I've commented before that I like Taranaki. It's beautiful: all that green green grass turned into white gold by the alchemy of cow consumption. Today was quite clear at home, but as I got further north it became more and more cloudy, and now I can hear the wind whistling around the motel and I'm assuming that because it isn't raining right now, it will be raining in the morning.... I seem to be spending a lot of time up here at the moment: I think this is my fourth or fifth trip to Hawera this year. Why Hawera, you ask? Well, Hawera is right in the heart of dairy country here, with the largest dairy plant in the country, Fonterra Whareroa, just down the road. So we spend a lot of time here!
I didn't have as memorable a trip up as the one at the beginning of June in terms of what I saw, but I spotted something quite awesome. Just south of Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast, State Highway 1 runs alongside the Main Trunk Line for a while. I saw a huge billowing of smoke just ahead of me and was wondering where the fire was, when instead a steam locomotive thundered past me down the Main Trunk Line! I originally thought it was a Ka-class, but it may have been a Ja-class, and apparently there is still an operational Ja-class loco down the line at Paekakariki. Unfortunately I couldn't stop and watch it as I was heading in the opposite direction on open road, but I got a good look as it went past. I'm not a train spotter particularly (unlike big bro Sphenodon, who used to have a huge railway model that he was always working on), but I am very fond of these big engines, particularly the Ka-class as I climbed all over one as a small child!
The Ka class is also famous for its participation in NZ's worst rail disaster. Ka949 was pulling the overnight express train from Wellington to Auckland that went over the collapsed bridge at Tangiwai and into the Whangaehu River on Christmas Eve, 1953, following a lahar release from Mt Ruapehu that took out the supports to the bridge. 153 people died, mostly from suffocation and drowning in the mud.