All aboard for Kāpiti Island. An abandoned tunnel is to be re-opened for trains between Raumati and Kāpiti Island.
The ever popular Kāpiti Miniature Railway, who operate the little trains in Marine Gardens at Raumati Beach on the Kāpiti Coast have today announced ambitious plans for a new and exciting way to travel to Kāpiti Island. They will soon be extending their trains through a long abandoned tunnel under the Rauoterangi Channel all the way to Kāpiti Island.
The tunnel dates from the 1940’s when the engineers from the US Marines based in Paekākāriki dug a secret tunnel from Raumati Beach to Kāpiti Island. In the event of an invasion, the narrow tunnel was to be used to evacuate the New Zealand Government who would then continue to run the country from the island. When the war ended the tunnel was closed and in the 1960’s the entrance was sealed and the Raumati Beach swimming pool built over it.
The work to seal the tunnel was not successful and by 2013 the old pool was leaking so much it was closed and until today the real reason for the leak remained a state secret. Since then the old building, empty pool and tunnel have been slowly deteriorating.
The deep end of the empty swimming pool will be transformed into an underground railway station serving Kāpiti Island, leaving the remainder of the building for bio-security, showers, changing rooms, a cafe, education centre for the marine reserve and space available to tell the story of the coast and Kāpiti Island.
Railway president Mike Hartle says “We hope to run trains to the island six times a day taking twenty five visitors at a time; and as we run underground we won’t be affected by poor weather.”
Local resident Karl Webber has a house on Motungarara (Fishermans) Island and said. “As the tunnel passes under a couple of the smaller islands off Kāpiti it will also provide a safe and reliable way for us to get to the mainland for shopping. Awesome”
Safety will be of utmost importance, with a rope tied to the end of each electric train which can be used to pull it back in case the battery doesn’t last the whole trip. “We are hoping to include a short section of the track that runs through a perspex tube laid on the seafloor, ” says Hartle “so it will provide a perfect underwater view of the marine reserve”.
There is still some work to be completed, but no ratepayer funds are being sought, and providing the Council agree to leasing the deep end of the abandoned pool to the railway it is hoped to be running by 1st April 2024.
To celebrate this excting annoucement the Kāpiti Miniature Railway will be issuing souvenir tickets on Sunday 2nd April (1-4pm) and again on Easter Saturday (8th April) at the Trains by Twilight from 5pm.