The Train Children
Rosalie Smith recalls travelling to school by train.
In 1940 when I was nine my family moved to Athenree, 16 km north of Katikati. We left home at 7.15 am to go to school. We walked for about 1.5 km to where about 11 of us crammed into a farmer's car to go to the Athenree Railway Station, situated just where the main road enters the Athenree Gorge.

The train was meant to come at ten to eight. It was a goods train with two shabby old carriages on the back. The girls went into one half on one carriage, the boys in another half. The Maori and Pakeha children did not sit together.

More often than not the train was late. We would play rounders on the other side of the railway line, or climb over any goods in the goods shed, then run across the line when we heard the train coming. In the winter we would light fires and toast our lunches while we waited. If we could find one of the railway workers who lived in the four houses near the station we would persuade him to telephone Frankton Junction to find out how late the train was. In summer if it was hours late we would run across the main road and down a steep track to a swimming hole.

Once on the train the guards had a hard time making sure we behaved. Sometimes they would come through and ask to see our season tickets which lasted for a term. We kept them in tobacco tins in our school bags and woe betide if we lost them. We were told we wouldn't be able to go to school for the rest of the term. But I can't remember that ever happening.

More children were picked up at Tuapiro Crossing, a stop near the Tanners Point Road junction, and at Tahawai Station, near Kauri Point Road.

When we got off at the Katikati Station, across the river from the town, we had to walk from Station Road up the hill to the school, taking about 15 minutes, I guess. How the teachers put up with us walking into the classrooms at any time from nine till even as late as 12 noon I don't know.

After school we walked back down the hill to catch the train at 20 past three, got off at Athenree and usually had to walk the three miles (5 km) home, getting there at about half past four. It was never so late in the afternoons.

A year or so later a school bus was acquired and kept in a garage a hundred metres from our house. We kids were taken by this bus up to the corner near the station, then the bus went on to take other children to school. In the afternoon, after we got off the train, we waited at the Athenree corner for the bus to take us down the Athenree road. In 1944 a proper school bus service started after lots of pressure from our parents and the school committee and that was the end of an era for the Athenree train kids, an era that began in 1929 when the Athenree school closed down and the children went by train to Katikati School.

My mother wrote a poem in my autograph book at that time. It went something like this:

A pretty spot is Athenree,
And there at night lives Rosalie.
She goes to school by train each day.
Sometimes alas there is delay,
The children at the station play
And get to Kati at midday.
A pretty spot is Athenree
And there at night comes Rosalie

Katikati Station, in winter sun, 1980. The trains had stopped running after the Kaimai tunnel was opened. Rails and sleepers were removed, but the buildings remained for a few more years. This photograph by Selwyn Mair shows the Kaimai Range with a very rare dusting of snow. You had to be quick. It had disappeared by mid morning.