A freak flash flood took the lives of 22 railway workers when it raged through their camp at 3am on February 19, 1938.
An enquiry later found that the railways engineer who sited 'Camp 4' here for construction of the Napier to Gisborne line, after a years observation and no evidence of waters ever reaching half the levels of this flood. But, after heavy rainfall in the ranges above, the wall of water that flew down the valley was actually 16 feet high and it came in fast. The stream, (also known as Waiau Stream) which normally ran at 27 cusecs, reached a rate of nearly 34,000 cusecs, twice the capacity of the stream bed.
The sad details involve rudely awoken workers scrambling for their lives, some surviving on the sturdy cookhouse roof, others getting into a vehicle which was swept away and took them to their deaths. Some debris ended up 12km downstream, and another worker at a lower camp also lost his life.
In 1939, a little further up the line, the Kopuwhara Viaduct was designed and then constructed, being a final link in the railway line, which was built between 1911, and 1942. I For it's time, the viaduct was regarded as progressive in construction as it included protective seismic features like continuous spans.
In 1942 a monument was erected to the victims at this site, NZPlaces would appreciate a picture.