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Tangiwai Memorial

The worst railway disaster in New Zealand's history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953 when the Wellington-Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River just west of Tangiwai, 8 km west of Waiouru. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. The tragedy left a nation in mourning, and stunned the world.

Image of the plaque at the Tangiwai National Memorial.

The Tangiwai National Memorial, designed by government architect F. Gordon Wilson, was unveiled at Karori Cemetery on 26 March 1957.

The Tangiwai memorial features sixteen graves of Tangiwai victims, each with a bronze plaque at the foot. The eight named plaques are for: Edith Monica Cook (23), Jean Mary Cranch (19), Heather Edna Golding (29), Eileen Frances Hale (35), Kathleen Florence Hallam (24), Ronal Charles Hammond (25), Walter Edward Murray (54) and Adrianus Hubertus Thonissen (27). There are also eight graves for those whose bodies were never identified. These bear the inscription 'Known Unto God'.

Known Unto God plaque at the Tangiwai National Memorial.

View a Roadside Story about the Tangiwai rail disaster here.

The above memorial was erected at the scene of the disaster on 18 June 1989.

Memorial at Tangiwai

In May 2017 former Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry announced a $40,000 cash contribution along with DOC planting and landscaping to upgrade the site of the Tangiwai Memorial in the central North Island. A new memorial was unveiled on 07 May 2017 to mark the courage and sacrifice of train driver Charles Parker and fireman Lance Redman who helped save the lives of 134 people when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged in to the swollen river.

Park upgrade to mark Tangiwai heroism

Names on the Memorial

The following is a list of the 151 people killed at the Tangiwai rail disaster of 24 December 1953. These names are transcribed from the Tangiwai National Memorial.

  • Adin, Henry
  • Adin, Queenie
  • Anderson, Margaret Jean
  • Angel, Johannes Petrus
  • Attree, Trevor Crawford
  • Bacon, William Trevor
  • Bagley, Ann Victoria
  • Baillie, Hilda Mary
  • Benge, Colleen Frances
  • Benton, Beverley
  • Benton, Edward Roslyn
  • Benton, Florence Ann
  • Benton, Glennis
  • Benton, Roslyn
  • Booker, Murray Robert Craig
  • Boucher, John White
  • Bradley, Thomas John
  • Brennan, Bettina Melody
  • Brett, Wilfred Lee
  • Briggs, John Hammond
  • Byars, John Fleming
  • Capper, Desmond James
  • Caslon, Patricia
  • Clark, Trevor Charles
  • Cochrane, Georgina Maitland
  • Cockburn, Douglas Robertson
  • Cockburn, John Harold
  • Cook, Edith Monica
  • Cormack, David Avery
  • Cormack, Violet Olive
  • Cox, John Morrison
  • Cox, Mae Morrison
  • Cranch, Jean Mary
  • Croucher, Eric William Croucher
  • Crowley, Joan May
  • Davies, Gordon Leonard
  • Diggle, Janice
  • Diggle, Norman Cyril
  • Diggle, Valerie Joyce
  • Doole, Elizabeth Graham
  • Drown, Alan Maxwell
  • Edgecumbe, Patricia Margarita
  • Eilers, Ngaire Joyce
  • Elford, Dianne Laurel
  • Elford, Evelyn May
  • Elford, Rober Charles
  • Elsley, Cecilie Lily
  • Ensor, Mabel Lay
  • Eves, Roberta Elizabeth
  • Fitzgerald, Geraldine
  • Fitzgerald, Ian Gerald
  • Fitzgerald, John Edward
  • Fitzgerald , Veronica Mary Margaret
  • Flavell, Sydney Walter
  • Foote, Harold Victor
  • Foote, Ian
  • Golding, Heather Edna
  • Goodhue, Frederick Gordon
  • Gray, Te Wheturere James
  • Grigor, Sheila
  • Hale, Eileen Frances
  • Hale, Rober Joseph
  • Hallam, Kathleen Florence
  • Hammond, Ronald Charles
  • Hanley, Christina Marie
  • Hanley , Evelyn
  • Hanley, Robert
  • Havler, John Herbert
  • Holloway, Frederick Walter
  • Hylands, Arthur
  • Hylands, Elizabeth
  • Josephs, Stanley Victor
  • Karam, Madeline Bernadette
  • Kemp, Reongaro
  • Kennedy, Suzanne Katherine
  • Kent, Frederick Shipley
  • Kent, Jessie Elizabeth
  • Kura, Mere
  • Kukuruzsnyak, Balazs
  • Lightfoot, Una Constance
  • Lloyd, Barbara Anne
  • Love, Nerissa Ann
  • McFadgen, Gwendoline Dorothy
  • McGinley, Rae Marie
  • McLeod, Gordon Alexander
  • McMann, Royal Josephine
  • Miller, Edwina Hilda
  • Miller, Jeanette Neil Johnstone
  • Miller, June Mary Mabel
  • Moir, Thomas Rowe Scott
  • Molen, Phillip James Vander
  • Monteith, Michael Thomas
  • Moody, Melanie Carlo Anne
  • Moore, Carol May
  • Morgan, Horace Royston
  • Morgan, John Henry
  • Murray, Walter Edward
  • Nicholls, Eva
  • Nicholls, Herbert James
  • Nicholls, Jack Raymond
  • Nicholls, Paul Alan
  • Nicholls, Raymond Herbert
  • Niddrie, Irene Patricia Christine
  • Oliver, Betty
  • Olson, Olaf Patrick
  • Osborn, Margaret Elizabeth
  • Papariki, Linda
  • Parker, Charles John Henry
  • Parry, Herbert Staveley
  • Perry, Margaret Jean
  • Polgar, John
  • Porter, Elizabeth May
  • Powick, Josephine Margaret Ellen
  • Reardon, Pamela Waveney
  • Redman, Lancelot
  • Rhodes, Joseph Henry
  • Roberts, Shirley Anne
  • Russell, Jim Leslie
  • Ryan, Leonard Arthur Vivian
  • Sanders, Margaret
  • Scotland, Alexander
  • Scott, Robert Aitchison
  • Shandley, Richard
  • Sharp, Donald William
  • Stead, Daphne Lily
  • Stevens, John Edward Lee
  • Stokes, Audrey Mavis
  • Stokes, Joseph Charles
  • Squire, Pearl Jessie
  • Ter Huppen, Gerrit Willem
  • Ter Huppen, Janna Manna
  • Thomass, Neil Lewis
  • Thomass, Paul Garry
  • Thonissen, Adrianus Hubertus
  • Torrey, Joyce Ellen
  • Trevelyan, Janet Mary
  • Vakalala, Aisea Sevutia
  • Wale, Arthur John
  • Walker, Evelyn Joy
  • Walker, Mereana
  • Warrilow, Dorothy Alice Eleanor
  • Warrilow, Douglas Claude
  • Wellington, Gordon William
  • Wellington, Lillian Beatrice
  • White, Margaret Rose
  • Wilson , Betty Amy
  • Wilton, Melva Doreen
  • Wood, Amelia Agnes
  • Wood, James
  • Wood, James (JNR)
  • Workman, Doris Edith

Tangiwai Rail Disaster (taken from NZHistory

Police response to the disaster (taken from NZHistory).


Updated on 22nd November 2021