Last train to Muri: train station closes after 60 years

Having a train-mad two year old means that I get to ride trains a lot. This is fine by me, because trains are a great vantage point from which to gain insights into our environmental history. They bring us closer to how our forefathers saw the world before cars were the main means of transport.Today, we traveled to Plimmerton [click here to view map] and back, but on our return journey, my son called out “Get off, get off!” so vociferously, that in the end, for the sake of our fellow passengers, I had to relent, and we alighted at Muri Station [click here to view map]. This was rather fortuitous – in a historical sense (rather than a practical sense) – because it was the last day that Muri Station was to be in operation, closing with the last scheduled train tonight. So, we spent the 25 minutes until the next train exploring the station and its surrounds, knowing that this would be the last opportunity for us to do so.

The line through Muri was originally part of the Wellington – Manawatu Line, built by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, and completed in 1886. During the last stage of finishing the tunnels [see photo right] on the coastal escarpment towards Paekakariki, the last stop coming from Wellington was called Pukerua, near where Muri Station is today. There were no roads into the Pukerua Bay area at that time, and passengers had to leave the train at Pukerua Station, climb down to the beach and continue by rail on temporary tracks to Paekakariki.

Muri Station was opened on 28 July 1952. Muri was located only 905 metres (45 chains) north of the existing Pukerua Bay Station, but was closer to the centre of the population of Pukerua Bay at the time.

Today, the station is being closed for safety reasons (there is only a level crossing with no arms or signals, over which passengers must walk to get trains), and because it will be too costly to upgrade the station to accommodate the new Matangi trains which will be running on the line from this year, especially given the relatively low level of patronage of the station. Nevertheless, this little station will be a sad loss to the community.

Photo top left: A freight train passes through the station, travelling towards Wellington. Above right: View looking north through No 13 tunnel on the Wellington and Manawatu Railway, between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. (Even today, the drop from where the train runs along the coastal escarpment is precipitous; the mind boggles at how difficult and dangerous this engineering work must have been over 120 years ago.) Photograph taken between 1885 and 1888 by Wrigglesworth & Binns of Wellington. Not to be reproduced without permission from Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. ID PA1-f-239-10. Bottom left: Our last train from Muri Station. The train in fact almost did not stop because the train driver and conductor thought that the station had already closed!

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