On 20 June Wanganui City was deluged with rain and the Whanganui River burst its banks and flooded parts of the city. One of the areas hit particularly hard was Wanganui East. It is in that area that Wanganui Lions runs one of the longest running Lions projects in New Zealand – the Kowhai Park Tot Town railway.
First started in 1963 and still running today, the miniature railway is manned in the weekends and school holidays by the local Lions members. It raises over $20,000 per annum for the Wanganui Lions Club. The original train is now only used on special occasions and was replaced by a new, $100,000 one in 2007.
Both the trains are kept in the little station building which also houses the shop selling tickets for rides as well as drinks, sweets and ice-creams. The size of the station has recently been increased to accommodate the old train with a set of rails and points so either train can be used with little effort.
On the night of 20 June the river broke its banks and totally flooded the whole of Kowhai Park, with the water reaching the station’s roof level. Wanganui Lions had a warning that this might happen and with the help of a local trucking firm, lifted the trains out of the station area and removed them to a safe place.
They also removed the freezers and fridges which contained goods for sale. Unfortunately the level of the flood was underestimated, as this was the worst in living memory, and much of the stock and other electrical items left in the shop have been destroyed.
One week after the event Wanganui Lions are still unable to gain access to find out the damage. Wanganui Lions do carry insurance so are hopeful that this will cover everything that needs replacing.
Kevin O'Sullivan, Wanganui Lions Publicity Officer