Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
The gold mining industry was the spur that hastened rail transportation. The Paeroa-Waihi branch presented great difficulties the main obstruction being a sharp spur necessitating a tunnel near the Karangahake Gorge. The work was commenced in 1900, but heavy ground and copious water slowed up the progress. An air shaft was sunk about 600ft. from the mouth, the tunnel was pierced, and the excavation and lining completed by the end of 1904. The length is 1188 yards, and the grade 1 in 50. (Do you remember how fast one slid down, yet so slowly crawled up, choked by smoke — and sometimes the lights would not be on?).
Meanwhile extensive bridge work had been pushed forward the contract price for the combined road and railway bridge being £8771. The line was opened for traffic on November 9, 1905. The station facilities included two sidings to hold 32 and 33 wagons, a good shed 30ft. x 20ft., a loading bank, tablet instruments and fixed signals. A side station at Mackaytown necessitated a swing bridge — and it did swing — across the river beyond the Recreation Ground. What a blessing these stations were to scholars attending High School! (No school bus in those days.)
The railway is now no longer a branch line, but is the East Coast Main Trunk Line penetrating beyond Tauranga into the Bay of Plenty, the continuation from Waihi to Taneatua being opened in 1928. Engines have graduated from small W.W. to A.B., then to J and now some of them are diesel. Nevertheless two are sometimes needed for the up-tunnel haul — or pull and push. At present there is an expeditious rail car service between Auckland and Te Puke.
But our Karangahake Station is used by passengers no more, although goods are sometimes unloaded there. The last attendant was Mr T. Cotter (1924-32) who bought the Bunting Homestead and the land that his son John has continued to farm. The previous Tablet Porter had been Mr Tim Curran and Mr Delany will be remembered as an early Stationmaster.
The Mackaytown side station building was transferred to Paeroa many years ago, and the swing bridge disappeared too, the big railway and traffic bridge being the only one left. On July 20 this year a new railway deviation at Paeroa was brought into operation and a new Paeroa South railway station was opened. The old station will still handle goods and parcels, but the new one will make for better rail-car connection between the Bay of Plenty and Auckland.