Fully replenished after our lunch at Falls Retreat Bistro, we embarked on part two of our Karangahake Gorge expedition.
As we emerged from the tunnel, Spence told us he had been through this tunnel before – on a steam train in the 1950s, when he was a primary school-aged child.
Spence tells the story: “The Taneatua Express ran from Auckland via Hamilton, Paeroa and Tauranga, therefore through the Karangahake tunnel. It left Auckland in the morning. I was travelling alone with lunch provided by Mum. I recall that somewhere after Tauranga (I can remember that the rail line was close to the coast on the left), people on the train gave me chocolate, and at about dusk the guard took me to ride in the Guards Van (I’m guessing that after Te Puke there would be few passengers left on the train, and perhaps there were no lights working in the old wooden carriage). I remember that the train arrived at Taneatua well after dark – I was met of course. So although I have no specific memory of the Karangahake tunnel, I must have gone through it, there and back, because that was the only rail route in those days. Kaimai tunnel didn’t replace this rail route till 1978.”
Those were the days!