The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Meandering in the Mamakus. Part III

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

I'm quite surprised to have been able to find sufficient slides to create three reasonably interesting Mamaku tales. When you consider I spent eight years based in Rotorua a mere three tales are not overly much though. Certainly I've found the reaction to the Mamaku meanderings to be as positive as that of any of my steam era tales. Maybe it's to do with the fact both subjects are now well and truly in the past. Whatever the reason these shots were all taken sometime in the summer of 1974/75 and were my last taken in New Zealand for quite some time.

Here are links to the other two parts:

Selwyn Timber Company

I'd seen a map somewhere showing a tunnel on a line belonging to the Selwyn Timber Company so felt it was worth having a look. Of course the line had long gone (closed by 1947 according to my 2009 edition of the Quail Atlas) and the track bed had been converted into a forestry road but the tunnel was still there.

Ngatira Sawmilling Company

After the tunnel I headed for Ngatira and followed Ngatira Rd into an ungated paddock. The road seemed to be continuing and although deteriorating was still quite drivable but when it started to descend towards what appeared to be a ghost town I thought better of it so parked up and walked.

I found nothing of railway interest apart from where the track bed had been near the mill site.

The village itself was much more interesting with some houses appearing as if they could still be lived in.

I had a good look around and was considering the walk back uphill when a ute came down into the valley.......the driver asked me what I was doing, I explained and was offered a ride back up the hill. Although I never thought of it at the time it was probably his land and he'd come to find out what I was up too. The word trespass was never mentioned though and all was amiable.

When I scanned my Ngatira slides I knew nothing about the railway and it was only when they were posted on a Yahoo Group some months ago that its history started to emerge. A little bit of information from one person, some photos from another and then finally a story of a visit to the line that was published sometime in the mid sixties. Thought to have been the last bush tramway to have been built in New Zealand, around 1940, in 1969 it was one of the last to close. Its maximum length was five miles and it was only ever diesel worked. Logs were railed from the bush to the mill and then trucked out over the road I'd walked down to the NZR at Ngatira.

When writing this I checked out Google Earth to see if anything remains today. The village has all gone but the mill building may still be there, or if not still standing (which I doubt) there is certainly a big pile of something showing where it used to be.

New Zealand Railways

Sometime between my 1973 photos and these from 1974/75 the powers that be must have decided to start 'decorating' the locos with yellow and black stripes. Was this the beginnings of today's health and safety regime or can we trace it back to an earlier time when, in 1967 or 1968, all trains started running with their headlights on in daylight? This 'new look' does give a variation to my last photos in the area.

Da1541 still has to face the Mamakus but for now it's easy going at the start of the run out of Rotorua. Road overbridges make for convenient photo positions!

A short while later, having shunted at Ngongotaha, 1541 now looks to be hauling a full load. The climb has started in earnest and the Da is hard at work as can be seen from the slight exhaust haze above 1541. Lake Rotorua is in the background.

Heading downhill this shot of Da1485 was taken just before Ngongotaha.

I'm pretty sure this was an RES excursion train. It was supposed to have been Df hauled but there must have been a problem with the loco and a Da was substituted. Certainly any sort of passenger train was a rarity on the Rotorua line so it was worth the effort to head out and grab a shot on the climb between Arahiwi and Mamaku.


Rob Dickinson