Waimarino Museum, Seddon Street, Raetihi 

Welcome to our growing web-site.  Bear with us as we document the regions past and present.

The Waimarino museum is housed in the old Raetihi railway station. This building was decomissioned when the rail line to Raetihi was taken out of service in 1968. Other buildings on the grounds are the old jail cells and police stables. Although they are full of memorabilia from times long gone, each building still retains it's original flavour. The jail cells with their heavy doors, large bolts and prisoner-viewing windows are especially interesting to young children raised in more tolerant times! 

The railway station building is the main area of display for photographs, news clippings, household and work items and many other treasures from the Ruapehu district's colourful past. 

We welcome any correspondence with regard to the progress of this site.

Write to us at waimarinomuseum@gmail.com




The Waimarino mountains & forests were unknown to all but the boldest white explorer before the 1880’s.

The region was deemed unimportant due to it’s central location. Most immigrants of the time chose to live in coastal areas which offered good growing soil, clearable land for livestock and the chance of keeping in touch by means of the many vessels visiting this ‘newly discovered’ country.

Even the tribes in the area chose to settle on the very outskirts of the region.

The main Maori settlements were along the Whanganui river towards Wanganui. The Central Plateau was a place for hunting. Winters proved too inhospitable for all but the hardiest.

In 1887, the New Zealand Land Company purchased a large block of land in the area.

Throughout the land, tribes had watched as land was passed to the pakeha with increasing concern. Maori may have embraced trading and commerce with the white settlers, but they also recognised that the prices they were paid for their land was small when compared to the amount that settlers were paying for sub-divided blocks of the same land.

This worry, along with other concerns led to an attempt to create a union of many tribes in the central North Island. The hope was that a united representative could bring greater respect for Maori issues. In 1853, the ‘King’ movement was born. Many meetings were held between tribes over the next few years. The notion of a united front against pakeha intrusion was a good one, but many grudges had to be overcome first.

In 1856 an area was designated as ‘Rohe Potae’, an area over which the still to be elected Maori King would reign. Covering the Tongariro mountain (now called Ngauruhoe), as far west as Raglan, through the Waikato and part of Lake Taupo. Below Taupo, it included the Kaimanawa ranges, Ruapehu and ended near the Tarankai coast. Pakeha entered this ‘King’ country at their peril.

In 1857, the first Maori King was elected. Chief Potataua Te Wherowhero was the most powerful of the Waikato chiefs. The King country had a reluctant ruler.

 This history is being edited presently, more to follow as our facts are sorted out...


The town of Raetihi was the focal point in the district for many decades as timber felling and milling caused the town to "boom". Between the late 1800's and 1930 the population swelled as numerous mills raised mighty forests of native trees to the ground. 


While much of the cleared land was turned to cattle and vegetable farming, the end of the timber boom following World War II left the town to decline into a sleepy backwater for many years. 

Eleven kilometres Northward, the town of Ohakune began it's own "gold-rush" of sorts. For many years, the only easy road up to the ski-fields on Ruapehu were on it's Northern side. Locals and international travellers knew that the Chateau and beyond was the way to the snow. However, moves were now afoot to create a Southern access road to the many excellent skiing opportunities known only to a bold few willing to make the difficult climb. In previous decades, Ohakune was a timber town like Raetihi. The main rail line passed through it giving the town a great number of visitors (man and beast) during the prosperous years of tree felling. Once that was over, the town fell into the same decline as it's neighbour Raetihi.  The call for a good road up the mountain gained momentum in the 1950's but it was not until 1978 that the Turoa field began officially operating. Ohakune stood at the entrance to the Turoa ski-fields. This caused a rebirth for the town. It's reputation as a successful winter town continues to this day.


Childhood memories...

Some of my earliest memories of the Raetihi School were tied up with the Waimarino Hospital. Feeling ran high as to where the hospital should be built — at Raetihi or Ohakune — and when the local site was chosen, the school was determined to play its part in raising the necessary finance.

This resulted in organising school `Penny Concerts' to support the Princess of your Choice in a district-wide Queen Carnival. I volunteered to recite, but when I found that entries were more than they could cope with, they suggested I sing instead, and not wishing to be done out of my first attempt at appearing in front of an audience, I agreed — with disastrous affects from which I have never recovered!

Large wagons were used to drag loads of timber over the clay road between the school and the hospital and we could not get out of school quick enough to watch the "circus" for often one team of horses would be stuck in the mud and require a second team to be brought from town to pull the first lot out. Later the road was metalled.

Heavy snow or the flooded creek running through the horse paddock would result in the school being kept in until 1 p.m. and then being dismissed for the day. There was an unwritten law that pupils could snow-ball the teachers from the gate to the school and we would all line up to get even with teachers in this short-lived but exciting pastime. After a heavy storm the class-room would take on the appearance of a second hand clothes shop when masses of soaking garments belonging to children who had ridden long distances on horseback would be strung up round a roaring maire fire to dry out in readiness for the return journey.

 Another old but illegal custom was for two boys, who had a difference of opinion would follow to form a ring to see fair play until one contestant was acclaimed the winner.

Long before the days of Dental Clinics, the whole school would line up after lunch for "tooth-brush drill" when the school provided some liquid cleanser for this operation.

The annual visit of the school doctor — Dr. Elizabeth Gunn — would instil terror into the hearts of all who remembered her previous visit. I owe a great deal to this worthy lady, but at the time she was regarded as something of a dragon. However, one of the Byers children from the hotel where she stayed would race ahead and warn us of impending doom and teachers could never quite understand a severe drop in the school attendance at such an inappropriate time.

One of the tragedies of the school was when Vivian Barracat found some detonators under a stump and proceeded in class to decorate his pen by knocking them on with a pair of priers. The explosion which followed caused the loss of several fingers and a warning to the school to beware of explosives.

I was the proud possessor of one of the first certificates issued to those who could swim at least 50 yards. This meant swimming 25 yards upstream in the Makotuku river which seemed to be mostly below zero, then coasting down to complete the distance.

As a school we were taken to see the old silent film "The Ten Commandments". As this was only about the second film I had ever seen it will always be remembered as one of the highlights of school days

A great event was the annual Fancy Dress Ball in the Drill Hall where much ingenuity was shown by those who had very little money to buy costumes. All children joined in the Grand March when we danced the polka to show off very proudly our own particular costume and hoped to catch the eyes of the judges.

Although it is 45 years since I left Raetihi School I can look back on some of the happiest days of my life. — FRANK FAGG (writing in 1971)


Many went to school because they were made to, some because there was nothing better to do, some because they wanted to get their Proficiency.

The Proficiency — that bit of paper that proved how proficient we were at regurgitating the facts drummed into us by teachers justifying their existence by securing a percentage of passes. How it ruled our school lives! Reveal a lack of scholastic prowess and you graced Std. 4 until you left school -- no going onto Std. 6 where you might play havoc with the percentage.

Children often arrived at school at 8 o'clock for extra arithmetic sessions. There was always complicated interest to work out, why did we. borrow £195-12-6 instead of £200 and why was it for 145 days, not two years.

Often the rest of the school had the day off so the Proficiency candidates could in quietude sit their examination. After the exams we could laze about in the sun until the end of the year while the teachers concentrated their attention on the lesser mortals who had not attained the heights of Std. 6.

More than two mistakes in spelling out of 25 words and you lined up to experience the persuasive piece of leather! We wrote one essay a week, in best writing, with paragraphs, a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. And the inspiring prose that was encouraged — "The glorious orb of the sun rose majestically above the shimmering horizon, illuminating the azure sky -"

We could draw maps — free hand — no tracing, not forgetting the verbal excursions around New Zealand that we memorized. What prodigious memories we were expected to have as we learnt poetry. Do those Std. 6 of 1926 remember Mr McLean's performance with a pointer and a duster, when instilling "Anthony's Oration" from "Julius Caesar" into us:— "Through this the well beloved Brutus stabbed and as ho plucked his cursed steel away" —.

Our musical education was not neglected. Who can recall Mrs Turner standing on her chair brandishing a tuning fork as she endeavoured to get us to render "Linden Lea?"

We had a library — one cupboard full of books for the whole school and half-an-hour at Friday lunch hour to receive our issue.

Hygiene was essential. There were galvanized iron basins that were poised over a trough, tucked away in a lobby. Two roller towels that had to last the whole school a week. Dr Gunn paid us periodic visits for dental care. After the deft twist that tore from its bearings any tooth loose enough to move she insisted on a "Thank you, Doctor" for such services, even through a mouthful of blood. "Next please, what's your name?"  "Thank you, Doctor".

—NEAL HUNT writing in 1971




Many varied and interesting stories can be written about the 1918 bush fire by those who witnessed it. All have different stories to relate but the following articles remind us of the event.

18th March, 1918
It had been a sunny dry period in March. Farmers all over the district had been burning off and having a general clean up before the cold and wet of winter set in.
My younger brother and I then attending the small Mangaeturoa School, had gone after school to collect a bobby calf we had been given and which we had to walk home the five miles, one riding our pony and one walking alongside the calf. We reached home tired but jubilant just as it got really dark. My father who was managing one end of Fred Gibson's farm at Waipuna had had a long day with the sheep and retired to bed about 9 p.m. My mother stayed up to complete baking bread and bottling blackberry jam. Some few months earlier the telephones had been installed in our area. A little after ten p.m. when the local exchange closed, the phone began to ring the different party line numbers. We were warned of a raging bush fire that already menaced Horopito. It was being fanned by a 70 mile an hour cyclone and was travelling towards Raetihi.

In a matter of minutes my father was dressed and ready to go out to access our danger, where, from our hill top the valley sloped down across and up the 9 miles to Raetihi. Already the gale was tearing through the macrocarpa trees surrounding the house, and the tank, empty from the lack of rain, had been torn off it's stand and blown away. Back to tell us that he could see the flames and smoke all those miles away, my father helped my mother to get us tired and sleepy children dressed for immediate exit from the house and gathered some important papers and treasures into the baby's pram. Mother dampened blankets to put over our faces to help against the thick smoke. Hasty plans of where safety and protection could he found and then my father was out again watching the advancing fire. By the time he got back to the house the fire, travelling so swiftly in the cyclone, was beginning to engulf the countryside around us. The trees around the house were already beginning to blow over as we endeavoured to get into the only clear area close by, a turnip paddock, and as we emerged into this my father was blown over with our 12 month old baby in his arms. We crawled on our hands and knees all through this night of terror from place to place seeking shelter from the gale and flames, praying for rain to dampen down the fire.

One by one the trees around the house blazed like torches. High above the horizon the sky reflected the brassy red of the flames. Cattle, sheep and horses became terrified and raced about calling out in a mad panic of fear. Afterwards huge piles of smothered or burnt sheep were found in heaps. Pieces of lighted timber flow over our heads like flaming torches driven by the terrible wind. We tried to shelter beneath the blankets, our faces kept close to the ground to breathe - more easily. I cannot remember my parents showing any signs of panic through all that night of horror. Only my mother softly praying to be saved. Hours later rain did come out of what seemed a brassy clear sky — to us a miracle — we were safe.
Only half an hours walk from us three people had been burned to death. While several families further up the road from us would probably have perished also if the wind hadn't changed and rain fallen.
Settlers sai,ing what was left of their household goods.
Some people had jumped into streams as the only way of saving their lives, while the flames burnt on each bank. Others sheltered against the banks of roads. One man, we heard, jumped into a dry well. There were many narrow escapes and experiences worse than ours. It was two days before help could come and rescue people in our area. Trees had to be cleared off many roads before the rescue waggons could get through. We were fortunatethat a next door neighbour's cottage had been one of the few left standing. Mr Syd Gould had a wife and children in Raetihi and a farm out at Waipuna. Finding the whole countryside burnt out, he began making his way towards the township next morning, passing us on his way to see how his family fared, almost out of his mind with anxiety. He sent us to his cottage where a little food remained and we were able to feed our baby, get something to eat and have shelter.
Wonderful provision was made to house and clothe the victims of the fire. Firms sent new clothing; and money came with lots of second hand clothes (for most people only had left what they stood up in, as we did, if their homes had burnt) . Relief preparation was marvellous.

One story influenced me greatly of a family's experience out our way:
A pioneer grandfather and his wife had built their home to begin breaking in a bush farm after having to sledge in the sawn timber. Because the roads were so bad, each board had to be washed and dried before building. They had reared their family and this grandfather now shared his home with a son and grandchildren. On the night of the fire, the house caught alight after the farm buildings went up. The family hastened to leave their home, but as they tried to take the old man he refused to leave. We were told he hung on to thedoorways as they tried to forcibly remove him, crying, "The Lord will preserve my house, I've served Him all my life," (or similar words) . Well the house stood, the fire went out and it was the only one left in his area!
Many suffered from very sore eyes from the thick smoke which, by the way, held up shipping in Wellington Harbour, 200 miles away! So hot was it in the turnip paddock we stayed in, that-a new schoolbag my brother had worn caught alight on his back. Yet we escaped.
This is a true eye witness account of one family's experience all those 53 years ago by one of the old pupils of Raetihi School.


Around about 10 o'clock in the evening, all the local residents kept looking in a northerly direction at the fiery glow in the sky.
About this time, the fire bell was rung and the announcement made to the people present that a huge fire was swooping on to the township together with a gale force wind, and urged people to take what precautions they could to safeguard their property.
The fire actually struck the town area at 1 o'clock in the morning causing untold damage.
Mr T. B. Hayden, the headmaster of the school was living in the school residence situated on what was known as the school hill or horse paddock situated in Ranfurly Terrace. This hill like all surrounding property was more or less covered with .dead timber and it wasn't very long before it was a blazing mass.
Mr. Hayden and his wif„ fought the fire to save the house under terrific odds, until about 9 o'clock in the morning when to everybody's relief, rain commenced to fall. Mr. Haydon was practically blind from the effects of smoke, ashes and dust, but was very concerned as to how the school had fared. By this time he thought the house was safe through the fires being dampened down, so left to inspect the school buildings and found they had survived. On returning to his own house within the hour, he found it had, with its contents, been burnt to the ground.





 Waimarino Museum photographic archives

These are our archived photographs and documents. We are happy to share these with you. Please look through them to see if there are any that would suit your home or collection.

We have added the words "SAMPLE ONLY" and a museum logo to the pictures here.

Any pictures that you choose will not have these on them. They will also be of a higher resolution.


0001 Original Post office, Seddon St                    0002 Original Post Office, Seddon St, locals and car

0003 Postmasters cottage and New Post Office               0004 Time Table Pipiriki to Ohakune


0005 SEDDON St panoramic includes numerous people, horse, carts.