Photo: The sight of the Wa165 steam train crossing the Railway Bridge over Turanganui River with all aboard is no more for now. A structural assessment has revealed the bridge is unable to safely support the weight of the steam train and carriages "without significant remedial work". This means it cannot collect cruise passengers from outside Gisborne Tatapouri Fishing Club for the popular excursion to Muriwai and back. A pickup point at Reads Quay has been set up while different options are looked into. (Liam Clayton)
The Turanganui River railway bridge is no longer safe for Gisborne’s vintage steam train to cross, meaning cruise ship passengers must now take a bus to board the locomotive.
Eastland Group, which is responsible for the bridge, confirmed this week that a routine structural assessment earlier in the year had revealed the unusable state of the bridge.
“It (the bridge) is unable to continue to safely support the weight of the steam train and carriages without significant remedial work,” Eastland Group chief operating officer regional infrastructure Andrew Gaddum said.
“We have been working with the Gisborne City Vintage Railway Group to support them through this cruise ship season while we look at different options.”
The bridge’s sole user (minus manu enthusiasts) is the steam train Wa165, which is the property of Gisborne City Vintage Railway Group — a not-for-profit organisation that has existed since 1985.
The rail group was contacted by Local Democracy Reporting for comment, but said it would not be able to speak about the matter until after a meeting tomorrow.
Wa165 runs charter and public excursions, mainly from October to June.
When a cruise ship visits and wants to use the train, it is normally “backed” over the bridge to the Tatapouri Fishing Club for boarding, rail group president Geoff Joyce said.
But following the bridge’s structural concerns, it is now beginning its 34km round trip to Muriwai from near the Senator Motor Inn, with boat passengers dropped off by bus from the port.
Wa165 was built in Dunedin’s Hillside Workshops in 1897, before operating in the Gisborne region for 30 years from 1911.
After it was retired and fell into disrepair, the railway group formed in 1985 to restore it to its former glory.
That goal was achieved in 1999.
One year later, on October 22, 2000, Wa165 left Gisborne railway station for its first public outing, with 100 passengers aboard its two carriages.
The train was last in action on Thursday when the MS Westerdam cruise ship came to town.
Posted: Wednesday 23 November 2022