Rails in the Wilderness
The felling of the native forests and the ingenious way logs were taken out of the wilderness is one of the most extraordinary and least known chapters in New Zealand history.
With the discovery of rare archive film, shot in remote corners of the country, along with the memories of some of the older folk who worked in those times, this controversial story is now told on DVD. Scenes from the old movies vividly bring to life a world that has disappeared forever. In Northland, from the Coromandel to Southland, and on the West Coast, native forests fell to the forces of steam, animal and man power. In the making of a new agricultural and urban world, the bush echoed to the screech of sawmills and shook to the toppling of giants like the Rimu, Totara and Kauri. Steam log haulers dragged the felled trees on skylines and through dense undergrowth.
Centre stage in this drama were the tramway engines, or lokeys — legendary designs from the USA like Heisler and Climax and New Zealand-built Price and Johnston - hauling the logs out over high timber trestle bridges, along slippery steel and wooden rails laid hastily over thousands of miles of wilderness.