Sound clip: North Island main trunk line

Hear an excerpt from a radio documentary in which Neill Atkinson interviews a man about the North Island main trunk line.

Transcript of this file

Neill Atkinson: The construction of the main trunk had been planned for many years in the late 19th century and began in earnest in the late 1880s. It was a very long, slow process because of the enormous engineering challenges.

[Sound of train]

Unidentified man (historic footage): The main trunk passes through 26 tunnels, over 23 major viaducts and bridges, and some of these viaducts are twice the height of our highest city buildings. It passes over three mountain summits, topping 2600 feet. From Taumaranui to National Park it climbs, in 32 miles, 2086 feet; on the last 7 miles, 714 feet, over the Raurimu spiral, where the train goes round in a complete circle, on three horseshoe curves and through two tunnels.

Neill Atkinson: The '20s and '30s were really the heyday of passenger travel on the main trunk; passenger numbers began to decline after World War Two as cars became more widely available and also the first regular air services started. The last steam-hauled expresses were in the mid-1960s, and from that time the railways were becoming increasingly interested in daytime services which offered a scenic experience, more aimed at tourists. In the '70s they also introduced the Silver Star which was a quite luxurious all-sleeper service, but that only lasted a decade, and that was followed by the overnight Northerner, which closed in 2004.

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