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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990

The official opening of the Keith Wrigley Memorial Bridge across State Highway 2 between Waikino and Waihi took place on Sunday 14 January 1990. The opening of the bridge completed the line between Waihi and Waikino which is now operated by the Goldfields Steam Train Society.

The original bridge was erected as part of the Auckland-Taneatua main trunk line, a vital link in the pioneer days of the early 1900s. The Taneatua Express was a familiar sight running through the Karangahake Gorge and Waihi until 1978, when the opening of the Kaimai rail tunnel meant that the Waihi line became redundant. The line was closed, the trains ceased their regular operation and a band of volunteers in Waihi saw the chance to form a vintage railway.

At first the Society ran a petrol-engined tourist train over the Queens Head bridge from Waihi and out to the Waitekauri bridge. This tourist train operated from about Easter 1981, and it carried the trippers regularly until September 1982 when the bridge was closed and pulled down by order of the National Roads Board.

The original price tag for putting another bridge in place was $30,000, a prohibitive cost for a fledgling society in a small town. But it was a small town with a big factory, that of electronics giant Pye, formerly Akrad, a company started by a talented Waihi man in the back of his house. That man was Keith Wrigley, and as the electronics age burst upon the country and the world, the Waihi factory was at the forefront.

Inspired by what the Steam Train Society was trying to achieve, the heads of the Pye company came up with $5000 to purchase the bridge which had been taken down from the Paeroa side of the Karangahake tunnel. This all-steel, single-span, 60-foot bridge, weighing some 24 tonnes all up, became the focus for fund raising and planning for the next seven years.

For most of this time the Society had been coming up with possible likely dates for the erection of the bridge, and setback after setback, problem after problem, those dates had fallen by the wayside. But in April 1989 the date was officially set as May 4, 1989.

Sleepers and track had to be fitted to the span before it was lifted on to the piers, as the National Roads Board does not allow work to be carried out above the road. May 4 arrived, and the bridge was duly erected, but not without a final touch of drama. The immense span slipped from the transporter and fell at an angle on to the road. But that problem was solved and the bridge was lifted from the road, back on to the transporter and eventually on to the piers.

After the bridge was officially opened byMr Graeme Lee M P, nearly 1000 people rode on the train on the six trips made to Waikino that day.


PAEROA STATION

The Paeroa Gazette of 5 October 1989 reported that the Paeroa Railway Station was to be shifted to Waikino later in the year.

The Department of Conservation had been given the green light to buy the 90 year old station to shift it to Waikino and restore it to serve as a terminus station for the Goldfields Steam Train Society. Department of Conservation will use the station building in connection with the Karangahake Historic Walkway and it is expected that Cyprus Gold will also use the building for promotion purposes. Arts and crafts may also be displayed in the building. Negotiations to move the station had been under way for several months.

There have since then been further delays but the move should soon be complete.