Here's how it happened - interspersed with my musings and attempts to amuse myself while stuck on the train - written more or less as events took place.
Wednesday, 22 July
Extreme weather warning for the whole country
Thursday, 23 July
My last lecture finished after 5, so I was running late to the train.
I got to the train just in time, and got on the back carriage - sitting backwards, which I hate. I had two thoughts:
Thank goodness I won't get home late.
I really hate sitting backwards.
I had fallen asleep, as usually happens to me on the train. I woke up when the wheels locked and people cried out. I was jolted backwards (relative to me) and hit my back against the seat. A few smaller bumps and the train stopped. My thoughts:
The train just hit something!
Sitting backwards is not so bad after all.
Damn! I will be late!
We're in the first tunnel, and that's great, because it means we're not in the other tunnel - the eight kilometre long one.
Heavy rain has caused a mudslide, which the train hit as it exited the tunnel. The engine and first carriage have been derailed, but the driver and passengers are okay.
Things to do after a "minor" train crash
Play hunt-the-cell-phone! Find everyone's cell phone. Bonus points for finding your own.
Guess what happened! Was it another train? A car? A DINOSAUR?
I heard someone say they are claustrophobic. I've been caving, and do not consider being in a warm carriage with the power still running to be a claustrophobic situation.
I think to myself about now that I always thought this might happen. (Not joking here, I really have thought this)
This could be a lot worse. We're in the shorter of the two tunnels, and can walk out easily.
Miles from station where rescue equipment is.
Hang on: Only one way to get to the other side of the tunnel. How will they clear the tracks? What idiot designed this?
I ate all my snackyfood today. I WANT SNACKYFOOD!
Should be doing maths assignment. On the other hand, I could ask for an extension:
"I need an extension."
"I was buried alive!"
"You had plenty of time to do assignments, then."
"Um. It's DARK underground!"
You know what? I was going to walk to the other end of the train and get on at the front, but 1: Lazy; 2: The doors were all shut and they were only letting people on the back.
If lights go out, will I be eaten by a Grue?
Dear Grues, I am not tasty…
Nothing to read, Sudoku not interesting.
Some of the doors
are not working - auto doors with pressure plates - so we keep hearing people banging on the doors. Internal
doors. If I hear people banging on the outside doors I'm not going to be happy. Tunnel zombies are not my friends!
Everyone is treating this as an exciting diversion. I suppose this says something about the indomitable nature of the human spirit - or that this is a case of out of sight, out of mind.
I wonder if we can break in to the vending machines?
The back door is open and the wind is blowing right into the train.
Emergency services are on the way, with a plan to pull the back three carriages out of the tunnel. But no word on what they will do for us after this.
Wondering how I will get home - they might provide buses, which will have to go over the hills I'm currently trapped under. The hills which are falling down. Wonder if the bus will fall off the hill and land on the engine?
There was an earthquake last Wednesday that shifted the South Island between 100 and 300mm closer to Australia (the bottom of the island moved further). This is considerable. Glad it didn't happen up here.
My back is a little sore. I took the force of the crash just below my shoulders. If I'd been facing forward, it might have been my face into the edge of the table. It pays to look on the bright side.
I can see the "In Emergency - use hammer to break window" hammer. I'm wondering if finally today I'm allowed to use the hammer to smash all the windows! There's a problem with this: The hammer is behind a tiny window. I need the hammer to get the hammer. What a conundrum.
A guard told us all not to use the toilet unless we really have to, as one is close to overflowing.
Um, WHAT? Buried alive is one thing, but buried alive, ankle deep in sewage? Life is an adventure, but I don't want to have this particular "overflowing sewage in a tunnel" adventure.
Some of the lights have been turned off, so we're on low level lighting. I wonder if it will get down to red emergency lighting?
People are taking photos of the engine.
A guard suggests we all sing a song. I'm wondering what the most inappropriate song would be.
What Would Pokey The Penguin Do?
Say something surreal, then suddenly be outside the tunnel shouting
HOORAY! - that's what.
This is what it takes to keep me awake on the train, oh yes.
When the train left Wellington, everyone was given a survey to do. All surveys were collected well before the crash. Everyone wants theirs back so they can make a few changes.
The fire brigade is here. They say the plan is to back another train up to the one we're on, we will all transfer across, go to Upper Hutt and catch the buses home. I still think there might be a road disaster if we go via bus.
This is about the time I usually get home.
I just realised that I'm technically at the front of the train now.
I am hungry. Being vegetarian this means I cannot eat the other passengers.
The sheer volume of people going up front to take photos is insane. As intriguing as it might be, they shouldn't be getting in the way. There was a major accident on a road somewhere a week ago and people slowing down to look stopped the emergency services. Compounding that, people were walking through the area the police had cordoned off - one said he was in a hurry and needed to get some coffee before work. I'm sure there were other cafes.
Someone claims they can get cell phone coverage at the mouth of the tunnel, so I'm going to go and try sending a message home. This is not just an excuse, I really want to send a message home.
Being trapped in a tunnel is kind of cool. It's not really "trapped" since no one is going to die from lack of air, but we're not allowed to walk out of the tunnel, so we might as well be trapped.
No phone coverage at the crash site. The engine has been knocked sideways off the track and is lying at roughly a twenty degree angle. If there was no hill there it would have fallen over. The front carriage has also come off the rails, but we can stand in it with no trouble. The second carriage has, I think, ridden up onto something, because it's not sitting exactly level. There's mud tracked everywhere, all down the length of the train. Outside, there's mud that looks to be about a foot below the windows in one place (though I don't have time to really look properly), and the front carriage has ploughed into it.
The people at the front are eerily quiet - they may be feeling like they're on show as we wander through like tourists, or maybe they're in shock. The front carriages probably felt the impact a lot more than the people at the back did.
When I get to the back and sit down, people were saying "They're all okay" about the people at the front. I think this is bullshit, they didn't look happy. It wasn't a party for them.
My back is very sore now. It's not usually this bad. Hopefully it will feel better tomorrow.
Where is the rescue train?
They want to move as many people into the back three carriages as possible.
I think I can see someone I know further up the train, but that's highly unlikely. I know I can see one of the psychology lecturers from uni though.
The people from the front arrive, now very crowded here.
Where is the train?
A group of people are playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on someone's phone, and they are rubbish at it. "What was the main character from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. called?" and they 50/50 it down to "U.N.C." or "Mr. Solo". Naturally they're amazed when they get it wrong.
I've actually run out of silly things to write.
I am very hungry and might have to resort to cannibalism.
I think I hear the sound of an engine. The rescue train is here, the adventure is almost over. There's been a distinct lack of zombies, Morlocks, evil monsters, etc. DISSAPOINTED.
Train still not here. We must remain on board when we get to Upper Hutt until everyone is accounted for. How? It's not like there's a passenger manifest on a train.
State highway blocked near Wellington (Hah, I was right) - No buses at Upper Hutt yet. I think they should get helicopters for us if all the roads are blocked. The woman next to me agrees.
I keep hearing train noises but nothing is happening. It's all right, there's not really any rush.
They're checking there is nothing wrong with the back three carriages. I think they should have done this long before now. They've had almost THREE HOURS.
Apparently the train hit the pile of mud at 70km/hr.
There may be snow on top of the Rimutaka ranges, which means we face a possible Yeti attack on the way over.
I probably could have dug my way out of here faster than this.
Train here finally, time to connect it up…
We have to stay on the train until the police let us off. Our tax dollars at work.
Lighting moves to the actual emergency lighting - probably because we decoupled from the rest of the train, and there's no generator in these carriages. Still no red lights, though.
Train hitched up, we start to move!
…and immediately stop. Then we really do start to move.
People are not concerned about medical attention or the food and drink that rumour says will be provided to us; more important is the fact there will be toilets. It's the simple things in life that matter.
At least the train has stopped.
Station! More later!
Well, as the train pulled in people were filming, as when we got off it was past several TV cameras (I am in the back somewhere in one report, almost unidentifiable. My sister says she saw me on TV though. I'm amused by this) and there were a lot of police officers pointing us where to go. There was one bus at the station picking people up, but most headed to the Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club. This was not a short walk.
We went past several fast food places, and I considered running in to get something to eat. I need regular feeding or I come over all faint, but I didn't really want to get stuck in Upper Hutt. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever been to Upper Hutt. It's a small town trying to look nice, and not really succeeding terribly well.
The Cosmopolitan Club was, well... Pretty much what I expected. Basically a bar having an identity crisis over trying to offer entertainment to a clientele who are mainly interested in drinking. Bad singing, possibly Karaoke (I'm going to assume so, because it's the only possible explanation), and they have clearly signposted the route to their poker machines. Ugh. I bought myself some kind of lemon lime fizzy drink, and later heard a rumour that the train company had laid on a bar tab, so I'd possibly just wasted my money. That was the first thing to drink I'd had since coffee at about 10am.
I bumped into an acquaintance of mine, who had decided to visit her family for the weekend and had opted for the 5:33 train over the 4:33 because she thought it would be better. I guess no-ones plans worked out well that night. We proceeded to catch up, and then everyone was herded into the function room. Once all the buses were there, we all went out and boarded for the trip over the hills, which was largely uneventful. Someone down the back of the bus got abusive with someone who got off at Woodside station, which is about 4km away from the main road. This was extremely rude, since there had been no "Woodside bus" specified.
I got in to the station at the end of the line at 11pm, roughly five and a half hours after getting on the train, where someone picked me up.
The trains are not running on Friday, so I get to sleep in, hurrah!
Friday, 24 July
The man who "had to stay in town" sounds like he's making up stories. If he was staying in Wellington then he wasn't on the train, since everyone on the train was taken to Upper Hutt and then home by bus. The train didn't "just stop" it slammed into a huge pile of mud and shook to a halt. Quite why his wife was so upset when she knew where he was is difficult to understand. Or maybe it's obvious, if you think about it in the right way.
Apparently the whole of Wellington was cut off last night; the news today said that at one point all the roads were blocked. There's a general air of "This isn't good enough" and a claim that the fact the trains are not running is costing the city a million dollars in lost productivity. Access roads must be made to get to the crash site so that they can try and extract the engine and carriage. They cannot run a recovery train up the west coast, across to Masterton, and south to the tunnel, since the rail lines north and west of Masterton were decommissioned long ago. There are no trains to Wellington until Monday, at best. They could certainly provide buses for people today if they had any desire to do so, but I think the commuters are more interested in having an excuse for a day off.
Anyway, that's what happened on my Thursday night. Such fun.