Events In History

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Rural settlement on the west bank of the Ōngarue River, 24 kilometres north of Taumarunui. Before Europeans settled in the area, the main Māori settlement was Katiaho, near present-day Ōngarue. Ōngarue was founded after the main trunk railway line reached the area in 1901 and was the end of the line until 1903. Farming and sawmilling supported a small but busy township. Sawmilling firm Ellis and Burnand, one of the largest in New Zealand, took over a mill at Ōngarue in 1912 and became the main employer. Returned servicemen developed new farms after the first and second world wars. In early July 1923 heavy rain fell, swamping the country around Ōngarue. As the Auckland–Wellington express approached near dawn on 6 July, a landslide engulfed the line. The train rounded a corner and ploughed into the slip. There was major damage to the first three carriages, and at least 12 passengers were killed instantly. In the third carriage a gas tank exploded, and the fire that broke out threatened the lives of trapped passengers. Fortunately another slip put out the flames before rescuers arrived. Seventeen people were killed or died of injuries, and another 30 were seriously hurt.

Meaning of place name
Lit: ō: place of; ngarue: to shake, as in an earthquake.

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