Ohakune to Hapuawhenua Viaduct.By Helen Tristram 3rd February 2012
This historic route is a relatively easy, interesting and attractive walk (or cycle).
The original cobblestone road from Ohakune to Horopito was formerly used to ferry passengers between railheads, and for transporting material for railway construction. You can clearly see sections of cobblestones if you start the walk at Marshall`s Road, Ohakune.
The start of the track is wide and grassy, with a gradual rise and expansive views over countryside and farmland on one side and native bush on the other.
As you get higher you start walking through native forest of Rimu, Manuka, Ponga, ferns and Toi Toi, and if you need a rest you will find an inviting picnic table after about ¾ hour!)
The track opens out more as you get closer to the top and arrive at the Hapuawhenua tunnel.
The tunnel was built in 1907 and the first train went through it in 1908. It was in use for 80 years until electrification of the railways and the building of a new viaduct to replace the tunnel. From the track you can enter and walk the length of the unlit tunnel, but it is closed at the far end with a grille.
Two impressive viaducts
After walking for another 20 minutes or so you will arrive at two impressive viaducts, – the old and the new.
The old Hapuawhenua viaduct, which is part of the walkway, also built in 1907, is curved, 284mtrs long, built of steel lattice with 13 concrete piers and four steel towers and looks extremely elegant.
The more recent concrete viaduct completed in 1987 is also impressive and runs almost parallel to the old one.
After crossing the viaduct you can rest at a picnic table and appreciate the amazing scenery, and admire the incredible workmanship that went into the making of the viaduct.
It feels very satisfying to walk such an historic route, to read the informative noticeboards and to imagine the incredible planning and hard work, in such primitive conditions, that went into the building of one of New Zealand`s most spectacular sections of railway transport (The complete walk from Ohakune to Horopito is approximately 14 ks)