An innovative move on behalf of rail lovers in New Zealand on disused rail tracks has been to introduce rail pedal trikes – keeps the perway for future rail re-usage and invents a whole new tourist bonanza.
For more than 100 years ago and until the 1980s the line carried coal, freight and passengers between Taumaranui and Stratford. Instead of steam or diesel power, now it's pedal power and the Stratford to Okahukura line on newly created "rail bikes".
The bikes and tour are run by Forgotten World Adventures, a company that was started four years ago and run tours along the line on modified golf carts. They developed the rail bikes as a new way to experience the track.
The articles cites - "The tour begins in Whangamomona, a proud backwater town that declared itself a republic in 1989 in a stoush over changes to regional council boundaries."
Sitting on the rails beside the platform are the bikes we will spend the next four hours on. The original bike was designed and built in Taumaranui by a local engineer, then five more were built in Hamilton.
Surveyors came to the area in the late-1800s, looking to create a path through to Taumarunui. The Government decided to build the railway after large deposits of coal were found. It took decades to construct and roped in thousands of men. Opened in 1932, it was closed in 2009 after a derailment which caused damage that was not economical to fix.
It follows State Highway 43, also known as the Forgotten World Highway, as it winds its way through the valley.
Australia lags behind
The word flashing about throughout Australia on such disused rail lines that may one day needed again has been to pull up the rails and convert the perway into bicycle paths.
One Victorian example has been from Rutherglen to Wagunyah on the Victorian / NSW border town of Cowora. A New South Wales example is the Murwillumbah to Bryon Bay line.
With light rail coming all the way down to the Gold Coast Airport for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in which the airport runway is divided by the Queensland and New South Wales border, there is every likelihood of a rail connection to Murwillumbah.
Already some talk has been heralded on a light rail circuit line from the Gold Coast airport to Kingscliff to Bryon Bay on the coast and then back inland to Murwillumbah and back to the airport.
A New Zealand type rail pedal model whilst keeping the line and the perway between Murwillumbah and Bryon Bay would save millions and millions of dollars in unnecessary expenditure. Yet, with an election around the corner, sadly, common sense is not a strong point over such decisions.
Churches and Missions
Instead of the Christian youth group 'car rally' or the 'climbing wall' or the 'Put Put Golf', or the "Ten Pin Bowling' – it would be a trip on the pedal trikes. Similarly church groups, a day out on the 'pedal trikes'.
Wonderful scenery, a little exercise, something fresh and invigorating.
Imagination is the name of the enterprise when finding new and adventurous machinations for Christian outings to bring fellowship and good fun into the social life of missions, youth work and churches.
When such creative operations are opened for the public, it should be missions, and youth groups, and churches getting into it (as it were) and enjoy these exercises to help build bonds that bind.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html