric acid. The bottom of the creek makes' rough crossing, so the male passengers dismount and cross by means of a small suspension bridge, while the willing horses scramble and haul the lurchinc coach through. And at last we come to Makatote. The coach, passing the southern endof tlie viaduct, makes a Ion" detour, dipping downward through dense bush, and then toiling tediously upward. The central.piers of phis colossal bridge are 290 ft in height—steel piers resting on concrete one 6. The abutments are also of concrete. There are 10 spans of 36ft, and five of 100 ft, making a total length of, 860 ft. Looking upward at the men at work on the central piers, one experiences a feeling of dizziness. What it must be to look down is better imagined than experienced, except by tho strongest of nerves. A splendid view of Mount Buapahu is to be had from this viaduct, and pnssengere by trains which pass .here by day will enjoy a brief glimpse of the snow mountain as their train thunders over this Eiffel Tower among viaducts. If the north-bound mail train leaves Wellington at mid-day, as forecasted by the Prime Minister, it should pass Makotote in tlie summer at about sunset, when the view of the bush and the snow is glorified by the golden beams of the setting sun. Tlie night creeps over the busblanda first, then,climbs up, up, till the peaks, glowing with fiery splendour, arc wrapped in Night's purple mantle, which only Dawn can rend asunder. Makatote is now the terminus of the Auckland end of the line. The Public Works train is in waiting to convey travellers to Taumarumii, on the headwaters of the Wanganui. Shortly after leaving Makatote the road sweeps out on the Wainiarmo Plain, and niter some four

miles of travel, the station of Waimarino is reached. Within a mile or so to the northward of Waimarino the train begins N the descent of the Ramimu Spiral, which weaves loops abut itself in the batik of making a gradual ascent and descent of the hill. After passing through two tunnels, which pierce a saddle over which the train has just passed, the line swings out above Ikuriniu, 80ft klow. To reach the station, however, a mile of railway must be traversed. This will gliow the tortuous nature of the spiral. From Kaurimu to Taumarunui the way JICS through bush and river scenery of great beauty. Approaching Taiimarunni, •the head-waters of tho Wanganui River loap and flash below the carriage windowo, and looking back over the ascemH;.-<; line the white peaks of the mountains make Btartlmg contrast with the blue and grey shadows of evening which creep over the nvcr valleys. And so wo come at last X o 11 n! 031 P rollil,it <>on town" in New Zealand, laumanmui, where one may not oven carry liquor on his person. At this place tho Wanganui River service has its up-river tennmus. Travellers may either take steamer to Wanganui, via Pipiriki, or continue in the train to Auckland

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Bibliographic details

OHAKUNE THE HALFWAY HOUSE, Otago Daily Times, Issue 14209, 9 May 1908

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OHAKUNE THE HALFWAY HOUSE Otago Daily Times, Issue 14209, 9 May 1908

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