The Rotorua Railway was closed as a normal passenger railway in October 2001 with the first commercial RailCruising excursion undertaken 10 years later in November 2011. A world first, the RailCruising excursions operate between Mamaku and Tarukenga Railway Stations, a return journey of 19km.
The Railway offers gentle curves and steep climbs with beautiful lake views and native forest scenery.
It carries with it the heritage of past generations who built and lived their lives on the commerce of the rail: tourist operators; loggers; haulers; millers and foresters of all sorts. The Railway was the heart of a native forestry mecca that thrived in Mamaku for many years from the turn of the century through into the 1970’s.
Fundamental to developing RailCruising was the design and manufacture of new tourist railway vehicles, unseen before. To be able to operate these new vehicles on the railway required New Zealand Transport Agency rail licences and operating safety manuals, a process that took some 18 months to achieve.
The idea of customers driving their own railway vehicles along a railway was foreign to the rail regulator and it took some convincing that this could be done safely.
Unfortunately the Rotorua Railway over the years had slowly seen all its stations, workshops and platforms removed. This meant that to be able to cater for large numbers of customers arriving at the railway to undertake RailCruising excursions, station facilities and vehicle storage sheds had to be built.
The RailCruising operation is based at Mamaku, a 20 minute drive from Rotorua. This section of track between Mamaku and Tarukenga provides the best scenic experience and has no main road crossings.
Mamaku Railway Station is the departure point for the Mamaku Express 1.5 hour RailCruising Excursion. It is also the base for track maintenance operation on the Railway.