Railway owner Julie Pointon with goat Ash, one of a dwindling number of farm animals on the site. Scott Pointon prepared the steam engine for its final run, and is also the engine driver.
Whangaparaoa Narrow Gauge Railway, which has been entertaining families since 1992, will close next month.
Owner Julie Pointon hammered in the first spike on the tracks in 1958 and has been working in the family business ever since it opened. The miniature railway was the fulfillment of a dream for her late husband Ted, who was a professional railway driver. He built the infrastructure for the railway at 400 Whangaparaoa Road on land that he purchased in 1955.
Julie says maintenance of the railway and caring for the farm animals has been a lot of hard work for the family and a big tie over the years. She says this was the main reason for closing the railway.
A further factor was a report from the NZ Transport Agency, which inspects the railway annually as part of its licensing requirements. The report included the need for “further risk assessment on a bridge”. Julie says that the company cannot afford to do the work suggested, which included a walking platform and handrails on the bridge, although the bridge is not accessible by foot. “They also said that the steam locomotive gets too hot and could burn anyone touching it,” Julie says. “We’ve only had one accident, and that was a long time ago when a person put their head out the window of the train, despite signs saying not to do that.”
The railway, which winds through a large stand of mature native bush, continues to be popular with local families – Julie says they had good numbers coming through over the recent school holidays. More than 200 passengers boarded steam engine Little Toot for its final day of operation on Saturday, May 5, with many saying they would be very sad to see it go.
Much of the rail infrastructure and rolling stock is being sold to operations such as the Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel.
Julie says she will continue living on the 2ha property for now, but its future is uncertain, and includes the possibility that it may have to be put up for sale.
The petrol-powered train will continue taking passengers until Whangaparaoa Railway closes on the last weekend of June.