Tram back on track

JAMES IRELAND
Last updated 07:31 30/11/2012
Jim Eyre
JAMES IRELAND
MAKING TRACKS: Waitakere Tramline Society member Jim Eyre drives the 20-seat tram through the Waitakere Ranges.

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For the last year the tramlines through the Waitakere Ranges have been silent.

From December 9 the tracks will reopen and the public will get to experience the spectacular views over the ranges.

A washout left 6 metres of track dangling in midair and it has taken until now to finish the repairs that consisted of 198 tonnes of reinforcing material being built into the side of the hill.

Waitakere Tramline Society member Jim Eyre says the road to reopening the track has been a long and difficult one.

"Fixing the slip was a huge job. By the time we got the plans sorted it was the end of June and the gap had widened to 12 metres due to ongoing erosion," he says.

"We removed the track and its scaffolding before excavating 30 cubic metres of soil and 27 cubic metres of rock to create a horizontal ledge. A reinforced concrete slab was poured on it to create the base for a retaining wall.

"We also had a freak accident when a rimu tree just toppled over and crushed a car in the parking lot. It was pretty lucky no-one got hurt," he says.

The tramline was completed in 1907 as a way to bring materials from the Swanson train station up to the construction site of the dam, finished in 1910.

Today the tram's journey begins by going through a 700-metre long tunnel then continues through 1.8km of bush up to the dam past the 107-metre Waitakere Falls.

"We are totally run by volunteers. We all have a passion for railway heritage. I started my working life as a fitter in the railways so I have always had an interest in it. In 1995 I was up at the dam with my wife Wendy just having a look and we saw the tram going down the track. I looked into it and loved it and I have been involved ever since."

The tram will run four trips every Sunday. Go to waitakeretramline.org.nz.

Scenic tram trip floods the sense

In the leadup to the reopening of the Waitakere Tramline, reporter JAMES IRELAND got to take a ride through the ranges.

I have worked in West Auckland for six months but had never ventured off the road into the Waitakere Ranges.

I was invited to take the trip along the tramline and jumped at the opportunity.

The ride begins with a 700-metre long tunnel so I had to put my aversion to small spaces aside.

I closed my eyes through most of the tunnel. I knew it had been worth it when we came through the other side and hit a wave of light and trees. There was the sound of running water and the overpowering sweet smell of nature.

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The small blue tram kept chugging through light and shade with frequent breaks in the treeline flooding the senses. The forest green turned into a haze in the distance.

As we rounded a bend I saw the 107-metre Waitakere Falls glistening in the sun.

We took some photos and went back - the grand vista falling further and further away.

It was then that I remembered the tunnel, a challenge at either end.

The trip was a serene one, giving me a view of West Auckland that I fear too few have seen, despite it being in their backyard.

- Western Leader

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