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A Manatū Taonga audio guide to New Zealand's worst rail disaster. Check out the Ministry for Culture and Heritage's audio guide in the image carousel above.

Tangiwai means 'weeping waters', and the name seemed sadly apt on Christmas Eve 1953, when a lahar (volcanic mud flow) partly destroyed the railway bridge over the Whangaehu River. The Wellington--Auckland passenger express plunged into the river, killing 151 people, in New Zealand's worst rail disaster.

Tangiwai railway disaster,

Ruapehu and the Tangiwai disaster,

An eyewitness account of the Tangiwai disaster,

Lahar warning system,

Railway accidents,


Archival audio sourced from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives, Sound files may not be reused without permission from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives (Reference number DCDR 71A).

Roadside Stories are a series of audio guides to places of interest on major road trips in New Zealand. Each guide tells the story of an attraction along the way -- its people, its history, its cultural and natural significance. For more information about Roadside Stories visit

Map showing Tangiwai Rail Disaster - Roadside Stories