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This week marks 84 years since the last spike was driven into the Stratford-Okahukura Line, the now decommissioned railway line running 144km through the back country of the Taranaki/Ruapehu region.

Once a busy transport route, the line was officially closed for service in 2009 but has been given new life, with New Zealand’s most unique and exciting tourism venture, Forgotten World Adventures.

By Tristan Hooker / Media PA

Forgotten World Rail line in Morning sun

In 2012, Forgotten World Adventures (FWA) reached an agreement with KiwiRail to secure a 30-year lease of the Stratford-Okahukura Line.  FWA now has a number of tour options available, using specially modified motorised Rail Carts on guided tours of varying lengths, through the historic tunnels and bridges along the line.

“When you think about how much work went into surveying this land, digging the tunnels and building the railway line and bridges, I’m glad that we have been able to continue its use,” says Paul Chaplow, General Manager of Forgotten World Adventures.

“The hand-built tracks have lasted 115 years (since construction began) and we’re proud to be able to bring the railway back to life and educate people about this fascinating part of New Zealand’s history.”

The Stratford-Okahukura Line was authorised in 1900 and the first sod was turned on 28 March 1901.  For nearly 32 years, men laboured, digging tunnels with shovels and wheelbarrows through this harsh and isolated region. 

On 7 November 1932, the last spike was driven at Heao by the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Gordon Coates.

After being well-patronised for many years, scheduled passenger trains halted in January 1983.  The line was finally closed to all passenger trains after one final trip to Whangamomona's "Republic Day" celebrations in January 2007.

Forgotten World Adventures now offer a number of tour options along the line, from short day-trips to multi day trips, to suit all ages, with the opportunity this season to combine jet boat and helicopter packages.