A special once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the private Mana Ariki Marae and Railway was organised especially for 7¼" scale steam, diesel and electric locomotives from 6-10 January 2011.
The Mana Ariki Marae and Railway just 6 km north of Taumarunui in the central North Island of New Zealand. The main line is 3000 metres long and it climbs 16 metres up the mountain at an average of 1.6% gradient to the summit and the downgrade is 3.2%.
Arrival on Thursday evening the 6th January for an official welcome, then a fun running day on Friday 7th, complete with a night run.
On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th the Marae was open to the public. They ran a free bus from town on the hour while the trains are running from 10 am - 4 pm. Various clubs and organisations were invited to attend, including the American Car Club and the RES steam loco society.
On Saturday night, the Mana Ariki "Showtime band" with Sax, Clarinets, Guitars and drums and singers etc put on a 2 hour musical show over the water lily lake near the steaming bays - this event has the stage in the centre of the lake and the guests sit on the seats (hard ones) around the perimeter. These musicians are very good if you like old time Jazz etc type of music.
On Monday, a special treat was in store when we did the reverse direction run from 9 am to 3 pm, double-heading the locos up the 3.2% gradient and down the 1.6% gradient.
ALEXANDER PHILLIPS CBE QSM - MANA ARIKI MARAE AND RAILWAY - TAUMARUNUI
Mr Phillips worked as a ganger for New Zealand Rail before and after World War Two, maintaining the main trunk line between Taumarunui, up the Rarimu Spiral to National Park. As funds became available he purchased the land which is now the site of the Mana Ariki Marae as we know it.
The steep mountain slopes in the surrounding area were covered with pumice and other materials that blew out from the massive explosion which formed Lake Taupo hundreds of years ago.
Mr Phillips worked very hard, planted grass, raised sheep and cattle on the farm until he raised sufficient finance to build the buildings as part of his vision to establish a marae that was based on unity where all colours, race and creed could meet and work together in harmony.
His tireless efforts helping young Maori folk get their lives in order earned him a CBE in 1986 and QSM in 1995. He died in 2008.
Upon his retirement from NZR he had always thought that one day he would like to have his own miniature railway on the Marae site as a fun thing for the many children and adults that were congregating on the Marae site very weekend.
In 1993 he approached Dave Giles from Ikon Locomotive Works to survey and design the 3000 metre long 7.25" gauge miniature railway on the mountainous site with steep hills and deep gullies. Pegs were driven where he wanted the lower and upper stations and the two Diesel Electric locomotives and passenger carrying rolling stock were ordered.
After the track was designed and the survey completed the 20+ workers living on the Marae site started at 7 am and worked to 7 pm daily with tractors, diggers and a Euclid truck to prepare the track bed up the mountain. While this was happening hundreds of rail track sections were being manufactured in the workshop and a roundhouse built to store locomotives.
The track laying was completed 6 months later and we had the grand opening of the railway in January 2004. This magnificent miniature railway has attracted live steam train fans from many countries around the world to ride, drive and marvel at the civil engineering undertaken by the willing team of unskilled helpers guided by track designer Dave Giles.
Train enthusiasts from around New Zealand periodically bring their locomotives to test their driving skills hauling passengers on this great big small gauge railway. The Marae is a hidden treasure 6 km north of Taumarunui on the east side of the river.