Man's weighty wrestle frees Lake Taupo wheel

IRIS RIDDELL
Last updated 07:41 07/01/2014
Lake wheel
IRIS RIDDELL/Fairfax NZ

Wheel mystery: Gavin Bromwich and daughters Caitlin and Freya battled for hours to retrieve this old train wheel from the lake bed.

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When Gavin Bromwich visited Lake Taupo last Saturday, he came back with an unusual catch - a wheel from a steam train.

When he saw the wheel, submerged in the lake about 6 metres from the shore off Three Mile Bay, he knew he wanted it. "I honestly don't know why no-one else has got it out prior to this, but I'm willing to bet others have tried," he said.

"All I know is that it's been here as long as my dad's lived in Taupo and that's seven years."

Retrieving the 250 kilogram wheel, which he believes dates back to the 19th century, required huge effort.

Mr Bromwich started by sinking a boulder into the sand next to it and used a steel rod to lever the wheel out of the sand.

"Most of it was submerged and once something's in the ground like that it's got suction.

"The weight of it sank the boulder into the sand, so I found a hunk of driftwood on the beach and used that. By putting all my weight on the rod and using the log as a leverage point, I managed to break the seal."

He had to dive below the surface several times to unearth the wheel, aided by his daughters Caitlin and Freya.

The mission took several hours but it was finally freed and Mr Bromwich was able to examine it more closely.

"By Googling the design of it, I think it dates back to around 1840 or 1850, from a steam train. It's definitely got history somewhere and we want to find out more about it.

"One theory is somebody brought it here to use as a boat mooring, but the water was only 5ft deep so you wouldn't get a boat in there and it's not something I'd imagine someone would want to drag here because it's so huge," Mr Bromwich said.

Timber Museum of New Zealand Trust chairman Tony Jaques said the wheel could have come from the bush tramway line constructed by the Taupo Totara Timber Company in 1903 to haul logs from their mill at Mokai to Putaruru.

"The only way they could transport logs was by rail in the old days and there are remnants of those operations all over the place - there are whole abandoned locomotives at Mamaku because the cost to ship them out and repair them was too high."

The line closed in 1944, although sections of it were reopened and rebuilt for use by the Kinleith pulp and paper mill and handed over in 1950.

"It might have been in the lake for 50 years or it might have been there 10 years. The next step is to clean it up and try and find a maker's mark."

Do you know something about the wheel's history? Contact the Taupo Times on 07 378 9060.

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- Waikato Times

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