Those who have travelled up the eastern side of Pohangina Valley, to visit Totara Reserve, for example, will have crossed the Raumai Bridge. Those with more life experience may also the old Raumai Bridge, a bridge with a troubled past.
The original Raumai bridge was built after many years of lobbying by eastern Pohangina Valley residents, who took their life into their hands every time they forded the river, especially in times of flood. Finally, in 1906, the bridge was completed, and was opened by none other than the premier of New Zealand, Sir Joseph Ward, who travelled up from Wellington by mail train for the occasion.
For those with an interesting in bridge engineering, here is some more detailed information about the bridge’s construction, taken from the Evening Post, 6 December 1906.
The bridge is built of wood, with heavy ironwork lacings. The total length is 382 ft, consisting 1 of three spans of 120 ft each, and one of 17ft. In width it ie 16ft 6in outside the trusses, 14ft between them, and there is a clear way of 12ft in between the wheel guards. Ironbark piles have been used throughout, no less than 794 lineal feet being used for this purpose. Of ironbark timber there are 5084 superficial feet in the bridge, and 80,000 superficial feet of jarrah, as well as 13 tons of ironwork.
Many had misgivings about the eastern approach to the bridge from No. 4 Line, which cut into the side of a steep bluff, and only a year after its completion, their doubts proved well-founded. After a period of heavy rain, a large slip of earth and rock fell from the cliff face onto the bridge, destroying its eastern span. A new bridge was erected in the following years, but this too was afflicted by repeated slips.
The bridge was replaced by a concrete structure, along with a realigned approach road in 1973.
A geocache now marks the eastern approach road to the old bridge. On the western side, the approach road to the old bridge is visible beyond the toilet block at Raumai Reserve. No other physical evidence of the old bridge remains.
Why not give geocaching a go? You just need to create a (free) account on www.geocaching.com, click on “Filter” and type in “Wildbore 2” to view the details on this cache.
See Wildbore: A photographic legacy (Totara Press, 2018) for more of the history of the Valley and a photograph of the slip-damaged bridge taken by Charles E. Wildbore in 1907.