Tangiwai book cover

The Tangiwai disaster has been explored in several books, including Geoff Conly and Graham Stewart’s Tragedy on the track. Its cover featured this dramatic painting by the Australian artist Phil Belbin, which originally appeared on a Reader’s Digest cover. The image is probably inaccurate: evidence suggests that the tracks were still in place when the train reached the damaged bridge, which then collapsed under the weight of the locomotive.

The tragedy has also inspired at least three publications aimed at children or young adults, folk songs such as John Archer’s ‘Pillows of the dead’, a handful of novels including Anne Marie Nicholson’s romantic thriller Weeping waters (2006), plays, and several television documentaries and dramas, including The truth about Tangiwai (2002) and Tangiwai: a love story (2011).

Community contributions

4 comments have been posted about Tangiwai book cover

What do you know?

stuart holmes

Posted: 05 Jul 2013

I got the book out of the library this morning. Unfortunately my recollection of the crash does not coincide with what the conductor said. The front carriage detached from the rest and the engine see the photos. There is more I can say but not in a public forum. Actually the 52nd anniversary is in 3 days time that is what piqued my interest and I decided to find out if there was a record of the incident, it is something for my grandchildren.

I was travelling on a RNZAF travel warrant and therefore was in the front (2nd) class carriage I ended up on the floor and recall everything because I was wide awake on getting out the mud was almost knee deep. We were taken to hotel somewhere for a bit of breakfast and then in another train to Wellington.

Neill Atkinson

Posted: 05 Jul 2013

Stuart, you can find some more informmation about this accident in the Tragedy on the Track book shown here, pp. 130-32. This accident happened at Hihitahi, 12 km south of Waiouru, on 8 July 1961. A 40-tonne boulder had been brought down in a slip onto the track, which derailed an express train carrying 300 passengers. The locomotive plunged down a bank, with the leading carriage behind it. The carriage remained upright and although windows were smashed nobody was hurt. The train crew were also unharmed. The second carriage was partly derailed.

stuart holmes

Posted: 04 Jul 2013

I was a passenger on south bound express Auckland to Wellington on 8 July 1961 that hit a landslide following heavy rain. The engine and front two carriages were derailed

I can't find any reference to this actually happening can anybody confirm.