Local Heart, Global Soul

October 24, 2018

A Most Interesting Piece Of Infrastructure…

Filed under: HISTORY,LIFE,NEW ZEALAND,PHOTOGRAPHY,West Coast /Westland Province — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another thing that the New Zealand province of the West Coast is famous for is the myriad of stream and rivers on this side of the Main Divide (one of the names for the Southern Alps).

I mentioned a few posts ago that my Grandfather told us that the Coaster’s rule for giving way (especially after a visit to the Pub) was “My turn your turn, my turn…”

…and that needless to say there were probably more than a few near misses.

That is nothing however when compared to the close shaves that must have regularly occurred on some of these bridges: Why?

Because the headlights speeding towards you on the other side of the One Way bridge did not belong to a car, but to a train.

Yes, you figured that out correctly, the West Coast has one-way bridges where not only cars in both directions take turns to share a single lane, they also both share with trains going in both directions!

Phew, I bet that somewhere during the years that made for some scary games of Chicken and some truly hair raising moments! I assume the reason why these exist is just due to economics: you have just a handful of small towns along the entire length of the West Coast, in addition there are a few tiny settlements dotted along the coast but even in total the population is so small that investing in separate road and rail bridges is a massive expense. We come to one such bridge, fortunately sans train, and after waiting our turn cross one of the West Coasts most interesting pieces of infrastructure.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)


  1. I had a hair-raising moment on that rail bridge rushing between Hokitika and Greymouth where my daughter was having her first baby. – went onto the bridge a bit fast in my old Bedford, and the wheels got trapped in the rail line on one side. Said a few prayers as we skidded over sideways – but made it…

    Comment by Maureen Sudlow — October 24, 2018 @ 2:47 am | Reply

    • Maureen,
      That would NOT have been a good moment to see oncoming train lights! it’s definitely a bridge that you remember once you’ve been over it. From the road works along side it, there may just be a second bridge being built somewhere on the horizon, so who knows, the days when you had to hold your breath when you got onto the bridge might be numbered.

      In a way it’s sensible but it also makes sense to keep bridges this way, if everyone is careful and uses common sense it works really well. This would not only save billions world wide on extra bridges, but also thus be good for nature and the planet.

      There might possibly have been an even more hair raising outcome if the wheel had stayed stuck and a train was coming… Who knows, your daughter may have had her baby delivered by her mother and a train driver!!!

      Comment by kiwidutch — October 24, 2018 @ 9:47 am | Reply

      • trains were supposed to give way to cars, but I wouldn’t push it… 🙂

        Comment by Maureen Sudlow — October 24, 2018 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

        • Maureen,
          My Grandfather grew up on the Coast and he warned me as soon as I got my driver’s licence and went there to visit that usually the train drivers did more or less what they wanted, …unless they thought the local cop was hanging around checking up on them – which generally happened after spates of complaints from locals.

          His brother worked on the trains, I forget what as, but not a driver, so the rest of the time a few of the train drivers had a reputation where they figured that since no sane car driver was always going to back off, they could just go onto the bridge, right of way or not. They were of course the exception.

          He also told us though that as a kid he had a cousin who lived by the line needed to walk or bike a long way to school because they lived out of town. As you know, that could be rather miserable in West Coast rain, a local train driver took pity on him, stopped, and let him hitch-hike on the train more or less the whole way to school. The families knew each other. It became a regular thing and the driver would stop the train near his gate if the kid was running a little late so that he could get on. That’s the amazingly unconventional Coaster’s for you.

          I lived on a farm as a kid and when we needed to catch the coach to Christchurch we would tell the company and they would stop the coach at our gate to let us on (or off, on the return journey)… much to the amazement of the tourists and other passengers. That was standard practice. I heard via via that apparently someone somewhere else had their insulin delivered via the coach, right to their farm gate too. More direct than the post.

          The West Coast has more than it’s fair share of “Characters” and the stories I heard from my Granddad… I need to write them all down, many of them are really funny.

          Comment by kiwidutch — October 25, 2018 @ 4:27 am | Reply

          • We lived there for 13 special years. It is certainly a unique place

            Comment by Maureen Sudlow — October 26, 2018 @ 1:42 am | Reply

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