Hundreds turn out to bike, walk rail route

Some of about 400 people who yesterday took part in the ‘‘Over the Tunnels’’ bike ride and walk...
Some of about 400 people who yesterday took part in the ‘‘Over the Tunnels’’ bike ride and walk on the old Windsor branch railway line, which closed in 1930, in North Otago. Photo by David Bruce
North Otago has its own rail trail, but it may only open one day a year.

Yesterday, about 400 people turned out for the Waitaki Girls High School fund-raising ‘‘Over the Tunnels'' recreational bike ride and walk on the former Windsor to Tokarahi branch railway route, far exceeding organisers' wildest dreams.

Before yesterday, 73 had preregistered for the event and organisers were expecting about 150 people in total.

Many waited to see what the weather was going to be like, and the perfect autumn day brought people out in their hundreds.

One of the organisers, Anne-Marie Elliott, expected the event would raise between $3000 and $4000 for the school's Parent Teachers Association and Futures Trust Association.

Yesterday's event was an experiment to see if it would work.

It had been so successful, it was almost certain it would become an annual fund-raising event for the school, she said.

She thanked landowners along the route who willingly opened their properties for the event.

The 20km branch line was opened in July 1887 after eight years of construction and carried freight and passengers. In 1926, the passenger service stopped and the line closed in 1930.

There are two tunnels - Rakis and Tapui - but cyclists and walkers had to walk over the top of those.

To open them for yesterday's event would have needed an engineer's report certifying they were safe.

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